Monday, December 26, 2016

"We Just: Still Exist..." - Johnny Headband - "Best" Interview of 2016

Sometimes, when December 31st starts creeping up, I entertain the idea of listing my favorite interviews of the passing year. Or, I don't know what to call it... "Best" interviews of the year? But I'm in no position to "review" conversations, I only transcribe them and tell a story around those conversations. So I won't ever compile a list like that. Besides, the consistent fulfillment I find is in meeting artists, talking about the creation of music, and arranging a comprehensive (and often concise) story about it.

But I digress. I'd rather just talk about the one interview from 2016 that I never got to share with you...

It was July, and Chad Thompson of Johnny Headband met me in the middle of a sunny, sweltering morning, so that we could drink too large cups of coffee, roam the suburbs and talk about the band's fourth (or was it fifth?) return, reboot, restart, call it what you will.

Johnny Headband arrived on the Detroit music scene more than 10 years ago, but their debut album's hybrid of post-disco, funk-pop and new-wave rock was just another in a lifetime of quirky creations between the brothers of Chad and Keith Thompson. Over the last decade, they've appeared, per se, to deliver another meticulous and energizing production of songs, a couple of EP's, another full-length, a few singles, with a few proceeding performances, maybe some mini-tours, and then...they'd go underground (again, per se...), all but disappearing from your news feeds. 

But they always came back. They always do come back. Chad can't stop working on music, and he's always thinking up new songs. His hands are in other projects too, of course, particularly graphic design and videography   

Anyway, I'm rambling. Johnny Headband (with drummer Robbie Saunders), released a 4-song EP earlier this year, and they played a show over in Toronto. They were back! I mean, even though they never really went away, they were back! And I was biding my time, hoping for them to book a big concert in the metro Detroit area and I was going to use this interview to promote it... But then they went away again...

I wanted to share a few of my favorite snippets from my "favorite interview of 2016--"--that no one got to see, until now.

My chat with Chad, from Johnny Headband. 

          Concentrated Concentration 
"I like to work... I like to be in the process. My brother loves nothing more than to get lost in it... But, it's the best. It's the best feeling. It's the best thing to do with your time. If you're writing something and you're lost in it? There isn't anything better than that..."

          Spinning legs on the social media hamster wheel of self-promotion
"...BUT..., to then have to have all these bases covered in terms of 'putting it out into the world...?' Not everybody can....or not everybody wants to..., or not everybody is able to. And quality doesn't always matter, (obviously), and ambition doesn't always matter. I think once you let that go, you can really do some dangerous stuff!"

          The actual humans that populate the "bands," these otherwise intangible composites of people with publicity photos and images and genre-labels... Who are they? 
"I'm just thinking about everything... I'm not thinking about that one thing, and I think that there are people that have that single-mindedness. That is not what I have. But if we're talking about Johnny Headband...?"
         (.....and here, I had already made a metaphor, prior to this quote, about the band appearing every so often, sometimes every 2-4 years, and it's akin to catching glimpse of a whale's majestic tailfin breaking the water's surface for this valiant splash....)
"As far as the whale appearing...and then going away? That's what we require!! Some people go away for four years and the only thing you know in context to them and their lives...let's say Radiohead... you only know them as musicians or music makers, you don't know what else they do. You might not care. They go away, they come back, play shows and they're "a band..." But I'm sure that those same people go through periods where they wonder to themselves, should I keep doing this? What else would I do if I didn't do this...? Who am I?"

          On expectations (...and lowering them) 
"I don't always classify us as 'a band.' I'm not even there. We're not there as a group. We have to go do other shit, because, ('being a band') is not a living."

          The point
"But I guess my point is, there's not much of a choice. You're drawn to it, you do it, you keep doing it, people ask you do do more of it... You keep doing it, you enjoy certain aspects of it. We're in a place that is healthy and the expectations for us are reasonable, but yet our quality and standards and growth and creative purges and all those things, are always going to want to be fulfilled in one way or another!"

        (He stops me towards the end, as I'm running out of questions)
"So anyways..., what could we talk about that is more 'relevant...' to something that someone would care about?"
         I tell him I think we already got there...

"Sometimes you have to burn down a forest, and what grows back is more verdant and beautiful. And there's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with putting something to bed and moving on to another thing. It doesn't mean that initial thing was dysfunctional and I don't know when the time is to call it a day... We just: still exist!"

Johnny Headband still exist! And I'm relieved to finally share the interview with you! Social-media anxiety, self-imposed expectations, skewed perspectives, those can be killers for an artist. But, even if Johnny Headband are playing a show, even if their songs came out months ago, I wanted any other band out there to know that the existential dread of throwing your works out into the uncertain ether, it's universal in this age. But, as Chad put it, it "might depend on what phase of the journey you're in..." 

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