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Premiere: Jonny’s “You Was Me”

Premiere: Jonny’s “You Was Me” (photo)

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For his work in Teenage Fanclub, Scotland’s Norman Blake is an indie rock icon. The same goes for Welsh songwriter Euros Childs, the former leader of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. But the legacies they’ve built during the last two decades apparently don’t satisfy the artistic drives that made them musicians in the first place; Jonny, their casual duo affair the two convened in order to write enough songs for a self-made single, recently released its self-titled debut through Merge Records. Full of inescapable melodies, humor and elliptical lyrics, Jonny is a 40-minute spree meant for a spring drive and, at times, the dance party you find at the end of it.

Download the new single, “You Was Me,” here, and watch the nature-day video above. We spoke with Blake in Japan just before the start of Jonny’s first tour there and after a 36-hour whirlwind of travel for two Teenage Fanclub shows in Brazil.

So this is Jonny’s first time in Japan?

With Teenage Fanclub, we’ve done a lot of touring in Japan, but we’ve always been in Osaka or Tokyo or Nagoya. On this trip with Jonny, we’re going to Hiroshima, Fukuoka-Shi and Kyoto, so we’ll see a lot more of the country.

You’ve been touring for a long time. Does visiting new places with an old or new band, even this far along, still keep it exciting?

That was my first time in Rio last week, and last time was my first time in Belgrade and Serbia. It’s a real privilege to be able to get to see these places because, for most people, because you work, you only have a set period of time during the year where you can travel. For me, as a consequence of what I do, I basically get to travel a lot.

On the same tip, do these new songs in a new project with Jonny offer an excitement and uncertainty that, by now, must seem foreign for Teenage Fanclub?

You’re right. At this point, Jonny just did a tour together. It was just myself and Euros on stage, with two little guitars, two little keyboards and a drum machine. We had to make it up as we went along because we didn’t really know what our set was. The first day of our UK tour, we said, “What are we going to do? What songs can we play?” We had to quickly put that together. With Teenage Fanclub, obviously, we’ve been doing it for a long time. I can blink and just fall into that. When we went to Brazil, I hadn’t seen the guys in six months. We met the day before the show and had a three-hour rehearsal, and everything worked. I totally know that. But with the Jonny thing, we are really making it up as we go along, still. We’re still not very conformed to the stage. The band is still a year and a half or two years old, so it’s still a young band. That is exciting.

In terms of the approach to writing songs, there are some Euros compositions on there that I had a minor influence on, but when we started, it started at my kitchen table, just writing songs. It was fun. We had an idea that we were going to record a couple of songs, make a 7-inch single and press up 400, so that we’d get 200 each to sell at our gigs. We quickly had a whole album. It’s very dynamic with Jonny at the moment.

Why did this project feel so right? Why was it so productive?

It was quite liberating in a way because, when we started Jonny, we thought we’d possibly record a 7-inch, and that would be it. There were no expectations. There was no grand plan. We didn’t have a label. We didn’t have to sell records to satisfy someone. All we had to do was satisfy ourselves. With Teenage Fanclub, there is a pressure of sorts to make a record that will sell. We will have spent a lot of money, and we’ll be anxious to recoup that. With Jonny, the recording costs were next to nothing. We got some time at Chem 19, the studio of Paul Savage, our friend. He gave us four days of studio time. There wasn’t any risk at all involved in the Jonny project.

“Cave Dance” is one of the most intriguing tracks on Jonny. It’s this strange, 11-minute build, with minimal lyrics and a subtle development. It’s so different from the rest of the album, too; how was it written?

That started with a conversation we were having around the kitchen table. We were talking about movies and just kept sketching. For some reason, we were talking about movies that should be made, or we were talking about titles of movies that should be made. “Cave Dance” came up in the conversation about movies, and we started thinking what if we actually had a song that sounded like cave music. We started off by knocking a couple of rocks together, and we take off somewhere else, to a psychedelic ending.

A big part of the Jonny thing is humor. If I tried to do a song like that with Teenage Fanclub, it just wouldn’t fit. With Euros and Gorky’s, they have funny songs, but since he’s been doing solo records, he’s not really exploring that part of his character or personality. “Cave Dance” gave us the chance to do that. It was fun. It just came from a conversation around, “Write a song that starts with…” It’s a bit like in 2001. At the start of that movie, the apes pound their chests and hit bones together. That formed into an idea, and we took off with that.

What about “You Was Me”? It’s nothing fancy, but it’s hard to let go once you’ve heard it.

That was another one that was just at the kitchen table. You know what, I tell a lie: We were sitting in the living room of my flat in Glasgow, when I was living there. The flat overlooks a bowling green in Glasgow. Bowling is very popular. I think we were siting, having a glass of wine, next to guitars and keyboards. I think I may have started playing the main guitar riff. I think of that song as being a bit like a T. Rex song, with a very simple groove. That was the template for the music that inspired that. It was a pretty much stream-of-consciousness lyric. We were looking at the bowlers. Euros came up with the first line: “Keep on seeking/ Roll the ball/ Monday comes to nothing.” It must have been a Monday. The song really was stitched together that way. We wrote the lyrics in a few minutes.

That’s how most of the songs happen; we don’t really spend a great deal of time thinking about it too much. That’s, again, quite liberating because when I’m writing Teenage Fanclub and Euros is writing for his solo records, we spend much more time on the composition of the lyrics and the music. With Jonny, we wanted to take it pretty easy. Even if it doesn’t quite make sense, that’s OK. The lyrics start when we were watching the bowlers, then it goes somewhere else. We write it down, and we don’t tend to edit it too much.

Returning to the song now, what’s it about? What do all those words work together to suggest for you?

You know, I’m really not sure. I really don’t know. It seems like an odd thing to say, but I don’t know what it’s about. It’s not really about anything. I guess we were just trying to write lyrics to fit the music. There’s no knowledge or control there; it’s words that we think fit the music. We were really just writing it as we thought of those words that fit the music. The video is difficult for that. We could’t think of ways to interpret that song. I and Euros knew at one point we’d have to, but we couldn’t even though we kept trying to do it. We thought about having Ryan [Owen], the director, film us singing the song and a bunch of other people singing it, and splicing them together, which ties in with it a little more. But we didn’t do that. We went out to Pembrokeshire to the beautiful countryside instead.

Why horses?

That was really Ryan who came up with the idea. Euros is from that part of the world, that very beautiful part of the world. Really, Ryan went there, and those horses were there.

Jonny lands in North America next month. Find them here:

June 03 Toronto, ONThe Drake Hotel
June 04 Toronto, ON The Drake Hotel
June 07 Northampton, MA Iron Horse Music Hall
June 08 Boston, MA Brighton Music Hall
June 09 New York, NY Le Poisson Rouge
June 10 Brooklyn, NY The Bell House
June 11 Philadelphia, PA World Cafe Live Upstairs
June 12 Vienna, VA Jammin’ Java
June 14 Carrboro, NC Cat’s Cradle
June 15 Decatur, GA Eddie’s Attic
June 16 Nashville, TN The Bluebird Cafe
June 17 Louisville, KY Zanzabar
June 18 Chicago, IL Old Town School of Folk Music @ Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall
June 20 Columbia, MO Blue Note w/ Yo La Tengo
June 21 Iowa City, IA Englert Theater w/ Yo La Tengo

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.