In his first interview in over a year and ahead of their debut slot at Highest Point festival’s opening night, I sat down with Reverend and The Makers frontman Jon McClure to talk about new projects, live music and returning to festivals after so long away. After trekking up a long hill and severely regretting my choice of shoes (chunky Doc Martins), I found myself in the artists village, sat on a small sofa next to the man who penned Heavyweight Champion of the World and Shine the Light, to name only a couple of The Makers many biggest hits. Vocalist and keyboardist Laura McClure then briefly appeared, shaking my hand, and offering me a cup of tea before leaving us to go and help with the pre-show preparations. After bonding over what football teams we support (Jon admitted that, when in Liverpool, he spends some time at Goodison, something that made me like him immediately) we dived straight in to McClures first interview in over a year.
How excited are you to perform today?
Yeah, I am really excited to be honest, I’ve not done an interview for a while or really spoke to anyone about anything on purpose for about a year at least, because I’ve just been trying to get my head down and make a load of music, so this is the first time we have played since Neighbourhood festival which was wicked, we were in that tent and it was rammed, it was a reight vibe. I just wanted to go away, get my head down and an make an album and we have done. So yeah, we’ve got a full new album that’s in the pipeline, it’s nearly finished and its dead different to anything we’ve ever done before, it’s a totally different vibe and I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people. Life’s good, we’re back playing live, and we’ve got some new members. Our drummers away but he’ll be back, then we’ve got a new bass player now called Antonia and it’s her first gig tonight so I’m really looking forward to seeing her in action as she is a great musician. We have got a new line up, a new vibe going on and we’re hoping to start putting some of the new stuff into the set.
Is there a new dynamic in the band now that you have new members?
Well, there’s drummer Ryan, he’s away, he works for other big bands tech-ing, so when he’s back we’ve got a new line-up. But yeah, it is different because people have different feels y’know like, Antonia plays bass different to how our Joe would’ve played it. Not better, not worse, just different, so you have to just get used to it, but she’s great, she’s really fucking good, she’s got a good feel.
I do find that your music does develop quite a lot, there’s a lot of contrast there in tracks, like from MDMAZING to No Soap…
Hey, guess what, Rylan off telly messaged me the other day to say he was listening to MDMAZING and how much he loved it and I was like wow that’s mad, but yeah, of all people…I love him I was like its him off the telly! But yeah, going back to what you were saying bout different styles, I think you want to try and be artistic, you want to entertain people and get them to come to your gigs and to enjoy them, be into them. You’ve also got to consider all the stuff you’ve done in the past which gives you a small hoop to jump through but you can still fuck around and try new styles and that. That’s what we’ve done and I think it works.
How would you describe the sound of the new album?
It is the most modern thing I’ve ever done, I really think it’ll shock a lot of people, but I like that. A lot of bands after their debut just come with it again and again but a bit shitter. And I think to myself what’s the fucking point in that? You’re just doing the same shit over and over again. I really respect people who are interesting and switch things up, if it’s boring for me then it comes across. Some bands, I look at them and I think you fucking hate doing this, I love it, I love doing it all, this might sound cheesy but I’d rather get a job somewhere 9-5 than do it for loads of money and it be wank and me not enjoy it. At that point it becomes soulless and I genuinely couldn’t do it.
Some bands fall apart after the first album don’t they…
We fell apart early doors and we’ve put it back together about three times, we’re through all that now and for whatever reason our live shows connect to people then people dance to it have a good time, even people who’ve never heard or seen us before enjoy it. In that respect its enabled us to keep going unlike some bands from our era who let’s face it, have gone haven’t they. I think it’s imperative on people to try and do something new and modern within their music. I mean there’s varying successes, I won’t name any names but you hear other bands trying to update what they’re doing and you think bloody hell mate that’s rough, so you’ve got to be careful at the same time. It’s possible to move through genres and styles though, like I say it’s vary successes. There are bands doing it, still here and switching things up and that’s what we’ve tried to do through all this and I feel we’ve definitely achieved that with the new album. I’m going to be honest with you though, I didn’t think I’d still be doing this now, to still be here fucking playing fezzies and that, u feel incredibly lucky. I’m doing this TV thing, I can’t say too much about it because it’s not finished yet, but it’s a musical telly thing later on in the year and I feel dead lucky that people want to give me money to keep making records and to do stuff like that because I was blessed to get the opportunity to do it in the first place.
To be able to do what you love and get paid for it is everyone’s goal I think…
Yeah, definitely cos then it’s a toss off really. It’s about talent but it’s a load of luck, it’s about been in the right place, knowing the right people, all that kind of shit. Then there’s the matter of utilising them chances and getting the most out of them, it’s like someone giving you a chance and you’ve got to go for it. I think you are having yourself on if you think it just boils down to talent, we’re probably the last of that thing that our generation had, there’s not really been that after our generation, it’s all been a different thing.
Do you support any of these new bands?
