Interview with... Jon McClure of Reverend and The Makers

Just over a couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be exclusively sent a watermarked copy of the brand new Reverend and The Makers album, 'Thirty Two' - due out February 24th. Now, after one fantastic 9/10 review later, courtesy of Its All Indie - I had the privilege of talking to Sheffield front-man Jon McClure for a no-holds-barred, exclusive interview.

Hello Jon, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Right, first of all, your new album is scheduled for release later this month. How long have you been working on this album and overall how many songs were written before you decided on the final 11 song track listing?

Jon - About a year I reckon. We had about 20 songs so it's slimmed down to 11 - but it's like all killer no filler you know what I mean? haha 

The new album is entitled 'Thirty Two' – was there any particular reason for calling it that? Is it because you have recently turned 32 – just in time for the release of the album? 

Jon - I think it's a bit of a continuation of the last album really. We've hit a point where we have this cult following and I’m at ease being 32. I've nothing to prove so it's almost back to our debut where we just write tunes for the tunes sake. It's liberating and I think it's (Thirty Two) our best work. We've tried hard to combine the two things that make Sheffield ace which is the electro thing from The Cabs, Heaven 17 and The Human League, combined with the lyrical thing which people like Jarvis are so good at. 

You initially made the announcement of a new album via your Twitter page – and the social network site seems to be a predominant part of your band now with even your third album having being called @Reverend_Makers, your Twitter username. So how important is Twitter do you think in regards to being able to connect with fans on a more personal level? 

Jon - Well you have two distinct choices as a musician. A - Make cheesy fucking music to fit in with Little Mix and 1D and get on the radio or B - make music on your own terms and rely on social media and word of mouth to do the rest - I know where I'm at.  

Do you think it’s wrong then when bands effectively employ someone else to run their social networking sites for them as it means they aren’t gaining the chance to connect with their fans as much as they could? 

Jon - Well there’s a couple of Indie boys who employ people to write their music so it's no great leap to get someone to do your Twitter. It's an industry of fakers. It's a shame fans don't read the credits more. 

On the topic of involving fans, by using pledge music fans will be able to somewhat feel like they have had a part to play in the process of this new album, and you are also giving some people the chance to have you perform personally in their house - do you think it’s important to do things like this for fans and do you think more bands should be doing similar things to break down the barriers between fan and band?

Jon - Well it's about communication of the spirit of the music. I write songs about real life and it's my way of standing with the fans and saying, "I'm one of you". It's peoples music. I think, and I hope that people see the disconnection between the bullshit in the mainstream and what people actually want.

I caught up with Reverend and The Makers front-man, Jon McClure
In regards to the house gigs, the response has been amazing. I sort of nicked the idea from my pal Carl Barat though. Him and Peter used to do similar things didn't they? The main thing though is it's such a laugh. Like you make an album then tour it then go to festivals and it becomes formulaic. This is my way of getting back to the soul of the music. It's been class though. I've had a wedding proposal, a dog named after me, a car crash and a riot van turn up all in one week so far!

Out of all the house gigs you have played so far – which one has been the best and why? 

Jon - Always the last one you play. That's why I keep doing it. It's like a junkie. That adrenaline you get from your latest gig is addictive man!

I have already had the privilege of listening to the new album but for your fans that of course will have to wait a little longer than I have to get their hands on it, can you describe to them what they can expect from your fourth LP?  

Jon - Just bangers - the type you're not supposed to be able to write by the fourth album, but I think we are better now than 10 years ago so yeah strap in for a load of bangers, with a couple of classy ballads chucked in just because. 

It's been around six years now since your debut album 'The State of Things' was released and although all three of the albums you have released have rightfully achieved a place in the Top 20, it's your debut that appears to remain your highest charting - does the success of a previous album ever have an effect in regards to how you look to approach its follow up? Or do you treat every album as if it's your first and not dwell on the success of the album that came before?

Jon - To be honest the first did the best because they hammered it on the radio. Since then the radio has undergone a sea change where they've started playing non-stop bollocks like Little Mix and Calvin Harris to compete with the commercial stations so the fact we still do alright and get in the charts is testament to our music and to the fans I think who know where the real music is at. 

You also recently announced the dates for the UK tour that will be in support of the new album. Although you will be playing all over the country, is it the Sheffield date you always most look forward to when first kicking off a tour? 

