Johnny Foreigner, identified by DiS as one of 2008’s breaking-through bands to keep your peepers on, have kindly agreed to keep a diary of their year for the site. With it we can track their progress – the highs and the lows. It’s like science, only not; the hypothesis was all screwed to start with, and now we’ve a load of rock ‘n’ roll spilling about the place. Ker-dang.
The quick-fire basics: JF are Junior, Alexei and Kelly; they are from Birmingham; their new single ‘Our Bipolar Friends’ is out this week (March 10) and reviewed here; their debut mini-album Arcs Across The City earned a 10/10 review here; and their debut album proper, Waited Up 'Til It Was Light, is out soon. We’ve had a sampler for a while and have worn it out. Please send us another. Thank you. Read the January instalment of this diary here. February (a little later than expected – sorry) finds the trio touring with Los Campesinos! among other highlights.
Alexei, he writes:
Meet even more Real Life People of DrownedinSound. HELLO!
We play the Artrocker night at the Buffalo Bar, London. I cheekily ask our label boss to guard our merch table and every time I look up he's rocking out and a little nearer the stage. Awesomes. I call someone a cunt for dancing with an open umbrella, the gig is great, Donny Tourette tells me I’m awesome, and some beautiful girl follows me out the venue to tell me I stole dEUS lyrics from her favourite song. I had this 30-second buzz of absolute wowness, which is killed by her friend announcing to the bouncers she's just waiting around ‘til her mate pulls the singer and they're going home. I feel like a bit of a twat and make excuses about how I have to go help load out. If I ever say this to you, it’s an excuse.
We play in Birmingham, our beloved hometown. The Barfly is an evil massive cellar, half the lights aren't working and there're pools of water everywhere. The sound and the soundman are 1,000-times better than the last three times we've played there, the soundman admitting he makes more of an effort for headline bands. We get encore shouts but we’re fucking drained and I’ve deposited bits of mic stand all over the stage. Everyone piles back to Jun and Kel’s, I eat too much curry, drink someone else’s neat vodka and sleep on a hardwood floor...
…And wake up for a photo shoot at the clever time of 10am. We wander around the city centre in the rain and the cold and the t-shirts whilst our friend Glenn tries to make us look glamorous or something. I go home to find the Gas Card had finally come but the pilot light is dead.
We leave for Glasgow well late, at least seven hours, laughs my sadistic housemate. Turn up at the venue three hours past load-in to find everyone sitting around listening to Cap’N Jazz. Scotland is automatically awesome. We get given cakes for an interview and play to about six people. But one of them was fight-pop royalty, one complimented my Project Ako t-shirt, the promoters and the sound guy are super cool, and, though we sold enough shirts to pay for a Travel Tavern, we ended up staying in the top floor flat of a complete friendly stranger. Thanks Pete!
We start the day with thee best sandwiches we've ever bought, and go to Tunnels in Aberdeen. It’s an amazing venue, made all the worse by the owner telling us to load out because he didn't think there was a gig. "How much were you supposed to be getting paid, then?" is not one of our favourite questions. After ascertaining that the promoter was in a meeting / at a match in London / Liverpool and definitely a cunt, the owner man let us play and paid us our fee and gave us a rider and everything. Four people came – I feel bad we didn't guestlist them all. We bought badges off the girl on the door who'd been called in last minute and stayed on the top floor flat of a total friendly stranger. Thanks Lindsay!
We played in Edinburgh, to an actual awesome crowd, in Henry’s Cellar Bar. Absolutely made up for the last two nights of hearing pins drop. I had a bit of a moment when I realised that the peeps putting on the gig were I Fly Spitfires, who are like indie rock heroes... The soundman was using his iPod as background music – this one song was ace like Ganger, turns out to be not Ganger but his old band, cue band/soundman bonding like NEVER before, and Junior’s iPod taking over. Listen Edinburgh! Stapleton! Life Without Buildings! Heehee... We stayed in the top floor flat of a complete friendly stranger. Thanks Sheena! Even tho the first two shows were probably financial disasters for the promoters, we’re totally in love with Scotland. Awesome cheap fresh bakeries, everyone’s super friendly and knows at least one person in a band you idolize, there's loads more but that’s enough.
