Jon McClure is an outspoken, friendly man. As we sit down opposite him deep inside the heart of his Amsterdam dressing room, it’s evidently clear that he has just one aim for the rest of the evening, and that’s to enjoy himself. A mere hour later, his band Reverend & the Makers will be taking to the stage in Amsterdam’s Paradiso to support cult indie rockers The Libertines in front of 1,500 fans, most of them British. Before that, though, there was just some time for a lively discussion with McClure.
How are you doing?
McClure: Alright, yeah. Would you like a beer?
McClure: I love this venue. We’ve played it many times and we actually sold it out on our own when we were, like, famous. I like this place, our old drummer met his wife here, she was the monitor engineer.
Nice! Is she Dutch?
McClure: No, she’s Belgian and worked here for years. Then we were on tour and he met her here and they got married and all sorts.
So did you sell out the main room?
McClure: Oh yeah! We’ve played here a few times. We also play at the Vera [which McClure pronounces as Viera] in Groningen a lot. We’ve not played in Holland for a while so it’s nice to be back.
Of course you released your latest album Mirrors last year. Can you just tell us a little bit more about the record?
McClure: Firstly I’m getting on. I’m gonna be 35 this year and I’m getting older, so making music related to dance or techno and taking ecstasy sounds a bit weird when you’re in your 30’s. You sound like the last swinger in town. We started digging around in the studio and then one track became another, really. Me and Ed (Cosens, guitar) do it all and it just became this, like, ‘thing’. We weren’t planning anything but we were like, “this is good innit?” So we went to Jamaica and recorded it, mixed it up in Sheffield. People think it’s a concept album because it all merges with one another, but it wasn’t planned as such. It’s by far the best thing that I think we’ve done, and all the reviews say the same and stuff.
What drew you to Jamaica?
McClure: I just love the island. I love the music, I love the people, I love the food, I love the ganja, I love the life, mate. It’s just the place to be, innit? It’s very inspiring! We also wanted to make a film. Roger Sargent, who does a lot of the Libertines’ stuff, is a mate of ours and we got talking about making a film or music video that accompanied the whole thing. I didn’t want it to be like Rude Boy by The Clash, where it’s just me smoking weed with the rasta’s, because it’s poverty tourism and shit. I do that, but I don’t need to video it. It’s not like I’m Bob Geldof.
McClure: It’s more to use the natural beauty of the island of Jamaica and make a little psychedelic jungle kinda thing. Which is what it is, so yeah.
So what influenced Mirrors on a lyrical front, and what topics did you draw from?
McClure: I don’t wanna say psychedelia, but psychedelia. And getting off me nut, certainly. There’s a lot of trippy shit in there. We found out that I was gonna be a dad with Laura, who’s normally with the band, but she’s at home. We’re gonna have a baby together, so while making the record I found out I was gonna be a dad. That’s why there’s this song called Everyone I Know is Making Babies, because Eddie and his wife also had a baby around that time. It’s about thinking about where you are in life and what the people around you are doing. There’s a song from when we were 15, which was the first time that we got stoned. It’s like a comedy Mexican song. [Touring bassist Dave walks in] This is Dave, he produced the album! He’s standing in on bass for us today. So yeah, it’s a lot of thinking about where we are in life. I can’t be doing music if I’ve not got some kind of relevant stuff to write about. You know how there’s those lyrics about nothing?
McClure: I’m just a bit like, “fucking really?” But there’s even a song about where me mates are in their lives and with their relationships. It’s about turning 30 and either making something of your life or fucking shit up. You know what I mean? Just that kind of thing. I think lyrics ae more believable when it sounds like you’re actually singing about something. There’s not that many lyrical bands around, really. A lot of bands these days just write that “I love you baby” bullshit, and that’s not where it’s at, is it?