Jon - God no. The actual gig in Sheffield is always amazing but I've got that many aunties and cousins and what not it's like a wedding. Going round kissing folks and saying hello to everyone is a right old stress haha. Liverpool, Manchester or London are all massive gigs but with less relatives so I can be a bit naughtier I reckon haha 

Are you going to be playing any festivals this year in light of the new album and if so which ones can you currently confirm? 

Jon - Can't confirm any yet but yeah there will be loads. We have become a bit of a 'festival' band in the last few years so we will be bringing the party - no doubt.

You were allegedly offered up to £150,000 to make an album ‘like Arctic Monkeys’ back in 2005 by some major labels – do you think that is a clear example of what is slowly becoming wrong with the music industry? The fact that major labels seem to be on a constant mission to change and mould an artist into what they perceive to be something they can make money out of?

Jon - They just want carbon copies. So for instance I've known Ed Sheeran for years. He was plugging away at an industry which wouldn't listen. Then he does well, then we get ten Ed Sheeran clones. Music is about money and marketing nowadays and the artists are often a secondary factor. I refuse to participate in any of that bollocks.

Following that, you went onto sign a record deal in 2006 I believe with Wall Of Sound - but do you think it’s harder now for a new band to break into the industry given the fact that shows like Radio 1 seem to mainly prioritise ‘pop/dance acts’ who are already somewhat guaranteed chart success due to that huge label backing? 

Jon - Exactly. I agree with that. Fuck it though. Chart your own path. I still believe in word of mouth, especially through things like Twitter.  

In regards to the new bands who actually have seemed to have made some impact over the last year, such as Peace, Palma Violets and Haim etc. – what do you think of them? And what other under the radar bands do you think we should all look out for? 

Jon - There's a lot of posh kids isn't there? Like they can afford to do fuck all apart from go round in a van being in a band. There's no pressure to pay the gas bill is there. There seems to be a dearth of peoples music to my mind but yeah there are loads of amazing bands. Liberty Ship from Sheffield are the best I've heard in years.

The lyrical content in your songs has always seem to focus around real life situations that are more than relatable to an audience – do you think this is vital then in regards to once again connecting with your audience successfully? 

Jon - Well I think bands turn shit when they stop writing about subjects their audience comprehend. To that end it's vital to keep a strong connection with what fires your lyrics. So I stay in Sheffield. I hang out with my brother who runs a pub and my cousin who works on the bins. It's the little stories isn't it? I doubt it's the same if you're on a fucking yacht somewhere getting a tan!

Do you think bands that attempt to write lyrics that are overly metaphorical and abstract to the point where you can’t make sense of them is a bad move? 

Jon - Depends who you are. But yeah sounds like utter bollocks to me. Of course the journalists are almost 100% from private school backgrounds now. To work at a paper you must do an unpaid internship. How many folk do you know can live in London for a month, unpaid? So inevitably the press is staffed by the privileged. What they know of the things I sing of is minimal isn't it? So it's natural they would hate my music.

What is married life like on the road? Are there ever any major disagreements? Or is being able to share the same live on stage experiences and emotions every night a great feeling to be able to do together?

Jon - When we were getting together it was very dramatic. Rev-enders we used to call it. It's fucking beautiful now though. I love Laura to bits and without her and Ed there would be no band 'cause I have been a right wanker at times haha.

You recently played a ‘This Feeling’ night on NYE, alongside Carl Barat and The Rifles – what was the overall night like? The best way to bring in the New Year? And did you manage to catch the opening band The Mono-Polys? If so, do you think they are up to the challenge that is the music industry? 

Jon - I did they were great. The singer was a right character. NYE was ace. Me and Carl always end up in a tangle. I got punched about 5am and then the geezer ran off lol. The Rifles are great though. They are so popular and deserve far more coverage then they get. But again what they do isn't deemed cool by the hairdressers like Grimshaw haha 

You've played with Andy Nicholson and Drew McConnell in Mongrel, been in a band previous to Reverend and the Makers with Alex turner and Matt Helders and even had Turner contribute guitar and vocals on some of your songs before – for the fans who once again don’t know, can we expect any of these familiar names to pop up again on the new record? If not, is there any collaborations at all on the new record? 

Jon - A couple yes. But I don't wanna open your Xmas presents for ya, so you'll have to wait and see haha.

Reverend and The Makers fourth album, 'Thirty Two' can be pre-ordered now from iTunes, Amazon and Pledge Music and you can read our review of it HERE.

George Henry King