Club NME, Leeds, in a church. I’m not even slightly religious, but, for those that are, surely going clubbing in a church with a flat-screen TV bar and DJs in the rafters is slightly goingtohellforever. I thought it was great, like being in Batman / old Sundissential. Soundcheck at 5pm, stage at half midnight, we get our own barman for backstage, and he tells us the club’ll likely be empty. Yayerssssss. About 20 people maximum turn up, and we sit at a table guessing if any of them are here for us or because it’s raining outside. We get a nice glow when one of them detaches himself from a gang and asks us politely if we’ll be playing since there're so few people here. The gig is awesome anyhoos, people shouting out songs we haven’t rehearsed for ages and some random drunk girl begging me to call her a cunt. We sell shirts of the front of the stage and talk with the kidzz like were some righteous old east coast emo band. Awesomessss. Get in at half three, can’t sleep ‘til seven.
Meet Lewes to sort out artwork for the album. Make something that looks awesome and is a bit novelty but not costing so much as to lose money this time, go! I think we've worked something dead cool out, sort of like the singles are going to be, with photos, only betterer. We get the recalls thru from our album at last, and despite (producer) Machine having newborn twins and a million other things on, they sound AMAZE.
DiS gig in the afternoon. Turn up super late. Entranced by Super Tennis. Awesome sound. Rock. In jokes. Get home weirdly early.
Played at Bardens Boudoir in London’s fashionable Turkish district. I walk out after soundcheck for a fag and get mugged, walk back in and get handed a bottle of watered-down gin by the promoter, and everything goes great from there on in.
Played at The Vines in Derby, an awesome tiny room, friendly people and some funny dancing. Plans And Apologies are great. I meet a girl, she tells me her name is Killer; it’s only in the van home I realise how odd that is.
Video (old): 'Candles 4am Again' live
Taylor John’s House in Coventry. We meet the promoter – he tells us the last band he had on got petrol thrown over them in this very car park, and it’s best not to walk into town unless yr in a group, and his friend got beaten up the other day (in an unrelated incident). The gig is sweet tho, we play with William, who we've been obsessing over the last week or so. Gin day again so I can’t be sure but I think half the PA was missing. We figure out that offering people shots between songs saves us from having to come up with witty banter. Clever.
We go to do photos with Amy Brammel. She’s a bit good. Spend the day being posed, blinded, tied up and bent and shooting imaginary rocket launchers. Tis fun. Moment of panic when we realise no-one can afford the car ferry to Ireland for the start of the Los Campesinos! tour. Our plan is to be foot passengers and get taxis. Goodbye, tour support!
We go to Jr’s girlfriend Amy’s family home in north Wales for a day of ultimate relaxation. We walk around the coast and up hills around lighthouses and everything’s soo quiet. We play Monopoly and give up. I try to have a bath and manage to blow up something electrical meaning that no-one’s phone charges. Yay me.
Ferry over to Dublin = awesome. Waste much camera footage on open seas and racing seagulls. Borrow LC!’s entire backline and inherit their rather larger than our usual audience. Yay! Dublin is super friendly. Like, girls compliment my hair friendly… realise our traditional post-gig traditions of wandering off and walking round in a ten-minute daze and having a gin and a smoke and then getting our debris offstage does not sit at all well with LC!’ss super professional road crew. Make army-style stage stripping plans. End up on the top floor flat of a complete stranger, whom we get into trouble because travelling indie bands are not welcome in all girl dorms. Sorry Aimee!