Then again, The Libertines are very poetic
McClure: Exactly, but that’s why we get on. Carl has been really complimentary and Peter has said nice things about our album and stuff, which is great. I think that having the respect of your fellow musicians is more important in many ways then being loaded, innit? It’d be nice to have a million in the bank, but still. It’s great when people who you respect also respect what you’re doing.
Back to Mirrors. What influenced it on an instrumental front, were there any inspiring artists?
McClure: We listened to a lot of stuff. Obviously The Beatles, but also stuff like [looks to Dave] Scott Walker, who I love, and even stuff like hip-hop. I like to get a good fat drum beat. A little bit of The Byrds, umm, what else were we listening to? [McClure looks to Dave, but there’s no answer] A lot of 60’s psych stuff, really. That 60’s psych sound suits my songs, it lends itself well to where I’m at. We’ve opened up a whole new avenue of where we can go in the future, do you know what I mean? People have got us pegged as this indie band, but suddenly we’ve made this record which sounds like nothing else, and everyone loves it. We’re already well on with making another album.
How is the new album getting along?
McClure: It’s going amazingly, like. We were listening to some demos the other day and they sound great, man. It’s gonna be a double album, I think. We’re looking to go to the South of France, because I like to go to a place and get into the mood. But yeah, a double album! A lot of people get to six albums and they’re struggling, whereas as I feel I’ve not even written all my best music yet. Believe it. We’ve got a bit of a new sound, because I’ve got a shitload of songs. Eddie’s got loads, too. Normally, we get shit reviews, yeah? But now they’re great, telling us Mirrors is our best album. It’s gonna be a proper mental album, though. There’s even a song which sounds like a Chinese opium thing. Can’t wait to do it, really!
So it sounds nothing like Mirrors, then?
McClure: I mean, it’s got a vibe like Mirrors, but it’s so eclectic. It’s got all sorts of mad shit on there.
Dave: I’d say it’s a continuation of Mirrors, where the songs all blend in.
McClure: I like that, because it’s like you’re tripping on a journey that you can’t get off of. It’s so different to how people consume music these days. The head of Radio One has just said that the album is dead. I’m not being a dick over here, but you’re a geezer in a suit in an office in London. You don’t fucking write music, who are you to say that the album is dead? I like albums, we’ve been listening to Frank Ocean’s album all the way through in hotel rooms. We got blazed and just got right into an album, didn’t we? If you think about your favourite records, you get lost in them don’t you? If you listen to Mirrors you’ll be transported on some mad ride. This next record is gonna be the same. You might not notice this, but on old Beatles records there are three or four of them that sing. On our previous work, it’s me singing all the time. It’s dumb as fuck, though. It’s boring. So Ed’s singing, Laura’s singing, and you get more of a journey. You get light, shade, weird ones. When I was younger I was a bit of an egomaniac so I wanted to be the frontman and stuff.
You also released a 5-track EP recently. Why did you do this?
McClure: Honestly, it’s what you’ve gotta do now when you release a single. You’ve gotta put a lot of bollocks with it so that people will buy it. That’s the truth, haha. This is me who said it earlier – you’ve gotta be real and honest. I’m not gonna sit here and lie to you, I’d feel terrible then. They’ll be like, “you’ve got to do a live version of this and an extended version of this and a remix of that” and I’m just here like, “fuck off man”. I’ve made my statement, and that’s the art right there. That’s the statement, that’s the record. And then they don’t even call them release dates anymore, they call them impact dates. Who the fuck thought that up, man?
Not heard of that before!
McClure: There’s all kinds of nasty shit terms out there that people are using. You’re just like, “what the fuck is that?” You’ve got impact dates, people saying “you’ve gotta get your socials up”, and you just think, “shut up man”. Truth be told, I’d just be happy to smoke my weed, play my guitar, see my missus and my kid and just go and play a gig. Instead, you have to go deal with all of this nonsense, like impact dates and bundles. That’s it, bundles! Digital bundles…what the fuck are digital bundles? So that’s why, there you go.
Of course you’ve been on tour with The Libertines throughout this year. How’s the tour been?
