Contactmusic caught up with Bwani Junction drummer Jack Fotheringham as the band hit the road with Little Comets. We found out how the young lads spent their time overseas and the challenges being in a band presents these days. Bwani Junction have some very entertaining stories about their five years together, and some wise words for aspiring bands.
Contactmusic: Hi Jack, how are you?
Jack Fotheringham: I am not too bad, I'm struggling with a bit of a hangover as it has been a bit of a boozy tour. We have been terrible for egging each other on; as Little Comets don't really drink, we end up stealing all their rider.
CM: You guys are on tour at the minute, how's that going?
JF: Yeah, they have all been really sweet shows. It's been a crazy five days of sold out shows; one of the venues was of a 1,200 capacity. It's so nice to get back on the road; we have been really busy with our third album but we're happy to be back out on tour again. A week after we released 'Tongue of Bombie', we got a call to join Little Comets on the road and we were like, "F*** yes, let's do this!"
CM: So you guys have just released your second album and you are writing your third; how have you managed the time?
JF: We've had the second album ready for nearly a year so, within that time, we have done a lot of writing and within the last three to four months we have been in the studio a lot. A lot of bands are really excited to play their new stuff, we haven't really played anything from 'Tongue of Bombie'; we moved straight on to what we have ready for the third album.
CM: You were only sixteen when you wrote the first album, so would you look at this as a progression of your first album?
JF: Definitely. That whole experience of recording the first album in Glasgow with Paul Savage was the first time we had been in a professional studio with a fully-fledged producer, we wrote the album when we were just at the stage where we were starting to get smashed all the time; that's what the first album contained.
This second album is much more personal to us. We worked with Paul again but this time it was more about getting the structures together and trying to be a little more thoughtful about the lyrics as well, as you have to think about how your music is going to sound like on Radio 1. It really has helped a lot doing it the second time with the same producer.
CM: How far is the third album from being recorded?
JF: It is still in a very early stage; we do have around fifteen to twenty tracks roughly written which is great, but we still have to do the lyrics. We have done some of the lyrics for one demo 'Make My Day' which I think will be one of the early singles. We are currently in the process of helping to build a studio in Edinburgh for a guy called Jamie Turnbull who did two tracks on the second album. We are completely s*** at that, most of us have never really picked up a hammer before, so it has been chaos getting woken up at 8am to go and do the job hung-over after a night out in Edinburgh. We are hoping that because we helped him build it, we can use it to make some free demos and record there! It's really good fun and exciting.
CM: The newest single released off the second album is 'Caveman', tell us about that.
JF: Yeah, we were looking forward to seeing how the fans would react to that song just because it is slightly different to the first album stuff. Obviously, we released it off of our own back but we got some help from the NME who put it on their page. It is still quite difficult because we are still just small pond slime in the scheme of the music industry at the moment. For us, the song was really about whacking it on Facebook, YouTube and word of mouth really; I think the song has gone down really well - as well as the other tracks from the album.
CM: The videos are hilarious, especially 'Borneo'. What was it like shooting them?
JF: Yes, we were going for the 'Shawshank Redemption' look with that one. There is some homosexuality going on in that video. I remember my mum and dad asking, "Do you have something to tell us?" With the 'Caveman' video, it has an Asian theme running through it. Just from the introduction with the guitar part you get that feeling. Our manager said, "Why don't you have sex scene with an evil witch in it?" We had a look at a casting website and auditioned these girls in a bar. It was really awkward because I had to say, "Hi, I am the drummer and I am going to be sleeping with you", and we were all sitting there just grinning. Our flat was made into a Chinese dynasty bedroom set and there was smoke machines going off and cameras everywhere; we had a load of mates in the kitchen laughing whilst we were pretending to do these scenes. I guess that's what you dream about as a young lad, being in a band and doing sex scenes for videos.
CM: For those who are new to the band, what is Bwani Junction's story?
JF: Rory, Fergus and I have all been playing since we were about 10/11 years old. Then Dan joined in when he was about sixteen and that's when we started to form Bwani Junction. In the first year, we moved into a flat in Edinburgh and had this illusion of grandeur where we thought we'd release the first album, we'd be play Glastonbury and we'd make loads of money, and, to be fair, that was looking like a go at first because we played T In The Park and it was a great start, especially the social media side as it was all brand new to us. Then after the first year, we realised that it was really hard work as everything sort of erupted. We played the Isle of White Festival in the second year and did some travelling around and returned to Edinburgh to play the Edinburgh Hogmanay Festival supporting The View and Simple Minds. We thought, "This is going to be amazing!" Then last year everything just got a bit stale; I don't think that it was a reflection on our music, I think it is just the music industry itself. People were telling us, "You are great, you are going to be massive" and it just wasn't happening. We have learned from a bit of humble pie to be honest.