Start the day playing ‘where’s the snare drum?’, and forget to change bunch of Euros ensuring they will haunt my pockets for the next month. Gig in Bedford, on the other side of England. Get delayed in thee best possible way picking up van, home-cooked meal and pimpage. The inside of our van has been redecorated by Amy’s sisters, drapes and ghosts and a massive copy of one of Lewes’ logos. Jr calls it a boudoir ‘til we inform him of the sexual connotations. Gig is amaze, we totally steal LC!’s merch man Jason, and sell shirts to the monitor girl and the barstaff. LC!’s tour manager is a man called Dan and he smoothly arranges our snare drum to reappear in Glasgow. It’s weird how shy people are when they buy our shirts, we’re beginning to get used to standing next to people thinking OMG he's buying our shirt whilst they think OMG he's standing next to me. Humans are rubbish.
Bummingham. My great plans for showing LC! round home are ruined by the lure of sleeping in my own bed for as long as practically possible. Every time we've played Birmingham on tour it’s been a bit underwhelming. But tonight is super, we get our first full-on mosh pit and everyone cheered at the end of ‘Yr All Just Jealous’ where we all sing “Birmingham” which I think will probably give me goose bumps forever. I stay over at a friends to avoid going to my leak house again.
Glasgow, King Tut’s. We play Frisbee and listen to Joan of Arc really loud in the car park as the sun sets. Fucking hippies. The venue cooks us (the lowly £50 show support act) a three-course meal. ARE YOU READING THIS BARFLY? Tho these shows are a league above what we’re used to and the audiences are always super receptive, it seems like a lame show after Birmingham. I remember being 18 and reading an interview with James Dean Bradfield where he’d just played to, like, 100,000 people and he couldn't get into it and thinking, you twat. Tonight I feel like James Dean Bradfield. We stay on the top-floor flat of a complete stranger in Stirling who, on arranging us in her bedroom and cooking us well impressive fajitas, disappears. She plays us a mix CD that is amaze, made by her boyfriend who is in some band we totally forget the name of the next day. Bizarre but undeniably generous. Thanks Tamy!
Johnny Foreigner (l-r): Alexei, Kelly, Junior, ghost
Day off. Tour manager Lea decides to take us on more hippy adventures. We stroll around a giant abandoned graveyard where half the graves are fallen in. If the family are un-contactable then the graves just get left to decay. It’s pretty tranquil ‘til we arrive at ye olde gift shop. We accidentally walk all the way round the city of Stirling. I buy a wristband that says ‘punk rock’ in a second-hand record shop. The staff don’t seem impressed when I say that it isn’t exactly punk rock. We find sunset by a nice lake and pull up and have a joint and some rosé. And say to each other for the hundredth time how many worse jobs there are in the world. We stay in a cottage that, on the dark drive down, seems for all the world like a super moody Shining-style death zone, and in the morning reveals itself to be thee most elegant and quiet student house ever.
Newcastle. Continuing on the fucking hippy trip, we walk up a giant hill in the Lake District that nearly ends us and then I nearly end myself again trying to film the descent for fast-forward comedy. It’s an awesome sequence, including Lea sliding and falling, disinterested goats, and various experienced types with walking sticks and ropes shouting enthusiastic advice: "Walk like a crab!" It’s only marred by landing slightly too hard at the very end thus engaging the cameras safety shutdownwithoutsaving feature. Gutted. We arrive totally on time, yay us. We share a massive long dressing room and no-one can remember the codes. Sometimes this tour is like being in thee best school play ever. LC!’s rider continually appears to exceed their appetites and they're totally cool with our stealings. I’m eating better on tour than at home. Oranges! There's a bit of security, showsec, thee worst ever. We watch some kid get thrown out for being beaten up. We collectively get him back in and get him drunk even tho he's probably underage. Truly smashing up the system we areeee. I go on the internet in the production office and try and conceal my drunkenness from the various money counting managerial types around. We stay in a giant house of art students (actually way cooler than that sounds) and stay up all night talking about how Art is Hard. There're these super awesome slogan posters dotted around the house and it’s only when I leave I realise that they were made by someone who lived there. I get an e-mail address and lose it in the van five seconds later. Thanks Neil and Coops!
