Interview: Johnny5thWheel&thecowards

Published on May 21st, 2012 | Jonny Abrams

Delightfully odd yet melodic psych-pop troupe Johnny5thWheel&thecowards are readying their second album for a September release, so Rocksucker fired some questions over to Richard Lomax from the band to find out a little bit more about their intriguing operation…

How did you all meet, how long has the band been going for? Who does what in the band?

Andy and I started the band at the end of 2009. We met from either having lived with, played in a band with or having got drunk with each other.

Currently the live set up is…

Drumming/Accordioning/Percussioning – Andy Lyth
Singing/Guitaring – Richard Lomax
Organ-ing – Frank Beaver
Singing/Harmonica-ing/Omnichording – Stevie Guy
Bass-ing – Dave Watkins

We also have quite a few guest members to keep it interesting. Tom Metcalfe plays guitar and Mark Mace Smith has joined us on percussion and human beatbox before. Mikey Kenney from our labelmates Ottersgear has played violin too. Friends from bands The Murmurs Of Tension, Victorian Dad, The Kabeedies and My First Tooth have all jumped up with us live before. We’re a knocking shop that’s open all hours.

How would you describe your music, if pushed?

Duke Ellington (among many others I’m sure) said there are only two types of music: good and bad. We have a tendency to slap absurd made-up names (for example SteamPunk DoomJazz) on our music because it’s easier than listing every genre there is. There’s bits of swing, bits of folk, bits of surf, bits of drone, bits of joy and bits of doom.

Where are you based, and what do you use to record with?

Across the north-west. Some are based in Preston, St Helens, Lancaster, Wigan or Manchester. It’s only half an hour in between each place, we could probably do a gig where we pick up some members at each train station. Recording-wise we have previously been recording on the move. I’ve got a mobile studio that I’ve used in the past for the first album TalesOf… and this one coming out in September.

Are you signed to a label? If so, how did you come to their attention?

We are putting out our music with the lovely help of the people at Sotones Records, a Southampton based label and home to some excellent artists… Ottersgear who I mentioned before, Anja McCloskey, Lonely Joe Parker, Haunted Stereo and Etao Shin amongst others. I travel a fair amount for gigs and got to know Haunted Stereo. We became fast friends and after a few gigs together it came about then.

Is there a full album in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it? (Feel free to be as abstract as you like!)

There is a full album nearing completion – just needs mastering and naming. The ever-complicated naming process. The current working title is …And That’s How Ladyglue Is Made, Son. I’m 90 per cent sure it won’t be that though. The album will be out in September through Sotones and we’ve recorded 12 songs for it  – a few of them people will have been able to hear on the singles (“Where Did I Sleep Last Night?”, “In My Laboratory” and “Spike”…) as well as new songs that no one has heard yet (“Blame In Campodia”, “I’m Not West”) and a few from the live set that we haven’t released yet (“Happy Clappy/Doom Jazz”, “Daemon”).

It’s a leap forward from the first album but it does retain that slightly schizoid feeling. I’m pleased with the different instruments we’ve got to add to the sound of this album. Singing saws (played by the fantastic Ragnhild of The Bee’s Niece), some old drum machines and synths, there’s some horns on there too.

Where can we hear your music online?

The best place to hear our music is or even better come and see us play.

Which have been your most exciting gigs and/or overall moments so far?

We’ve had a fair few exciting ones. I enjoyed the 69 Live Songs tribute to The Magnetic Fields we helped put on. We played an amazing courtyard gig in Southsea as well,, one that our friend, the lovely Joel Ransom, put on in a dilapidated hotel – some of the gig was played wandering from room to room – definitely one of my favourites. We also played something called GlastonFerret in Preston where the venue is turfed out with real grass inside. We are hoping to put on something special for the release of the second album – some kind of revue or summation of all the strange characters and sounds we’ve invented over the last couple of years.

Got any more coming up? (Gigs, that is…)

Got a few. Want more!

Here’s some:

26th May – The Oakwood, Glossop
3rd June – The Rose & Crown, Chorley
10th June – Moon & Sixpence, Glossop
11th June – Ram & Shackle, Manchester
24th June – GlastonFerret, Preston
29th June – Mixtup showcase, Amsterdam
30th June – Mixtup showcase, Amsterdam
15th Sept – Southsea Fest, Portsmouth
20th Oct – Bent Brief, Southampton

Would like to get one of those booking agents…

Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?

I’ve mentioned quite a few so far so I’ll mention others. Just played a gig with Hey Sholay who were absolutely amazing psych-pop. Louis Barabbas & The Bedlam Six are a great dirt-swing band. We love Gideon Conn and then there’s Misty’s Big Adventure (who have been going a while but have nowhere near the amount of press and praise they should).

Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?

Love, Tom Waits, Serge Gainsbourg, Miles Davis and the Beatles. And Josephine Baker. And Burt Bacharch. And Jeffrey Lewis. And Beethoven. And Brian Wilson. And Super Furry Animals. Just five? No chance.

Richard Lomax, thank you.


About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.

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