Some bands make good on their buzzy promise; others, they bottom out never to be seen or heard again (hello, Joe Lean). But Johnny Foreigner’s 2008 has been a year to remember…
The Birmingham band is Alexei (vocals, guitar), Kelly (vocals, bass) and Junior (vocals, drums). Capitalising on the positive feedback they attracted on the back of a couple of limited-run singles, they focused their pop-savvy indie squall into a debut album, ‘Waited Up ‘Til It Was Light’. The record picked up plenty of plaudits, scooping a public-voted prize along the way.
The trio have seen the world – well, plenty of it – in 2008, and are now looking to begin work on album two in earnest. After, that is, they headline the Clash Saturday Social this Saturday, December 13, at London’s Notting Hill Arts Club. The gig’s free-entry (over-18s only), from 4pm-9pm, and also features Cats In Paris and Sunset Cinema Club alongside special guest supports. Click HERE for more information.
Frontman Alexei here talks us through the band’s 2008, as it approaches its end…
We started out the year pretty much as we end it, in the back of a van making Lea Room drive us around the country playing shows. We have seats and heating in the van now, and we can generally afford hotels and a soundman (Travelodge and Martin = luxury). We're still broke and bailiff ridden, but there always seems to be a half bottle of gin floating around the back of the van and people are totally singing our songs at us.
For the first half of the year we were absolute indie-disco sluts. Any band that asked us out, we went with. First, and fittingly, we went out with Los Campesinos!, which was absolute aceness and kinda felt like being part of a mad touring school play. After that it was a drunken blur of tours with The Subways (sold-out shows and super-enthusiastic audiences and probably the friendliest and most genuine band in the world) and The Young Knives (true gentlemen) and Blood Red Shoes (true punks) and The Mae Shi (only band to exchange mix CDs on the first night = FOREVER FRIENDS) and Forward Russia (which nearly killed our beloved Maddyvan). We also found time to do some touring of our own, for which we got a banner and buyout (indie band word for hot food, or money to buy it with).
We went to South By Southwest (SXSW), played one whole show (we'd been awake for 48 hours and drinking margaritas for six of them – we were shit) the rest of the weekend was like God had plucked it from our dreams and presented it to us. Piers and free bars and amazing shows and MOMENTS. Watching Texas turn into Googlemaps from the plane window was every bit as sad as flying home from Florida when I was 13.
We went to Amsterdam for a long weekend, had our passports robbed (probably) and played the show with a pretty intense, how-the-fuck-do-we-get-home vibe, which seemed to translate into crowdsurfing and much love.
We played a load more SX (indie band talk for SXSW) style shows in England. The Great Escape was the most fun – we had a bonfire party. Camden Crawl was ruined by me locking the keys in the van like a douche. Lea smashed the window with the snare stand and waited in the cold forever for Mr Window Fixer. Why we didn't call the guy then smash the window when he came, I don’t remember.
For the summer we applied the same whore logic and let any idiot with a field and a tent have us play their festival. We did two or three a week and turned ourselves into a pretty efficient team, able to rock out with no soundchecks in any extreme weather condition. 2,000 Trees covered our stuff in mud at the start of the season and the rain at Offset washed it off (mostly) at the end. We gorged ourselves on sumptuous backstage buffets at TITP and Hurricane and Southside in Germany, and queued up with paper plates for gruel and stew everywhere else. We had one weekend of non-stop play-eat-drive-play-eat-drive where we didn’t sleep, toured the whole country and broke down in tears a mile from the airport then found ourselves in hysterics at 3am in our villa pool sipping gin and juices the night before Ibiza Rocks. It was a fun summer.
We flew out to Japan before the end, to play Summersonic, the world’s most-efficient festival. And it was amazing, like being in The Beatles. Every story you've heard about English bands in Japan is true. Even our one about us being at a warehouse party a few hours after we fell off the plane and on the stroke of midnight, where a birthday guy got naked on a decorating table and his friends turned the lights out and someone ate a cake that was placed around his cock and everyone started singing ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ really loudly and when the song ended everyone went back to normal. We did some DJing and some radio shows and some shopping and a lot of sweating and played a secret gig in a jazz club where the soundmen were forced to work as human crush barriers.
We barely had time to think… Did all that stuff really just happen? Then we were back in cold England in festival mode again: Reading was a teenage ambition merrily ticked off, and the rest, although much fun, paled in comparison slightly. I ended festival season in Fight Like Apes's bed in a Travel Tavern in Basingstoke with a vague memory of getting in their bus "just to go down to the off license" on the last day of Offset.
We filled out the autumn with more touring around the UK, skipped around New York for CMJ, played thee most fun show ever in someone’s basement in Philadelphia, came back, had a week or so off then went off again with The Futureheads, carefully rationing our supply of gin from the summer. We have one show with them, and two Christmas shows, and then we're done for the year.
And we get to do it all again next year, yayerzzzzz.
Happy Winterval everybody!
Johnny Foreigner headline the Clash Saturday Social @ RoTa – details below…
Clash Saturday Social @ RoTa *
Saturday December 13, 2008
free entry / over-18s only
DJs from Holy Roar and Fear & Records/Clash
+ drinks offers, magazines and plenty of merch to buy
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Notting Hill Arts Club can be found at 21 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3JQ; nearest Tube is Notting Hill Gate.
(* RoTa is the weekly Saturday afternoon club held at the Notting Hill Arts Club, in association with Rough Trade Shops; click HERE for further information.)
Find this event on Facebook HERE and look out for news on another Clash Live event - at the Camden Lock Tavern on December 14 - later this week.