McClure: It’s good man, Carl’s a good mate of mine and he’d done some stuff with us before. I’ve known him for years and we’ve got the same manager and stuff. I got him with our manager because he didn’t have one at the time. It’s been great man, we’re mates but they’ve also been dead complimentary about our new album stuff. Peter says he likes watching us and gives us shout-outs and stuff. Gary I know, he’s cool. John I don’t know so well but he’s lovely. We’re having a good time, it’s been good. They like a party and so do we!
What do you tend to get up to in your free time then?
McClure: Being dead honest, in Amsterdam it’s gonna revolve heavily around smoking loads of weed.
You’re here for two days as well!
McClure: Yeah man. I fancy seeing the Rijksmuseum or maybe the Van Gogh Museum at some point too. I’ve got a friend here called Jesse who puts on festivals called De Magneet, not sure if you’ve heard of it. He lives in a lighthouse and puts on these mad festivals. We always come and play his festivals. I haven’t been here for a couple of years, but I’m gonna go see him. I like to also get a bike here and just cycle around, but I do stay away from the Red Light District because it’s just full of drunk English people being idiots. I think Amsterdam’s one of them places where you don’t wanna go look at shit. It’s not like Paris and the Eiffel Tower, it’s just one of them places where you wanna hang out.
It’s a vibe city, yeah.
McClure: I like to sit here and just watch things happen. I think you get more of a taste for it in that way. I tend to find that, whenever I go, English people tend to ruin it with their big groups of men.
Stag dos and the like?
McClure: Yeah, I don’t want that. There’s a time and place for that, but not when I’m there.
Now, Noel Gallagher highly praised Mirrors. Would you ever consider working with him?
McClure: It would be weird, ‘cus when I was a kid I loved him! I was like 13 when Oasis came out and I fucking loved them. I reckon I’d like to have a go at it, but I don’t think Noel’s much of a collaborator. He’s more of an ‘on his own’ type of guy. I’d been looking at stuff like collaborators, though. I took a look at the African Express thing with Damon Albarn just to record in some mad town in Ethiopia or something. I’ve been looking to spend time with people whose music I really admire, so I’d have to forget the admiration for a minute. If you wanna get a drink with them or get hammered you should probably forget a bit who they are. I have a good story about that, do you wanna hear it?
McClure: So we were supporting Oasis, and I’m Noel’s mate. I’m not really Liam’s mate. Liam’s walking into our dressing room and he’s coming up to me intensely, not aggressively, dead close and all that. He’s like, “what’s your favourite type of peas?” and I tell him I like garden peas. He gets a bit angry and says, “don’t you like them mushy?!” and I’m like, “not really if I’m honest”. Liam just walked off. The reason he does that is: you say what you’re gonna say and he suggests something else. If you change your mind, you’re a wanker. But if you stick to your guns, like I stuck to garden peas, you know your own mind and you must be alright. I quite like that. When you’re that famous, you need something like that to know if people are cool or not.
Haven’t actually heard from Liam Gallagher in a while! He’s gone under the radar I think?
McClure: He tweeted the other day that the UK music scene has been abducted by total cunts, which I couldn’t help but agree with. He’s absolutely right, so what can I say to that?
Coincidentally I was just about to ask your opinion on the state of the UK music scene.
