Fantastico Records – December 2, 2016
Johnny Conqueroo has enjoyed some fantastic (and well-deserved) success over the last two years or so. They released their self-titled EP last summer and have played a bunch of shows and local festivals, gaining a large following in a relatively short time. This Friday, they follow all that up with the release of their first full-length, Washed Up.
The forty-four minute album is ten songs long (eight and a half are originals), and though it explores a wide range of sounds over its course, it remains cohesive and engaging throughout. The lead-off // title-track is fun, catchy, and youthful – “Washed Up” expands the sound from the three-piece’s last release with bells, handclaps, and background vocals. “High Tiding” is a great take on fellow neo-blues musician, Nick Waterhouse, sped up and with busier instrumentation. My favorite of the album may be “Dancin With You,” a song whose unique texture catches your ear the very moment it starts, doubling the lead guitar on synthesizer during the intro and the bits between verses. The track is punctuated with spoken backgrounds of ‘dancin’ and ‘groovin,’ and fleshed out the rest of the way with shakers, shuffling drums, and a grooving bassline. “The Key” could nearly pass for The Doors, complete with ‘oompah’ organ and a vocal melody placed right in the harmony the way Jim Morrison might’ve done.
The latter half of the record is impressively strong and perhaps more experimental than the first half. “Who Do You Trust” is quick with barked vocals and warped guitars that remind me just a little of fellow Kentuckians, Teal Grapefruit. The slow, weighty drone of “Palindrone” goes along for nearly seven minutes with sparse vocals, but the instrumentation and intensity swells and recedes well, keeping the track interesting throughout. “Grinding on Sand” is lo-fi and crunchy with a totally bizarre texture of lap steel (and something, maybe whistling?) – it’s really far-out. The final track, “Take 5,” is sort of a cover on the jazz piece made famous by Dave Brubeck – a brief, and fairly faithful rendition of the tune starts around the three-minute mark, sandwiched between two mirroring sections of high-energy rock.
Washed Up comes out this Friday at the band’s release show at The Burl, where I assume you’ll be able to get the album in physical form – the photography and layout of the whole package wraps the whole thing well, perfectly matching the vibe of the album. It’s exciting to see such a high-quality release from Johnny Conqueroo, and to hear them continue to grow and establish their sound. Grab yourself a copy and give it a listen when it comes out – it’s great, fun stuff.
Tracks I Liked: Washed Up!, Dancin With You!!!, Who Do You Trust?!!, Palindrone!, Grinding on Sand!, Take 5!!
Ben Southworth – November 27, 2016 – Kenwick Place
IPB: Tell me a little bit about yourselves. Who are you, and how do you all know each other?
JC: We are all lexington natives, we met through school. Grant Curless (guitarist) and Wils Quinn (drummer) met in middle school. Wils met Shawn Reynolds (bassist) in high school. Grant and Wils began jamming in middle school and built up a strong musical relationship. However it lacked a nice low end and so Wils enlisted friend Shawn Reynolds.
What makes three guys your age want to play in a blues rock band?
We are all really moved by the blues and soul music. We love the culture and the history around the blues. As for the rock portion we believe that my just be a part of our interpretation of the blues. We just naturally rough it up a bit, make it a bit tougher.
What was your all’s process like for writing and recording your EP?
The interesting thing about the EP is that we were really just recording our rehearsals, as we continued to save our money to go into a real studio. We decided our “basement recordings” sounded good enough, and it allowed us to self-fund and self-produce our own record which was a great experience.
Where do you get your inspiration for lyrics in your songs? (I would imagine that none of you have actually spent a ‘night in jail’ – please forgive me if I’m assuming wrong).
You are correct none of us have spent a night in jail. However that song is based off a true story that happened in one of the band members life that is re told in the first person. Songs like those are really inspired by old blues songs which usually revolve around dark topics such as: Adultery, revenge, intoxication, voodoo and whatever else we can squeeze in there to make us seem tough. Its all a part of the game, Johnny Cash never shot a man in Reno but builds a strong image and makes for a good song.
