Pop fans, meet Jonny
Duo with grunge and neo-psychedelic roots take their new lighthearted approach to the Drake.
Jonny is band formed by the collaboration between Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub, left, and and Euros Childs from Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. Not cat is in the band.
Norman Blake and Euros Childs are no Jonny-come-latelies.
Then again, perhaps they are: the principal of Big Star-inspired Glasgow grunge pop tunesmiths Teenage Fanclub and the father of disbanded Welsh neo-psychedelic popsters Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci have combined forces to create Jonny, a songwriting partnership that’s much lighter in nature than Blake and Childs’ other musical concerns.
The duo, making its live North American debut this weekend (Friday and Saturday) at the Drake Hotel, released its self-titled album earlier this year on North Carolina’s Merge label, sporting 13 charming pop and folk-country tunes sun-kissed by Blake and Childs’ inimitable gifts for melody.
While baring their romantic hearts with the unassuming “I Want To Be Around” and the ballad “Never Alone,” the numbers that truly define Jonny’s unique approach are the sillier ones: “Wich Wich,” “Candyfloss,” “Bread” and the 10-minute “Cave Dance.”
“With Teenage Fanclub, we couldn’t really have a song like ‘Cave Dance’ on our records, because it wouldn’t fit,” observes Norman Blake over the line Tuesday from his Kitchener home. “I think probably the same goes for what Euros (pronounced Eros) has been doing on his solo records lately.
“Our musical relationship is based on our friendship, and our shared sense of humour.”
Just how far Jonny is willing to go to have fun for its art was established during the recent “Candyfloss” video shoot.
While the song lasts only three minutes, Blake says he and Childs endured the candy cotton-eating contest that dominates the video for five hours. “I don’t think we’ll be able to look at cotton candy ever again. I ate a lifetime’s supply in that one afternoon.”
The Blake-Childs connection was established during the 1997 Teenage Fanclub/Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci U.K. tour.
“Me and Euros just hit it off and became friends,” Blake recalls. “He invited me to come sing and play guitar on a Gorky’s record (2001’s How I Long To Feel That Summer In My Heart). I was invited to join them on tour, so musically we started working together.
“Whenever Euros would be in town doing solo shows, he’d come to our place. It started as recreational writing around the kitchen table with a glass of wine — Euros with a little keyboard and me with a guitar — and we’d just come up with song ideas.”
Blake says the Drake shows, which kick off a 13-date U.S. tour before a Glastonbury appearance, will be intimate.
“It’s basically the two of us grappling with a drum machine that has a mind of its own — it’s very erratic,” Blake admits.
“It’s not a slick show by any means. And hopefully there’s some humour and some good singing when we get it right.”
When he’s not on the road, Blake, 46, is adjusting to his new Kitchener home with his Canadian wife and daughter. The family, which lived in Glasgow for 14 years, has been in Ontario since 2009.
“I’m enjoying it,” says Blake. “We were out this afternoon trying to tidy up the garden in this unbelievable heat. We don’t get this heat in Glasgow. We also don’t get this snow in Glasgow. That was a bit of a shock to the system when I discovered I had to get up in the morning to clear snow.
“But it’s keeping me in shape,” he laughs.