McClure: It’s fucking terrible! Let me set things straight first: there’s so much good music around. Like, there’s never been more good music. It’s just that a lot of it don’t get heard, man. You’ve got idiots like this kid I’ve been having an argument with this week on Twitter, Matt from The 1975. I’ve had a big row with him on Twitter. Here’s my problem, right. He’s in a pop band like One Direction, so don’t make pretention to high art. I posted this thing saying, “you’re in Boyzone mate, pipe the fuck down”. Next thing I know, he starts tweeting me. You see how Kanye and Wiz Khalifa had beef on Twitter? So he’s copying Kanye’s tweets to me and I’m confused. Everyone’s like, “you don’t get it, it’s Kanye” and I respond, “I do get it, it’s just not very funny!” All his fans on Twitter are, what, 12? So on the last tweet he’s like, “you make music for Carling adverts”. The next day, all his tweets are still there but the Carling one is gone. This is what a whore he is, right. So I said, “here, how come you’ve deleted that Carling tweet, have you upset the sponsors?” They’re about to play Leeds & Reading, so someone from Carling has called up his management to make him remove the tweet. He’s a fraud, man. There’s a lot of rich kids who are frauds, man. I’ll tell you the problem: go to London, you gotta work as a journalist for two months to get anywhere for free, an internship for example. Who can afford that, even if you live in Essex? So inevitably all you get are bourgeois kids. It’s like that at newspapers, and the same at record labels. Inevitably, music about working class life in Sheffield means nothing to these people. It’s become safe, like Mumford & Sons. You can be the biggest band in America if you’re in Mumford & Sons, because if you’re in a van in the US for three months and it goes tits up, your Dad will still be the eighth richest man in the world so it’s fine. I’m not saying that rich kids can’t do rock ‘n roll, just look at the Rolling Stones. It’s just about inequality of opportunity. Music is a multi-faceted thing, but right now all we hear is dull rich kids, man. They’ve got nothing to say about anything, and it’s boring. That’s the mainstream, anyway. Underneath that, there’s loads of good music.
What’s standing out to you then?
McClure: Sleaford Mods are the best fucking thing ever, I love them. Allah-Las, I quite like them. Temples, I quite like them! Peace, I like them. Only thing with those bands is that I know the records they like, so I know what they’ve ripped off. Not that I don’t that myself, haha. All that grime stuff happening right now is dead exciting too. There’s so much good shit, but nobody writes about it. It’s all because of these hipsters, like. You might read about Allah-Las in Stoolpigeon or some shit, or see Sleaford Mods on an online site, but why aren’t they on the Brits? Sleaford Mods say more about what’s happening in Britain than anyone else.
It just goes against what the people behind the Brits want to see in the charts.
McClure: Generally, Britain has this thing where people don’t go vote for a government. 67% of people didn’t vote for the Tories, and it’s the same on the radio. They go do this research, but with who? They just go and ask ten people in Kensington! Go to Scunthorpe and ask people there what they want to listen to, because I’m damn fucking sure it’s not Coldplay. Apart from their first album, we’ve done better than they’ve ever done. And that can’t be a fluke, because we got no radio play.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but you also had a thing on TalkSport Radio?
McClure: Yeah. I’m in this position where I’ve done and said so much that people now come to me for an opinion. I could say that The 1975 are shit and it wouldn’t make a difference. It’s like, here’s the top and there’s the bottom – I’m in the middle somewhere. I can do whatever I want! So people are like, “a musician with an opinion!” and everything’s great. Just be honest, because not everything is good and not everything is wonderful, sometimes things can be shit too. [Guitarist Ed walks in and asks us to wrap up]
I’ll ask one more question. You recently tweeted: “music sites that offer glowing reviews to popular artists in spite of the music. That’s clickbait journalism mate”. Can you elaborate on that tweet?
McClure: So you’ve got a musical website who might give The 1975’s album 9/10, despite the fact that the reviewer is a 40-year old man and that The 1975 are fucking terrible. He’s basically doing it because he knows that they’re popular, and that it’ll give his website hits. Therefore it’ll make money and get advertising. What a load of nonsense, man. If a record is rubbish then it’s just rubbish, there should be some journalistic integrity in music press. The next tweet after the review I’m talking about said, “waiting on a view from Reverend & the Makers” as if they were waiting on me to say something and draw attention to their article. I’ve got nothing to do with it, I’m not gonna generate hits for your article. If people are actually spreading positivity about music I’ll show ‘em love and help them, but it’s just bollocks innit?
Thanks for your time!
Reverend & the Makers’ new album Mirrors is out now. Stream it below.