Monday 11 March 2013

Twisted Wheel // Interview with Jonny Brown & Live Review

After a three year break away from the scene and a shake up of line-up, Twisted Wheel came back in 2012 with the follow-up to their acclaimed debut album. Now back on the road, the Manchester three-piece is looking forward to not going away for quite so long again.

Est.1987 went down to Sheffield Leadmill  to sit down with front-man Jonny Brown for a very frank and honest chat about working hard, the state of the music industry and how the third album means more to him than anything...

Twisted Wheel on stage at The Leadmill in Sheffield

Hey Jonny, how’ve the tour dates been going so far?
Yeah, it’s great that people are still coming to see us. We don’t get played on the radio virtually at all but we’ve still got a great fan base. The Facebook page is still going up like one hundred people a day and people are onto us and finding us through word of mouth really, so it’s good because we’ve been going for five years.

Your shows are renowned for getting a little crazy; how crazy have they been getting?
Last night was pretty crazy. I was doing an acoustic track and some guy did like a spin and smashed his face on the floor! That usually happens on the fast tracks; don’t know how he managed it with an acoustic song.

"Do It Again" the latest album
In terms of set-list –how have you split it between the old album and new?
It’s funny you should ask that because every night we’ve been panicking, changing it and putting songs in that we haven’t rehearsed. We usually stick to a set thing that we’ve practised before the tour, but I think the whole point of this tour was to throw in a few new songs and get used to which ones from the first and second album are the best live before we disappear. We have a few festivals coming up, but then are going to put everything we’ve got into the third album, take our time with it and maybe go a bit more mainstream, but not in a bad way.

Do you approach any of the older songs differently now? Especially playing them live?
I think we definitely add little things to keep us interested in them. We’ve put a few reggae bits in one and it just keeps it fresh for us, because you play the same songs for a long time and it does get a bit boring. One year we did 290 gigs so by the end of that we were sick of some of them.

Twisted Wheel the new line-up
You’ve supported the likes of Oasis and Paul Weller in the past; is that kind of support slot something you would like to do again? Or is it nice being out on a headline tour?
I enjoy being out on a headline tour because it’s your gig, but I’d really like to get on tour with some bigger bands now. With the second album it was a different line-up and there’s always a thing about “the second album”, but there didn’t seem to be that much pressure. I think what it was, we were just getting used to recording together and we put a bigger variety of songs on this album. The first album was quite rocky the whole way through but the second album has rocky songs on it but also some chilled out ones; I wouldn’t say love songs, but a bit soppy in some ways. I never thought I’d go down that avenue.

Yeah, I was going to ask about working as a new three-piece. Do you feel it was another chance at a first album?
Yeah it was; that’s why we called it “Do It Again”. We know where we stand now and we’ve got a good idea of where we’re going. We’re a strong unit now.

Twisted Wheel front-man, Jonny Brown

Have your ambitions and hopes for the band changed at all?
I’ve been in bands before and I wasn’t getting on with the singer. I was doing the writing and he was getting picky about what he wanted to sing. I wanted to play the songs, so I started my own band and the whole idea was in six months get a record deal and then in six months make an album. And, it all happened just like that. But the main thing is we just want to do it for a career; play music for the next twenty years and earn a living. The only thing now is I think that we’re a band that’s going to have to graft for it; it might take a few years before we get as big as we wanted to be in the beginning, but that’s not a problem. A lot of the best bands have worked hard and you get to learn the tricks of the trade.

Do you view the music industry differently now after six years doing this?
Yeah, I think it’s dire; I can’t stand it [laughing]. You have to train yourself to be a bit of a business man even though I’m still not. The industry has changed so much. I mean we were one of the last guitar bands to get a major record deal. We were lucky in that sense, but now it’s so much harder than it was and people don’t buy records anymore. You just have to learn to adapt to it. 

It was three years between albums; I’m guessing you’re not going to keep fans waiting another three years? Have you started thinking about the next record?
No definitely not. It wasn’t really by choice; I mean we more or less had a second album ready pretty much after the first. But then we ended up having those songs for so long we scrapped them. We’re going to do this tour, then a few festivals and basically we’re going to rehearse and work out where we want to go. Then dedicate this year to getting a really good album ready for next year.

Twisted Wheel on stage in Sheffield

In 2009 you got voted the second most gigged band? Does that hectic touring seem a lifetime ago?
It does in a way, yeah, because we go to venues and promoters say “It was great last time you played here” and I’m thinking “we played here before?” It feels like a long time ago, but then there are other things that only seem like a few months ago. Going on stage with [Paul] Weller and playing “That’s Entertainment” felt like it was last week, it’s so fresh in my memory. Time goes quick in rock n roll, before long you’re getting a beer gut and you can’t be arsed playing guitar anymore [laughing]. I still get ID’d for cigarettes so I’m ok for now.

And finally what’s next for you guys?
I think we’re going to do these festivals and then stay in the rehearsal room and crack this album; it means more to me than anything in the world and that’s the main thing.

And here’s what happened when Twisted Wheel took to the stage…

Twisted Wheel as a live band has a reputation that precedes them; chaos usually reigns at all of their shows. Back in Sheffield the three-piece prove that they have they have capability to pull in fans both old and new. After working together on the second album, “Do It Again”, the new three-piece line-up is a stronger unit than ever. They understatedly take to the stage with “Poppi Love” taken from the band’s latest album, before bursting into their classic “She’s A Weapon”.

Talking to lead singer Jonny Brown earlier, he admitted that the second album allowed the band to play around with more than merely the rocky roots of their debut album. The incredibly catchy and vintage-feeling “Bored” perfectly exemplifies the band’s new found experimentation. Up until this point the crowd has been a little timid, seemingly unsure whether to go full out in their appreciation for the band. However, “Let Them Have It All” changes things as the crowd lose all inhibitions and a sea of Mancunian haircuts jubilantly sings along, as beer flies from pint glasses and the odd crowd member loses a shoe or two. And now the crowd are warmed up there is no stopping them. The aggressive punk rock vocals of front man Jonny guide the set through up-beat hits, such as “Lucy the Castle” and the more stripped back “Merry Go Round”.

Twisted Wheel are getting set to make album number 3
The slick but rugged-around-the-edges nature of songs such as “Strife”, strike a chord with the crowd. Though more mellow, songs such as this paint a bleak picture of life, but resonate with the audience and are undeniably infectious. Jonny Brown exudes a boy-next-door confidence and effortlessly glides though single “Ride”, taken from the second album.

“We’re gonna get off now”, says Jonny modestly before breaking into the final two songs, “Postman” and the frantic and thrashing “You Stole The Sun”. The crowd know that this is their final opportunity to let loose tonight and don’t hold back as the band’s dedicated following continue in riotous behaviour and there’s even an attempted stage invasion or two.  Twisted Wheel proves that without all the radio play or publicity that they once had, their Brit-pop grittiness still breeds that same anarchic buzz; here’s to album number three.