Since the end of 2013, there has been something of a Tribes-shaped hole in my heart. The thought of an interview with former frontman, Johnny Lloyd, hours before his first headlining date in Manchester as a solo artist, seemed an almost bittersweet dystopia. But then again, I had not been to a Johnny Lloyd show yet.
“It’s only rock and roll” is as applicable here as it ever was with Tribes. Lloyd is a musician through and through. The good, old school kind that does not need obscene production value to put on a show; craftsmanship, stage presence and honest song writing is what he is about.
Forget the synths, flares and feather boas of the psychedelic revival of the day — you don’t need it, do it like Johnny Lloyd. The more he strips it all back, the more atmospheric it seems to get. He is an artist made for the sort of intimacy that Gulliver’s allows, but an artist you know could undoubtedly hold an audience just as easily in ‘x’ capacity venues. It doesn’t matter. It moves you.
Meg: The first time I saw you live was after winning a competition with NME to see Tribes play a secret set at H&M. Fast forward 3-and-a-bit years and you’re headlining a solo tour. How did this happen? Is there where you want to be?
Johnny Lloyd: It’s kind of like starting again after the big break with Tribes, I’m making music again for the first time and putting my solo stuff out. I’m really happy, the tour has been selling out and it’s the first time I’ve been on the road on my own headlining and its feeling good. I’m really excited to make an album next year and get back to it properly.
Joel: Regarding the album, your solo material seems a lot darker and atmospheric in tone, do you think this is more representative of you as an artist than the music you were making a few years ago?
JL: I think maybe. This is where I’m at now, I don’t know if the album will be all like that. There will be some more uplifting stuff on there. For me, some of the Tribes stuff was heading that way. You just get older and things change.
Joel: What can we expect on the LP?
JL: It’ll be a good mix, it really just depends on what mood you’re in when you are writing. I don’t know if it represents me as a person, those four songs, but they were the best ones I was doing in that six-month period, you know? That’s how I work anyway.
Joel: I’ve read about Lou Reed being a big inspiration on the Dreamland EP, what are you listening to at the moment for the album?
JL: I’m listening to a lot of Tame Impala but I think everyone is really. I’m trying to take in stuff but also make it my own and not just try and create a persona that isn’t me. That’s what I’ve learnt on this tour, I do one or two things well and the rest I shouldn’t bother. I shouldn’t bother with getting synths or any shit like that. I’m just trying to keep it guitar.
Meg: A lot of the EP talks about love quite blatantly, especially ‘Pilgrims’ — is this influenced by someone in particular, is there a back-story or are you talking about the concept of love more broadly?
JL: I think everyone has loved and lost in their life. You can say it’s about somebody but it’s probably more broad than that.
Meg: Talking about raw human emotion seems to be mirrored in the stripped back, lower production value, and more lo-fi sound. Do you think this is more effective when talking about those kind of themes?
JL: Yeah I think so, Jamie T produced ‘Hello Death’ and that’s his kind of vibe. We wanted to get to the core of the songs without any frills. It would have been very easy to make that a big soundscape and just have like a massive load of shit in the background to make it feel bigger and more intense. I think with him and with Hugo, it’s just let’s keep it basic and raw and try and get the songs together. Like I say, that’s what I’m about, I’ve never been a big wall of sound artist.
Meg: Is it just about letting the lyrics speak for themselves?
JL: Yeah, definitely.
Meg: I hate to ask you this but are we going to see Tribes play again? Do you think time changes anything?
JL: I don’t think so, things change.
Meg: I have a degree in English Literature and I’ve always seen myself as a writer. Obviously you’ve put a novella out, how does having a book published compare to playing live or seeing your record in a shop? Is it a completely different feeling for you?
JL: Yeah it’s a totally different feeling and weirdly, as soon as I felt it, I realised that’s not what I want to do and as soon as I saw it on the shelf I was like “that’s great, but it’s definitely not what I want”.
Meg: Did it not really do anything for you?
JL: It did, it came out of such a mental time. It was the start of 2013, around the time of the second album and I was thinking about other shit. I don’t know if it kind of passed me by. I’m really proud that I finished it.
Meg: I never quite managed to.
JL: It’s just finishing the thing really that’s the challenge but it made me realise that music is my core linea. Maybe if I broke my arms or something and I had to do that, I’d do that. That’d be my second run. There’s no plan to write any more, just keep on with music