Of Shakespeare, Space and Aspiration: An Interview With Junior

Shortly before the their set at Cheltenham's Frog And Fiddle, the penultimate date of their UK tour celebrating the release of their fantastic debut Beautiful Life, we caught up with Cardiff's most action packed pop punk trio Junior to discuss the record, touring, Heads Above The Waves, space, Shakespeare and a lot more.

So you released your full length debut Beautiful Life last week, how are you finding the reception?

Mark Andrews (Bass, Vocals): Yeah, it's been really, really great, these run of shows we've been on have been really fun. I would say it's been the best tour we've done so far in the UK. I had a little bit of a break from touring so it's been really nice to come back and we've had pretty full shows every night and there's been loads of people in the crowd singing along to the new songs straight away. Like, our Cardiff show for example, the album had been out literally for 12 hours and people where signing along to all the new songs. That was really good to hear. It's been going well and throughout the week it just keeps to get getting better and better.

So tonight in Cheltenham is the penultimate date of the tour, how's the release run been so far?

Si Martin (Drums): It's been wicked man, it's been really nice. This has been the first time we've been working with Shaun and Ryan from Future History Management and whilst we've always been a DIY band, we've always tried to do everything on as little a budget as possible, it's been quite cool to dabble into trying to be more of a professional band whilst still being as DIY as possible. It's been a nice balance. Like Mark said, it's been a real great reaction. The shows have been well attended and it's just been real lovely. The other real nice thing as well as that how many good people we've seen and met. We've got to stay with friends in Glasgow and in Shefflied and it's really cool that we've got all these friends around the UK that have come from touring we've done in the past and the whole DIY thing like sleeping on people's floors and stuff has been cool. Now every time we tour it's also sick because we get to hang out all our friends and mates that we've made through music.

Mark: It's been a whole year since we've been out on a proper tour so it's nice get back into it all.

So in terms of Beautiful Life, the record contains a lot of experimental elements and textures, such as choirs, synths and key led tracks. What was the inspiration for that?

Mark: Because the process has been so long, we've been recording this record for about two years, the process of recording changed as it went on but yet the unifying element has stayed consistent from the beginning. We wanted it to be like one of those the pop punk albums that tried to be a little different. A bit like The Black Parade or American Idiot, where it was still pop punk but it had a wider space and was more grandiose and theatrical. That's what it set it all up. But there's been lots of things that have come from that inspiration and there's been things that have influenced us along the way. We wanted to include a lot of synth textures and other things that are a bit out of the expected mould. We were kind of pushing towards rock as opposed to pop punk. We're not throwing shades on pop punk at all, we still love playing our older pop punk songs. We just wanted to experiment and do something that we felt comfortable with and we enjoyed ourselves.

Matt (Guitar, Vocals): We just wanted to do something a little bit different. Pop punk is in a pretty good place at the moment in the UK but the scene very much has a certain sound currently, whereas if you go back about 10 or 20 years ago you had stuff like The Black Parade, stuff that stands out above all the other the pop punk records. We're not signed to a major record label but I think if we were signed to a major label there might be restrictions, maybe they would want an album which sounded like one single times ten. We were thinking that we didn't have no limits or no ropes holding us down and we wanted to take advantage of that.

Mark: There wasn't any expectations really.

Matt: Yeah, we were free to do what we wanted to do. Like, Mark’s a massive fan of bands like Biffy Clyro and Radiohead, Si plays in the acoustic band Nova Amor and I'm a big fan of midwest emo. It's not like our music taste is personally is just specifically pop punk so it's been quite nice to create an album that's a bit bombastic. You know, it's got a piano ballad in it, we wouldn't be able to do that if we weren't doing it all ourselves.

Si: I perceive it as ambitious for a band of our size to do something like this. I hope that we could carry ourselves as a band bigger that we actually are. We wanted to make sound like were a stadium band even though-

Mark: Even though we are playing The Frog And Fiddle! We love The Frog though, we'll always play The Frog The Fiddle. We'll have to bring the choir in at some point.

