Rev up for funky time
EMMA LEE Chart-conquering indie-funk band Reverend and the Makers will spread their message at UEA, Norwich, on October 3. Emma Lee spoke to the Reverend himself, Jon McClure, and Norfolk-born guitarist Tom Jarvis.
“The message we are spreading is peace, love and happiness,” declares Jon McClure, aka the Reverend of Reverend of the Makers.
And once he's on a roll, there's no stopping him.
“We don't make music for the critics. We make music for the people,” he adds in his South Yorkshire burr.
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It's been an amazing few months for the band. Their debut single, Heavyweight Champion of the World, stormed into the top 10, and was one of the anthems of the summer. They whipped up a storm on the festival circuit, have just released their debut album, the State of Things, and are embarking on their biggest headline tour to date, including a gig at the thousand-plus capacity UEA in Norwich.
Their schedule makes you exhausted just thinking about it. Proving he's adept at multi-tasking, Jon is speaking to the EDP while getting on a coach to Manchester Airport from where they're jetting off to play a gig in Ibiza.
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Jon has already proved himself to be one of the most quotable men in pop, not afraid to share his thoughts about his contemporaries - and he doesn't disappoint.
“I've been naïve in a way - I've got an inability to lie and it can land me in a sport of bother,” he says.
Jon, who is in his mid-20s, has been a mainstay on the Sheffield music scene for some time.
Describing himself as more of a punk poet (one of his biggest heroes is John Cooper Clarke), he spent his formative years playing music with people who would go on to form some of the steel city's most important bands.
He became the Reverend in mid 2005 - a name given to him by the musicians of Sheffield - and set out on a new musical direction.
He assembled his backing band, the Makers, sought out an array of collaborators, including Alex Turner of fellow Sheffield residents Arctic Monkeys and Cooper Clarke, and recorded a clutch of demos with a producer.
Described as indie-funk, other influences include reggae and '60s psychedelia (Jon was raised on a musical diet of Sly and the Family Stone, Bob Marley and George Clinton) - with some modern bands added into the mix, such as LCD Soundsystem.
The lyrics - urban street tales - obviously spoke to people, because when the results of the recording sessions were put up for download, the internet fan-base quickly began to swell.
By summer 2006 the buzz was so loud that they sold out one of Sheffield's biggest music venues.
A tour with Arctic Monkeys followed, they signed to the Wall of Sound label, and then holed themselves up in a recording studio with producer Jagz Kooner, who has worked with the likes of Primal Scream and Kasabian.
“It [the band] was originally just me - it's cool, it's a constantly evolving thing,” Jon says.
Just make sure that you don't describe them as part of the Sheffield scene.
“I do write songs with Arctic Monkeys - I've helped them out, they've helped me. But I find it absurd to be lumped in with other bands just because of geography,” he says.
“I think it's rebel music,” Jon goes on. “You can dance to it and sing to it. My heroes are rebels. People who pushed things forward. As for villains - the media. Not the EDP, no. And people like George Bush, Tony Blair.
“These are turbulent times and we need people to stand up and state their opinion. So many artists are scared to say anything,” he says.
Tom Jarvis, originally from Stalham and now resident in Sheffield, was one of Jon's recruits for the Makers.
He says that he's looking forward to playing at a venue where he saw bands that inspired him to follow the same path.
“I grew up in Stalham and lived there for 18 years, when I came up to Sheffield, and got to meet a lot of musicians. I've been in bands since I was 12 at school and then at Paston College. I've grown up around music, so it was sort of inevitable that I'd go the same way [his dad was a member of the Brother Lees and his mum a dancer].
“I remember going to gigs at UEA to see Britpop bands like the Bluetones and Ocean Colour Scene - and Reef,” he laughs - maybe suggesting that perhaps Reef weren't among his influences.
“It's going to be really exciting to play at UEA myself after all these years. And it'll be good to be back in Norfolk. Actually, I'd like to play the Waterfront too - I've had some good nights there,” he says.
And the band's links to Norfolk don't end there.
“I've got family from Norfolk,” adds Jon. “My cousin, Jordan, runs a hairdressers' in Norwich. He's a good hairdresser. He's a geezer.
“We've never played in Norwich before - it's a step into the unknown,” he adds.
Given the success they've had so far, it looks like they're going to be preaching to the converted.
t Reverend and the Makers play UEA in Norwich, on Wednesday, October 3. Telephone the box office on 01603 508050 or visit www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk. The debut album, The State of Things, is out now on the Wall of Sound record label.