Coldest venue everrr. We met up with Ren who put out our first two records which is pretty sweet. I cut my hair in the dressing room and manage not to spanner it up too much. The gig goes good but we have to put the kit on the side of the stage which is a little weird. Gareth’s voice is going and you can tell it’s bringing them (LC!) down, but as a fan it’s awesome to see the rest of the band jump in on lines to cover him – they have a giant family attitude that we’ll never get unless we clone ourselves.
Manchester. We arrive to a rumour that Jimmy Eat World are playing upstairs. Lie. We do a live interview on radio and I say ‘cuntish’ and ‘shit’. I get perhaps a little too drunk (having decided out of conscience to buy my own rider and get bought drinks). But it’s much fun. Meet even more Real Life People of DrownedinSound. HELLO! The venue is a weird cross breed of an academy and a university, we get lost every time we leave the room. The rest of the band leave to see loved ones at home for a night and I stay on and get more drunkerer in a place called Big Hands or something. Which is like a pub, only you pay to get in. In what is now a recurring theme, I leave my gin with who I was sharing it with. I travel on LC!’s giant floating castle and stay up superlate in one of the lounges drinking brandy with Jason and Ellen moving at the speeds our van can only achieve in freefall.
Video: 'Sofacore' live in Manchester 18/2
Brighton. I wake up convinced I’m in a coffin, remember I’m on a floating castle in a sleeping berth and fall asleep again. Completely forget about Kerrang! interview. When my phone battery goes I’m pretty much useless. Kelly wakes up Ellen and I wake up the rest of the bus by shouting “shit” and “Kerrang! very loud. Borrow phone and croak my way thru interview. Man is very nice and tells me about bands I might like. Breakfast and chewable toothbrush at service station. Impress no-one on bus trying to make a giant TV work. I can make the picture come on or make it sound like it’s broken. But not both. Gaze out the window watching the retirement homes on the outskirts greet us and before I can say “I want to do this for the rest of my life” I’m sitting on the seafront with Neil eating a bacon roll and watching all the people on the beach who aren't in the most exciting bands in Britain. Whilst LC! go for a million press things I buy some clean clothes, steal some oranges off the rider and sit on the beach with a joint waiting for Birmingham to give me the rest of my band back. The staff of the Concorde are (almost) all awesomes and we get drunk and dance at the back of the hall unaware that from the stage we’re in a big pool of light. One day soon I’m actually going to open my eyes on stage. We meet loads of people and stay at our friend Henning’s top-floor flat in the city. Balance out oranges with convenient downstairs 3am chip shop.
Reading. The venue has been changed to, Ian Faith I kid you not, a rehearsal room foyer. We get there early, yay wireless! Then LC! turn up with their Macbook fleet begin the connection battle. We begin army-style plans for best use of available internet time. Our dressing room is one big rehearsal room and there was the resident quota of Black Sabbath cover bands in the other rooms. 200 people in a tiny room, was amazing. I ended the gig hanging over the barrier – I went for an empty spot I thought, but when I opened my eyes at the end there was a little girl cowering underneath me. I went and apologised and she hugged me and demanded a photo. If only I could impress every girl by screaming about my ex into their face then using them as a sweat towel. We drive to London and stay in Jr’s friend’s converted sex dungeon. Nice.
Kingston. Man’s got shots here! Nice long soundcheck gives my amp enough time to blow a valve. Luckily enough, Tom and Neil (and most people I know) use the same amp as me so I scav theirs. Buy gin play gig come back gin gone! Disaster! Was probably drunk enough already tho. LC! are fucking amazing tonight. Dancing everywhere. No-one got shot. Get back to sex dungeon at stoopid o’ clock, have to stay up drawing on shirts for video.
