Sheffield’s Reverend and The Makers’ third studio album is the first to be named after a band’s Twitter handle – @Reverend_Makers – which recently reached number 16 in the UK charts.
I met their frontman, Jon McClure three years ago at Unconvention, a Manchester-based music industry event. He was very genuine and passionate about his music, which describes the world around him so richly. He will never shy away from telling you what he thinks, which has divided opinion in the music industry since their debut album, The State Of Things in 2007. Jon is high on my list of potential suitors to the Xpress campaign because of the way he expresses himself so vibrantly through his music, so I message him on Twitter. To my surprise, Jon replies almost instantly confirming his interest. He kindly shares some of his time with me in the midst of promoting the forthcoming UK tour to talk to us for the Xpress campaign. He asks me what CALM stands for. When I tell him this is Campaign Against Living Miserably, he shares with me his own experiences.
“I’ve been touched by suicide quite a lot. Three family members have been lost to suicide. Having suffered with depression myself, I’m very keen to help because it is such a misunderstood thing. We seem to live in this society where everything in the media comes across as ‘Everything is amazing! Everything is amazing! And you go ‘No, it’s fucking not.’ This cause is quite close to my heart, so it’d be good to think we could help people and especially fellas, because I know that it is disproportionately men who take their own life. It’s important to know that there are people out there. Even if they want to tweet me about it, I’ll talk to them. I’ll talk to anyone who is feeling a bit down in the mouth.”
Sheffield has been home to some great new music over the last decade. I was interested to know Jon’s artistic roots.
“It was my mate Ed Cosens who is our guitarist,” he says. “He’s always been in bands since he was about 14 and then I just started doing stuff with him. I quickly found that I really enjoyed it and just took it from there. I carried on doing more and more and working with mad people, I love it. It’s become my life. We’re blessed that we’re able to do it for a living, especially when you’ve done a few really shit jobs – you appreciate it, don’t you?”
This resonates with me personally. It’s when you start to feel trapped in your situation, whether it’s a job you hate or unemployment, that your hobbies and, in the case of many I know, the arts offer an outlet. The safety of the sketchbook has often provided a place to vent for many. Does Jon see his own work as an outlet?
“There’s this sort of, very British, stiff upper lip mentality with guys.” He says. “That’s why I love music because it touches people’s souls. It’s a big form of artistic expression. Personally, I’ve suffered all my life with anxiety and bouts of depression, things like that. I find music is a real cathartic thing. I used to do this thing with Billy Bragg, called Jail Guitar Doors, where we’d go to gaols and teach prisoners how to play guitar. Re-offending rates just drop off for the lads who get into guitar. It focuses your mind on something else, doesn’t it? It gives you a focus for your energies and it stops you from dwelling on the bad stuff. It’s the process of creating something that didn’t exist before and that’s a beautiful thing in itself.”
I grew up watching my dad’s generation of musicians on the TV until Britpop started to bring me back into the present time. You’d see John Lennon and The Sex Pistols writing and playing songs that covered a plethora of political issues and they’d harness the support of entire movements of people. It’s something sorely lacking in popular culture today. It’s happening, but in the digital age, there’s so much noise and it’s hard to be heard. The mainstream industry seems to have developed an attitude that seeks an instant return on investments. On his own material, Jon explains that music is a way to get stuff off his chest, in particular second album A French Kiss In The Chaos.
“It’s quite a personal album, a dark, personal record. It certainly makes me feel good to write new songs. I’d rather write a new song than buy a new jacket or car.”
Jon recently engaged BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra’s head of music, George Ergatoudis in a fascinating Twitter debate about what Jon felt was an overly-pop oriented daytime playlist, making it harder for new bands to have their music heard. I ask him whether the recession will trigger a creative backlash.
“You’d hope there’d be a creative response, wouldn’t you?” he says. “There certainly was in the recession in the eighties. In today’s society there doesn’t seem to be much of an alternative culture. People don’t seem to talk about how bad times are without being labeled a boring bastard. It’s a bit of a sad thing to say. It’s a weird time. You’d hope that when times get bad, there would be a bit of a reaction to it. In music it just seems to be all Nick Grimshaw and David Guetta and that fucking world, doesn’t it? It’s all a bit pop star. But you know, I think alternative people are out there, people who have an alternative view but they just end up being a bit more marginalised. We have things like Twitter, don’t we? It means you can see that there are people who maybe see the world the way you do.”
In a business full of agents and walls of management, I didn’t have to jump through any hoops to find Jon. Our contact through Twitter was enough and he gave me his phone number. Now he’s here, talking to me about this. The arts can often seem overwhelming when you start to take an interest but I suggest to Jon that these forms of expression can be as simple as sharing something in a forum, or on a site like Twitter.
“Twitter is a good way to look at the wider world and seeing that there are people who do things the way you do, making friendships and associations based on the things they talk about,” he says. “It might be that there is nobody who lives where you are based with things in common, but online there could be lots of people who share your problems, views and opinions. I make notes on my phone too. With technology, it might be that I hear something someone says as I go along, something I see and put it in my phone, something interesting or funny. Then if I come to write a song, I’ll look over it again and it’s there.”
Whilst listening to the new Reverend album, I found myself laughing at the track Noisy Neighbour. I suspected that there was a social connotation beneath this track too and had to know.
“I live in an area that’s mixed with students and it’s a bit noisy so I thought I’d have a bit of a laugh with that one. Music can work like that, if you’re feeling really bad it can summarise those feelings or it can make you laugh, uplift you.” Says Jon.
Reverend And The Makers third studio album @Reverend_Makers is out now on Cooking Vinyl.
Photography by Danny Allison