So like demonstrated in your music videos, the album contains a heavy space themed aesthetic. Where did that come from?

Matt: Well first of all space is cool. But also I like to think that space has an aspirational theme to it and the theme of the album is about feeling comfortable in your own skin, achieving your full potential and happiness. It's a very aspirational album and we think that space really fits in with that.

Mark: It's kind of like one of those albums where theres lots of textures in it which sort of like space themed as well, such as all the astronauts samples, things like that which we have used since Juniorland. We love inter-splicing 1950's film samples into our work because it gives a really cool texture. It was one of ones where everything just fell into place because we had ideas for like our videos and songs, one of the songs on the record (‘Where And When’) was even originally called Space Song, something that just sounded right at the time. There was nothing inherently in it that was very spacey, but it just felt very inspirational. It's the last track on the record and it feels very much like a bookend and-

Matt: It sounds like you just landed on the moon.

Mark: Exactly, it was very much like a bookend, like this is the statement where going to leave with. It was very much being aspirational but we do very much like the aesthetic as well so it all just fell into place.

Matt: We've been using that little rocket logo for good while before this album came out. To be honest we always make up our own fan fiction about our own material, stuff like how Juniorland is related to Beautiful Life, how there's a little robot sat on the moon in the artwork for Juniorland that's related to Beautiful Life...There's little interconnecting things that I'm sure that I'm sure that only we would get-

Si: One day I really hope that...you know how you have to study like Shakespeare in school and stuff? I really hope that Shakespeare was leaving all these hidden things behind in his work hoping that someone would find and analyse them. So what I'm saying is that in a 100 years time everyones going to be analysing Beautiful Life in an English lesson. And there's loads of hidden messages in there and it's all open to interpretation.

Matt: Nothing says punk rock quite like sitting down and writing essays.

So you all have your own personal endeavours outside of Junior, with Si managing Head Above The Waves, Mark being a full time WWE superstar and with Matt composing entry themes for wrestlers. Do you incorporate these passions into your musical work?

Matt: Very much so, 'P.Y.D' is pretty much just based on wrestling, we've had Matt Hardy featuring in one of our videos, the whole album is very much about the Head Above The Waves mentality. We were saying yesterday how much having Si's involvement in Heads Above The Water has helped the album. We learned from him different perspectives in terms of being empathy and how it's okay to not be okay.

Si: Funnily enough I didn't actually write any of the lyrics on the album to be honest. I mean, we've done bits together but a lot of the themes in the album is stuff that the other guys have come in with and I agree with. For me, playing drums got me through a rubbish patch when I was younger and that's what led to head's above the ways starting, so the fact that it's now...we're getting messages from people saying our music has really helped them and got them through tough times. It feels like it's gone full circle, there's bands that's really influenced me, helped me and got me through rubbish times that we're now able to do that and be there for someone else is really wicked.

So of course, the album's out, tour is almost done, whats next?

Matt: If only we knew. We're taking Junior to the moon, first band to play on it. To be honest, as we said, this was a self made album, it was self funded, it was self produced, we didn't have any label backing. We put it out there and we've been focusing on this album and this tour and now we almost get to sit back and enjoy it and see what happens next. We're hoping to do plenty more shows before the year is out but we've been waiting for this to happen and to just see what happens next. As we said a minute ago, with our careers outside of the band it can be a hectic time but obviously there are lots of cross overs between our endeavours, with 'Brick By Brick being on the soundtrack of the NXT Takeover for example. There's lots of things coming up on the horizon, but were almost enjoying a bit of peace at the moment where we can plan out the future for now. So there's nothing in concrete for now, but there will be lots of fun stuff regardless.

Beautiful Life is out now via self release. Read our 9/10 review of the album here and our live review of their show at The Frog And Fiddle here!


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