Junk Drawer are a band’s band, whose members have stamped their seal on the local scene over the past few years as members of PigsAsPeople, Chocolate Love Factory and Bunny and the Banned Its, as well as serving as Shannon O’Neill’s backing band in Sister Ghost. I met Jake, Stevie and Brian from the band to discuss their new EP launch, cult fat guys, and Slint.
► So you’ve played a few gigs since the EP’s come out, how have you been getting on?
Jake: We had the EP launch on Friday night there, which was grand. The crowd was good.
Stevie: Yeah the crowd response was really cool, and a really good bill too.
Brian: We tend to shift instruments a lot, and I think a lot of people like that, even if they don’t like the music, they like the idea of seeing something non-linear.
Stevie: Yeah, I was talking to somebody the other night and he said the first time he saw us it got in the way, although he said hindsight we’re now probably a better band! Even though the setlist has been the same for the past year or so, the songs have become themselves a bit more since then. Recording them helped refine them too, and I think in general we’re a bit tighter. Better equipment too!
Brian: (Deadpan) We sound good.
► So you all play in different bands, and have been doing for a couple of years now. You think being around the block a few times informs your music?
Stevie: Totally. You know what gigs take, you know what things have been done before. As well as being a music fan, you trust your own intuition. You can kind of get sick of things as well: I was playing a completely different genre too… my old band were sort of hardcore and it seemed people came to gigs cause we were in that particular scene. With us now, people just come to us cause they like what we play. Or at least it seems that way.
► In the more practical side of things, is it difficult juggling a few bands?
Brian: Well I play in three bands, and I’m practising most nights a week. Like the other night after Junk Drawer I was playing with a classic rock band, and it takes a while to get into that different mind-set, aesthetic and the rest, but it really helps. We’re also in Sister Ghost, so we were on tour last week around Dublin and Northern Ireland, and I think that made us to tighter together. I can’t see too many cons.
Jake: Also, playing slightly different styles of music helps us to vary what we play when we get together.
Stevie: Yeah, it just sorta helps you know what to do, what not to do, and how to cut things down as well: like with Sister Ghost, songs were cut down quite a lot on that last EP, compared to our first where no song was under five minutes, we thought we might cut things down a bit on the next one.
► From a lyrical or even a sound perspective, although none of you are originally from Belfast is there much of it in your songs?
Brian: No. Personally, I don’t really identify with Belfast.
Stevie: Yeah, I mean I like Belfast, but even bands from here we like from Belfast don’t sound like they’re from Belfast, they just sound like the sum of their record collection or whatever.
Brian: The best Belfast bands aren’t from Belfast either, in my opinion.
Stevie: Yeah, I think it’s just best to throw some weird people from all over together to try and come up with something good and, hopefully, new.
► I suppose we’ve already touched on this, but you’re all credited with playing different instruments on the EP. How do you work out who’s playing what?
Brian: Usually it’s just however comes up with the first riff: like one of our tunes I wrote the bass intro, so I’m the bassist for that song, then we just all slip in.
Stevie: Yeah it’s very intuition based: whoever’s most comfortable with what instrument, or even who’s there at the time.
► So do you all your songs come from that sort of ‘jam’ scenario?
Jake: Well I tend to write more by myself, although that might just be a riff or something.
Stevie: Yeah, like Quandary was pretty much full song, it’s the one I play the drums on so I just added a few stops and time changes then Coney added a bass line to the breakdown, but pretty much up to there it’s what Jake had written.
Brian: It happens very naturally. We don’t really discuss these things, you know?
Stevie: We’re not a jam band though (laughs). It’s like structured jamming, but I think you have to trust what you’ve written and who you’re playing with.
► So For the Cult Fat Guy EP, that’s obviously who it’s aimed at. You’re all cult fat guys, to a degree?
► So, one of the man stipulations of being a cult fat guy seems to be talking about bands who we’re never quite as big as they should be. Does anyone stand out in particular?
Stevie: Yeah well we’re always gonna be fans of these great bands who were annoyingly not as big as they should have been, but if they were gonna reach a bigger audience they wouldn’t sound the way they did.
Jake: I think it started out as a mutual love of Slint and Quasi, Built to Spill…
Brian: Slint and Quasi are the quintessential on the cusp bands, and I think they’re bands who if they did suddenly get bigger than they were, fans would be a wee bit annoyed. People like Slint and Quasi in Belfast, but you’re not going to go into Lavery’s and hear them playing.
Stevie: I mean, you get bands here who are influenced by the bands around them, which is cool, it’s a community thing too. But we’re just nerds, and when you spend so much time on your band, why would you want to sound like something that doesn’t feel right?
► So I picked up a particular, lo-fi 90s vibe from the EP. Where does that come from? Is it what you were raised on or is there something in the DIY spirit of it that really speaks to you as a band?
Brian: I think we all care about the DIY side of it, a lot of the genres we like, scenes in the States and Canada and Europe. Like we weren’t raised on it, we just managed to stumble across it, simultaneously in different parts of Mid Ulster.
Stevie: Yeah, like what we were raised on really was classic rock, Guns n Roses…
Brian: Aerosmith’s a big one.
Stevie: Yeah the first song we played together was an Aerosmith song. Think it was ‘Somebody’, off the first record.
Brian: Yeah so we’re not precious about that lineage at all, we just really really like it.
► If there was one band era you could have seen at their peak?
Brian: Eh, Pavement I think, about 96.
Stevie: An early, shitty sounding Pavement show.
Jake: For me it’d be Elliott Smith.
Brian: Yeah actually…
Stevie: Gonna change your mind?
Brian: Nah, still Pavement. There’d be no really obscure bands in there… Built to Spill in ’97, Aerosmith in 1978. I’d actually put Aerosmith above Pavement.
Stevie: Guns n Roses, Live at the Ritz, 86. I think an early Slint show would be great too, just four cult fat guys making music for themselves.
► Finally, any plans for the rest of the year and 2017?
Jake: Hopefully some dates further afield to Scotland or England in the next year.
Stevie: Yeah, I was just saying this EP feels like the best thing we’ve done. Like it’s not going to be a big hype album, but hopefully the people who like this kinda stuff will like it.
Brian: A few support slots would be good too.
Jake: We were supposed to open for one of our favourite bands, Grandaddy, but I was on holiday.
Stevie: At Vicar Street too. I had a job interview that day too though, it was fine…
► And I suppose you’re looking forward to a load more interviews?
Stevie: Of course!