Why did you choose the Howlin’ Wolf tune to cover? What do you like about that song particularly?
We are really big fans of Howlin’ Wolf and his music, he was one of our bigger inspirations. We were messing around with playing Smokestack Lightning as well as Spoonful. We chose Smokestack Lightning just because we felt like it was more accessible to being “rocked up” it was easier to add our own twist to it.
Do you feel like being young helps or hurts your all’s case for being a band – do some people not take you seriously, are people especially interested in you all because of your age, or does it seem to make much difference at all?
Being teenagers can both be our best friend and our worst enemy at times. We get a lot more attention because we are young. This is great, we love any attention we get, its also nice because we have more time to build ourselves up as a band before the real world hits us and we have to go to college or get jobs. However being young also comes with its disadvantages, we are a little tired of being referred to as a teen band. Yes, we are all teens, but we want our music to speak for its self, we want to just be a band, our ages should have nothing to do with it. It can also be tough to get gigs at real bars because of the age difference.
What has been your all’s favorite experience as a band thus far? Your strangest?
Recently we have had some shows where we could pull in some large crowds of peers. The last one we played we were able to get the whole crowd dancing and even a few dancing on the stage. During that show there was a lot of great energy, so Grant decided to jump out into the crowd during his solo. He jumped off the stage and landed wrong and ended up dislocating his knee cap. He finished the last two songs on the ground, having a audience member holding the mic for him. That may have been the best and worst experience we have had as of yet.
What plans do you all have for the future of Johnny Conqueroo?
Recently we have been fortunate to work with several people interested in helping us take the band to the next level. Meanwhile we keep writing, recording and rehearsing for upcoming shows and our next EP.
What music are each of you listening to the most right now?
We are listening to all types of music right now. We have been listening to the classic blues as usual: Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, BB King, RL Burnside and Son House. We recently have been influenced by more heavy or psychedelic acts such as: Early Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Reignwolf, Ty Segall, tonstartssbandht, King Gizard and The Lizard Wizard.
Thanks to Johnny Conqueroo for taking the time for this interview – if you’re interested in seeing them perform soon, you can see them at the following times and places:
Ben Southworth – October 13th, 2015 – Kenwick Place
Scuzzy Blues Rock
Self-Released May 27th, 2015
When I first heard Johnny Conqueroo, I was standing in an ice cream truck and enduring the heat of late August at this year’s Crave Food & Music Festival. If I recall correctly, the band was the first to play on the festival’s second day, and I was certain that the sound engineer was just playing some Black Keys or White Stripes soundalike over the loudspeaker to fill time before the first band went on – no specific song that I’d heard before, but something in that general vein, I thought. Nope, it turns out it was a live performance, and one being put on by three young guys (average age… 17, maybe?) who I assume are classmates at some Lexington high school they have in common. If they end up reading this write-up, I’m sure they’ll want to read something about the quality of their music, and one that speaks about it independently of their age.
The EP clocks in at seventeen minutes, is made up of five songs (four originals, plus a much more distorted rendition of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning”). The tracks are true to the blues tradition, in the sense that they tell the sorts of stories you’d expect from folks like Muddy Waters or Buddy Guy – nights spent in jail, infidelity, the summer heat, and whatever other trouble the average blues musician finds themselves in. Injections of lyrics are usually spaced out with longer portions of slide guitar, solos, and vamping. For the most part, the vocals take the back seat to the instruments on these five songs – the texture and distortion they’re picking up of their instruments in the recording (and even the warmth of the vocals) is what gives this EP the atmosphere it has, edging right up to the point of psychedelia and sometimes even stepping across the line.
Generally speaking, I don’t listen to a lot of blues music, but this EP is one I certainly enjoyed. I hope that these guys get to stay together for a little while and that they’re able to experiment even more with their sound – in the meantime, this is a really solid place to start.
Tracks I Liked: Night in Jail!, Hearing Voices!, Summer Blues!!
Ben Southworth – October 2nd, 2015 – Mount Horeb