CM: Do you prefer to write whilst on the road or in the studio?
JF: Interestingly enough, a lot of the second album was written whilst on the road. I think for us now on our third album, we quite like being in the studio. Being on tour is great for inspiration but, in all fairness, you just don't have any time because you might only get an hour before you go on stage to yourself. You can write some really exciting stuff, but we are at the point now where we love to get into the studio every day and make an album we are really proud of. We have done some really cool stuff on tour.
CM: That's right, you did a tour of Asia, Africa and Europe, didn't you?
JF: Yeah, we did Vietnam and Malawi, and then we did a week and a bit tour with a guy called M, in 15,000 capacity venues in Strasbourg and Paris; I mean, it was just absolutely nuts. We came back home and played out favourite place in Edinburgh called Sneaky Pete's; it fits twenty people with a man and a dog and when you come off stage you have a fish supper waiting. In France, you are greeted with red wine and salmon. M is sort of like a cross between Prince and Bon Jovi, he is loved in France; I have no idea how we managed to get on tour with him but it was a great experience!
CM: Being self-financed, how did touring Asia and Africa come about?
JF: It was through a cultural exchange. There's a place in Malawi called Lilongwe City that's named after somewhere in Glasgow and, throughout the years, they have set up a festival for UK bands to play called Lake of Stars. It was on a huge lake but then they changed the destination to outside the city in a wildlife reserve park; if you strayed fifteen metres to the left or right then you would end up in a lion's den. It was absolutely incredible; we played one festival show and then we did a workshop in the middle of nowhere which was pretty much a slum area. There was a school out there built by an organisation for children to go and learn how to play music, it was about one pound sterling equivalent for a child to go here for a year and play with friends and have a safe environment. We ended up playing some African stuff and they ended up playing some blues and rock; the kids were phenomenally talented to the point where I had to leave the room because they were so much better than I was, it was absolutely magical. The Vietnam shows were just as crazy, we played two outside shows and that was through the British Council. I think they must have thought we were the Arctic Monkeys or something because when we got off stage they were hyperventilating; I don't think they get many UK bands play.
CM: What phobias have you and everyone in the band got?
JF: Yeah, Fergus has arachnophobia, he doesn't like spiders and he's a very clean guy so he doesn't like mess, not even a crisp packet. Being clean is not a brilliant phobia to have in a rock 'n' roll band when you are sweaty and stinky the whole time. I have a serious fear of there being no digestive biscuits left in the tin; that is a huge fear because we love our tea at Bwani Junction!
CM: Who has the worst habit in the band?
JF: Rory has a very bad habit of singing terrible songs at ridiculous times in the morning. He'll be sitting behind you and he'll just break into 'Purple Rain' by Prince. I can imagine being a drummer is quite annoying for the other guys because I am always tapping and banging stuff. Dan farts on purpose at very inconvenient times, which is quite funny but also very embarrassing at times.
CM: What bands are you listening to at the minute?
JF: There's a band called And So I Watch You From Afar; they are very instrumental and kind of heavy, they are incredible. In the van there is a mix of everything; Rory is obsessed with Elvis Costello. We are all listening to Kings of Leon and The Maccabees at the moment too. There are a few Scottish bands, Little Comets and we all love the golden oldies like The Who and Led Zeppelin.
CM: What piece of advice would you give to an emerging band?
JF: We got a great piece of advice from the lead singer of The Who, Roger Daltrey, and that was, "Learn to hate each other" which is a good one and is true, especially if you are in it for the long-haul. I would say personally, "Listen to everyone and ignore everyone at the same time". You have to be happy with it and, if you aren't, your music won't be fun. Also, gig as much as possible and go against the grain. It's important that you don't get ignored - make people notice you.
CM: We know that you are on tour at the minute, have you guys got any festivals or other live dates planned for the summer?
JF: We are playing T in the Park and there are a few that haven't been confirmed but are bubbling away. There is a vague plan to go through a new hotel organisation that organises a music festival for bands to come and play at the hotels throughout the UK in October, and then possibly onto Australia and Malaysia after that which will be great to get back out there. The dream for us is to get out to America. We're really trying to push to play the support slots for The Fratellis and Franz Ferdinand. We won't be touring anytime soon, as we are going to have some time out to get the third album done.
CM: Thank you for taking the time to do the interview, Jack.
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