Sky To Die For

Surely one of the most stunning albums you will hear this year is JJ72’s extraordinary second effort “I To Sky”. The superb Irish three piece’s drummer Fergal Matthews explained how this incredibly spiritual collection of beautifully crafted tunes came into being:

AD: First of all, sorry to interrupt you, because Ian (Cheek) said you’d probably sitting there having a good smoke and watching the porn channel…

FM: (laughs) Nah, the porn in British hotels isn’t really up to scratch. You have to go further into Europe for any half decent stuff!

AD: I’ll bear that in mind. Now then, the great Alan Moulder mixed your wonderful new album. What do you personally feel he brought to the recording?

FM: It was just that we loved a lot of stuff that Alan Moulder had done before, and hoped he would be able to emulate the weight that he brought to those other records. We feel he’s done that. I think a big thing about both Alan Moulder and Flood – who also played a big part in the production of the album – is the fact that they are both producers that listen. They are extremely open to anything that you want to do, and won’t dismiss anything as ridiculous or too difficult. They give you a bit of guidance but realise at the end of the day that it’s us who are making the record.

AD: And the results are stunning. Perhaps unusually for such a young band, religion seems to shape a lot of the album. Are you very religious yourself, and does it worry you how critics and fans alike will respond to such a bold move?

FM: I suppose it is a bit of a concern, but no, I’m not religious at all. I think it’s not necessarily religious in the biblical sense of the word; it’s more about the whole fantasy idea of religion and having something, not necessarily a God, but something to believe in. I suppose sometimes the album might be a kind of plea in ways. Going back to your question about whether we were worried about critics, I think the only real concern we have as a band is to make music that we WANT to make, and has a soul searching depth to it. We want to make sure our music is different every time. We’re not a kebab shop after all.

AD: Thank goodness for that! Staying on a religious theme, if you could choose what you’d be reincarnated as, what would it be?

FM: Definitely the Pope’s best friend, because then I’d never have to pay for another drink in my life. Then I’d just hang out at the pub the whole time.

AD: Nice work if you can get it. Now, I get the impression that you drew on classical music for “I To Sky”. Am I right?

FM: Certainly. We’re not classically trained…well, Mark is slightly, he played violin when he was younger but gave it up when he was about twelve, but the rest of us aren’t. Rock music has its limitations and there’s a whole lot deeper you can go with classical music, so it’s a good thing to take inspiration from.

AD: How often do you visit your own websites, and have you seen that site where some weird bloke keeps writing poems about Hillary? I quote: “If you were a fish oh Hillary, I would still love you, for your pouting lips would kiss mine, and then blow a bubble and then eat Tetra Fin, I always thought it was strange how fishfood smelt of fish, are they cannibals?” – Do people like that worry you at all?

FM: No. Not at all. I don’t think I’ll bother telling Hillary about that one though…might frighten her a little. But yes, I look on our website a few times a week, read it and have a good laugh about it. There’s always some kind on amusing rumour up there somewhere!

AD: A strange thing I read about recently was that there has been a Nobel prize awarded for an investigation into the cause of belly button fluff build up. What’s the most likely thing that you could win a Nobel prize for?

FM: I think I could hijack a plane for a false hijacking. Being in a band you obviously get to go on aeroplanes a lot, and I’ve always thought it would be a really easy thing to do. All you’d need to do would be wait until they come around with the drinks and get a can of Coke. Once you’ve finished it, you just squeeze the can and you’ve got a weapon just as effective as a knife, so then I’d just storm off into the cockpit…

AD: Er…I’m not convinced this would win you a Nobel prize you know…

FM: Really? Erm…no…you’re probably right. (Fergal sounds worringly disappointed at this observation).

AD: Good answer though. Now, your eponymous debut album was regarded as a very dark one, although personally I actually found it very uplifting. However even I would admit that “I To Sky” is almost joyous in comparison. Was that something the band made a deliberate effort to achieve or did it just happen?

FM: Well, you know the funny thing is that we only realised after we released the first album that everyone said it was miserable. We just thought it was a great record. But yes, it was deliberate this time around. We wanted an aspect of hope to come from the songs and I think we’ve achieved that – even down to things like the lovely little backing vocals on tracks like “I Saw A Prayer”.

AD: So how long can JJ72 go on?

FM: Forever. As long as we all stay sane, we’ll keep searching for that not quite perfect tune, keep creating and writing songs, and talking about it. It’s just fucking brilliant fun. Put me back in the normal world and I’d be completely lost. I think we were very lucky though. We were just in the right place at the right time, coming straight out of college and getting a record deal. Mark’s distinctive voice and our strange image of two guys and a girl definitely helped though. But anyone can do it – you just have to have that little thing that someone likes. We can go on forever. You’re never over the hill.

AD: Which comedy characters resemble yourself, Hillary and Mark the most?

FM: Me – Ricky Gervais, Mark – Bill Hicks – why? You’d have to know him!, Hillary – one of the teletubbies! I don’t know why exactly. She says things that she doesn’t intend to be funny, but they are, and we all fall about laughing like they do!

AD: I’m not sure I’d class the “Teletubbies” as comedy characters, but still…anyway, finally, if you were appearing on Room 101, what would be the first three things you would get rid of?

FM: Number one, Gerry Adams. Number two…er…actually nothing really bothers me that much. Sod it, I’ll just put Gerry Adams in three times!

Can’t say fairer than that. One thing’s for sure though – anyone who chooses to put either of JJ72’s albums on the conveyor belt is probably either wearing a straitjacket or listening to New Kids On The Block at this moment in time.
The band’s ridiculously good album “I To Sky” is out now on Lakota Records.

Interview and Transcript by Tone E


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