Yes, there’s loads of other artists, I mean I’m always around them I work with them I do bits and bobs with them I’ve been working with this kid, call him Noah, he was born as a girl in South Africa and obviously is transitioned to become a lad and I started working with him earlier on in that transition and writing songs with him. He’s just had an EP out it’s just called Noah. Then there’s a kid from Sheffield I really like calling Frankie Beetlestone he’s great, he’s wicked, I love him. He’s really talented Frankie, he like lives at the bottom of our road, like my Mum knows who his Mum is, my brother knows his brother, all that shit. You can tell by listening to him that he’s heard all the bands from back in the day in Sheffield like of our era, Monkeys and that, but you can also tell he’s listened to a bunch of shit that’s of his own generation and I think he’s got a cool fusion of them styles going on. I love it. I hear music all the time from all over the place, like, you know Bruno Mars, right? I mean I respect him, but I wouldn’t class myself as a fan. Anyway, him and Anderson Paak have got together and done a record, I just love it, its big like, it reminds me of music my Mum and Dad used to play back in the 70’s like Barry White or some shit. I think as I’m getting older, I’m getting to the point now where I’m listening to younger people and they’re informing me. I’m thinking, I’m an old bastard, so I need to learn some shit from you and reflect that in a way that’s not making me look like a knobhead, but you can take on influence from younger people and you can listen, and they know music that I don’t know. You’ve got to be listening. You get them other fuckers who just want to listen to The Beatles and bands from back in the day, I mean I’ve got as many signed records as the next man but who gives a fuck, you’ve got to listen to modern stuff too.
Aside from working on the album, have you been up to anything else whilst you’ve been away?
I’ve been doing this mad stuff with University of Sheffield, me and my mate Dean, we’ve been working with the uni to develop this AI thing that makes music on its own. They’re training it on musical data, so they play it, and it remembers it and spews it all out. It’s unlisten-ably wild, but yeah, it’s good. You could play it only Chinese music, so what it pumps out is going to sound like Chinese music, it’s like cooking so you could play it Chinese music and craftwork and it’ll do a fusion, might be shite, it’s often shite, but we’re going to do a little thing with that. You’ve got to keep doing things, keep moving forwards I think…I’ve been writing with other bands as well, doing loads of stuff like that, been working with this band Ramona Flowers, they’ve got fucking Niall Rogers on one of their tunes, which were mad. I love it me, I’m trying to work all the time, trying to write and produce my own stuff, so I’m doing a rave album which I’m very proud of, I’ve done some work for an advert which is coming out soon so yeah, just fucking doing it man. Weirdly, when Covid happened, I were busier than ever really, just missing this, this is what I love, playing gigs, it’s what we do innit. Sounds reight cheesy dunnit, I’m happy when I’m on stage and playing songs, singing and jumping about, everybody having a nice time. The studio is all well and good, and I do it and I love it, but…
Live music is where you get that feeling and atmosphere…
Yeah, you can fucking prep for an interview but it’s not the same as doing an interview is if. It ain’t. There’s this thing about people being together that we sort of lost haven’t we, collectively, and I don’t want to be that old bastard who moans about the internet, I don’t mean that, more Covid with not being allowed to interact.
We’ve been deprived of that interaction for so long, live music has made such a comeback hasn’t it…
Definitely man, we been doing like zoom gigs and listening parties for a bit, all that stuff, but I just thought I can’t fucking do this anymore. People loved it like, but I’ll be honest I soon got bored of it, selfishly I just missed playing.
This is your first time at Highest Point as well isn’t it…
It is yeah, I’ve been past Lancaster like a billion times, but I’ve never properly been, looks good though, the line-up looks good. Good vibes.
Is there anybody you’re particularly looking forward to?
I saw Shy FX were playing, I’d like to see him, if he’s got that lad doing that new tune, I’d like to see that. It’s got that old jungle rhythm I’d like to see him do that tune, it’s dead catchy.
Highest Point is quite family oriented, they even have a family day on the Sunday, what do you think about that?
I like that, I like that…we got kids now me and Laura, Lenny who’s seven and Reggie who’s just turned five and, like, when you see things like family day, you think that alright that. You can still have things like ‘family day’ and still be rock’n’roll. You can always fuck Friday off work, so start Thursday, bin Friday off work and you want Sunday to be chill anyway, don’t you.
What’s it like playing festivals again after so long away during Covid?
D’ya know when you go on holiday and you come home and you’re like ‘I hope I can remember how to drive my car’, I feel a bit like that doing gigs. I’m a bit like what did I say between tunes? And like, did I dance? Did I used to dance? What did I do? Y’know what I mean? We were meant to be having a year off, we were like ‘we’ll have a year off and we’ll make a record’. Then Covid happened and we were like woah, so one years turned into like three years off. It’s weird. We done Neighbourhood last year, and I felt like that, but it was wicked and twenty seconds in it all came back to me, it was like, oh, this is what we do. I’m hoping that’s what happens today.
Keep an eye on Reverend & the Makers socials for more news on the new album and gig dates…
What’s you go-to festival beverage?
Rum and coke.
Favourite festival food?
I like a Falafel man, just for laughs, yeah.
Camping or non-camping?
Front of the crowd or at the back chilling?
Depends on who it is, but at the back mainly.
Can I say what I want? Bag of weed.