Video shoot! In some place in Londondon where they do motion capture for, like, every video game ever. We have a crew we get introduced to and promptly forget names, whist they show no trouble in remembering ours. I hope this is a skill which we pick up with practise. We have a stunning makeup artist who tells us we’re beautiful and perfect and runs on to give us little cups of orange juice, and eventually get used to pretending to rock out. Weird. The video involves me being beheaded so I have to practise falling over about a million times on a concrete floor. I bruise every bone on my left side and shred my hand way worse than I do at gigs. Jr breaks nine sticks on fake cymbals. The brief shots we've seen look awesome tho, I can’t wait to see it finished and animated. We stay at Dan from our label and his girlfriend’s flat, scuppering their night out. Thanks Dan & Kat!
Portsmouth first! Totally emotional gig, our last show with LC! and we were convinced we had to leave as soon as we’d come off stage. We have a headline Bournemouth show at half midnight, a stoopid and impractical idea with the one saving grace that it paid for the rest of the tour. I feel like shit all day, I can’t move without wincing and I want to go sleep somewhere warm. I don't think I play too well but the gig was mega… huge friendly crowd. My amp blows another shiny expensive part. Neilllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll... Gareth came and sung ‘Sometimes, in the Bullring’, and we played ‘This Band is Killing Us’ and it didn't sound too great but it felt totally right. Frantic calls to the promoter of the Bournemouth show to borrow an amp revealed that they were running well late and we didn't need to leave ‘til the end of the show. I sung ‘Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks’ with the band, it was totally my favourite song last year and a proper lovely ending. I didn't realise, and it’s a bit emo, but touring with bands you like, you become best friends for a set amount of time then leave each other with pretty much fuck-all idea over when or where you’ll meet again. I’m not at all complaining about the life we've chosen for the next few years but I think we were all a bit naive as to how much of an adjustment it would be. We got to Bournemouth: total Hoxton overdose. Played to about 12 people who were busy pretending to be ghetto (NB: if Wiley actually met you he would HATE YOU) at two in the morning with the worst sound ever, our van got tagged, realise I’ve left gin onstage in Portsmouth, puked, got our wage, drove for HOURS trying to find an empty Travel Lodge and fell asleep in the hotel bath actually looking forward to going home.
But before we go home we have to do b-sides! We do our stuffs at Southern Studios with Harvey Birrell – both studio and man are legends. Yay. We record a song we haven’t played live, thus cheekily incorporating a bit of rehearsal into the day. And we do an oldish song called ‘I Heard, He Ties Up Cats’, which our label man Dan said sounded like a Pavement b-side. Yayers.
Got home. Amazingly my housemate hasn’t gone all changing rooms anywhere and all our remaining utilities are still connected. Bored and miss my friends.
I’ve totally avoided any gossipy fun stories with LC! because they're super happy memories and I don’t want to turn them into quotes. If every band we support from here on in is half as friendly and generous as they are then we’ll be pretty happy. Thanks Alecks & Alex & Dan & Ellen & Harriet & Jason & Gareth & Neil & Oli & T & Todge & Tom. Can I borrow a footswitch and a whiskey and coke and a sandwich and someone’s phone? Cheerssssssssss.
Best mix CD owned: Dan’s!
Best mix CD heard: Tamy’s!
Best Tim Kinsella impersonation: Lea. Let’s sit and stare at each otherrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
Person we stayed with who knew of the most cool bands that we’d never heard of: Aimee
Most consistently drunk and happy person encountered: Cal my psyche
Most overused catchphrase: “shotgun no”
Most depressing high-five of tour: Ellen, Reading
Percentage of girls who would ditch current boyfriends for merch man Jason: 100
Little Hitler award for stage over-management: Brighton Concorde 2, cowboy twat
Number of songs I wrote in my head before going to sleep that were amazing and forgotten the next day: four
Skankiest weed deal of tour: Birmingham!
Most helpful venue staff: Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
MARCH is Young Knives tour, some NME shows, some headline stuffs, SXSW, and our single comes out. I’d like to say we're getting used to it but that’s showing no signs of happening.
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Photo: Amy Brammall and Lewes Herriot