Interview: Faithful Johannes | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Summer is well and truly here… But it doesn’t feel like Summer. Why could that be? The awful weather? The misery of a global pandemic? No it’s something else… It needs a feel good hit. Well as of today we can wear our shorts and shades with confidence as we grind our grout down at our local block party under the cooling spray of a fire hydrant, because one-man pop sensation Faithful Johannes releases his feel good hit of the Summer… erm… Feel Good Hit of the Summer.

The track, with its throbbing rhythm and UV drenched synth-sounds, talks about all that you’d expect from a Summer smash such as politics, communication issues and not backing up your work… Oh which reminds me, the track being released is not the feel good hit of the Summer, it commemorates it. Confused? Then fear not as Faithful Johannes himself chats with us to clear things up. 

How have you been keeping and what have you been doing over lockdown?
Thanks for asking NARC.  I’ve been absolutely fine, thankfully.  Early on we had three 14 day total-lockdowns due to my daughter’s temperatures, which were hugely productive times musically, as well as being generally good fun. I’ve been lucky to be able to work from home and maintain a steady income.  I’ve done a couple of streamed live sets from the shed and Zoom gig on my out of tune old piano.  I took part in an online writing workshop with rap hero MC Paul Barman, that would have been inaccessible in a room in Brooklyn in normal times, but went online due to the virus – it was mind-expanding and has changed the way I write, given me good habits and routines.

Tell us more about your new single, Feel Good Hit of The Summer. You lost the original version on your hard drive, are you happy with this second incarnation/homage to it?
So yes, it is the story of writing a summer hit, which you’re really convinced will capture the heart of the public and transport you to at least regional treasure status.  This then gets lost in a computer meltdown.  You being too upset about this loss, the state of the world in 2020, and your inability to effectively deal with it or express yourself clearheadedly.  I now have a USB drive, 64gB for £14, and have backed everything up.  The new song is totally different, but I’m quite happy with it, it came quickly and I enjoyed writing it – I think the fame the original would have brought would have changed me.  Changed me for the worse.

What do you think the key ingredients to a feel good hit of the Summer are?
Start with a descending chord pattern. Set the tempo to the high-mid range, around 100 to 110 bpm.  Keep it sparse in the verses, but with an interesting percussion noise or two.  The vocals in the verses should tell a story, ideally.  Then the chorus doesn’t really need to be making any deep philosophical point, or even to make sense, it should be a simple vocal hook (get your friend in who can really sing for this bit if you can’t).  The chorus needs to have a distinctive instrument or sound in it too, something to really make it sparkle, a spanish guitar, a choir, a harp perhaps.  You’re aiming to represent all the contractions that a good summer brings; sad but joyful, enlivening yet languid.  Keep it simple.  If you’re struggling, try a whistling solo.

What is your favourite feel good hit of the Summer?
I think OMC’s How Bizarre or maybe Drinking in LA by Bran Van 3000.

If I’m sat in the paddling pool and it’s in the mid-20s, I would also enjoy the clean synthy electronic pop songs of Sylvan Esso or Hot Chip, maybe PARAD(w/m)e and Ready for the Floor respectively. Water Fountain by tUnE-yArDs is a must, Paul Simon’s Boy in the Bubble would get a spin and by extension a bit of Vampire Weekend maybe Oxford Comma.  That’s doing summer right for me.

What are your top tips to feeling good this Summer?
Read poetry every day, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes at breakfast.  Read a poem, then look at the air between your face and the kitchen cabinets for a bit while thinking about it.  Try and have more nights off the drink than on the drink.  Offer to cut the hedge between your’s and next door’s.  Explore your local area.  You know that path round the corner you’ve driven passed but never investigated? Go and have a look up there now, or maybe after your tea. I discovered we had stepping stones across a river in walkable distance from ours.  That was a good feeling.

How will you be spending the remainder of this Summer?
The second week in August I’m taking part in Sage Gateshead’s Summer Studio’s project.  It was really nice to be selected.  Normally the core of the week is musicians having access to a studio space in the Sage, with accompanying talks and advice sessions.  This year it’s taking place on-line, but it still looks great.  I am going to be off work for a week working hard on finishing the writing and demoing of my next album – a concept story/record, that I’ve been working on over the last few months.  I’m trying to take my music more seriously, and am hoping this’ll help.  Otherwise I‘ll just be trying to balance work, childcare and music making.  There’s an airer that I need to glue back together.  I’m trying to wear more corduroy.  I’ll continue feeding the birds and chasing after the jackdaws.

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