We chat with Reverend and the Makers
Jon McClure, the Reverend of Reverend and the Makers, is a force of nature. The 30-year-old singer is notoriously outspoken, blunt, straight-talking and above all will not suffer fools. What he is not though, is unhappy.
The new album from the band, @Reverend_Makers has stripped away the darker political bites of the past with a new sound that seems to owe more to a club than it does to a North England pub.
Although surprising from examining the band’s back catalogue, McClure’s earliest use of his moniker “The Reverend” was a club night called Reverend Soundsystem.
“I’ve been listening to a lot of bass culture music,” admits McClure, “which has been big in the underground in Britain,” and the album shows it. @Reverend_Makers is brimming with dance beats, bass wobbles, but for all the new sheen, the ever present voice of McClure delivers his trademark acidic lyrics with bite, however there is more humour than anger.
Since their earliest records, McClure’s lyrics have been observational, he’s traded political poetry for social satire, mocking mainstream club culture, social media and generally showcasing his change in attitude.
“I’ve stopped being political and cheered up… I’m having a bit more fun,” ruminates the Reverend.
McClure’s history in the music scene has been colourful, to say the least. Prior to the release of the first Reverend and the Makers album The State of Things in 2007, McClure had performed in several bands as a vocalist, had been a poet as well as a prominent blogger.
Alex Turner of The Arctic Monkeys was once a guitarist for McClure’s first band Judan Suki (Japanese for ‘being kicked in the weak spot’) where Turner met drummer Matt Helders, both of whom formed The Arctic Monkeys and referenced McClure’s influence in their songwriting.
It was after the dissolution of McClure’s second band 1984 (after the George Orwell novel), that The Reverend decided to become even more serious. Already being noticed by record companies and NME, McClure – along with regular collaborator Ed Cosens – went on to develop a new band, moving away from being “just another guitar band”.
The first single ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World’ blew up in 2007, throwing them into the UK Top 10. Their first album The State of Things received rave reviews for the punky, funky and political jabs of satirical wit McClure poured into every phrase. It seemed the band was just going to keep going up and up.
However after 2007, The Reverend’s presence on the musical landscape was more subdued. Their second album A French Kiss In The Chaos (2009) came and went with barely a murmur, although it did get them asked to support Oasis on their last (ever) tour. But it wasn’t like Jon was at home twiddling his thumbs all day.
He has been preoccupied with other projects, including being part of Instigate Debate collective, a political and cultural movement with Carl Barat from The Libertines. He even married during 2009 to his bandmate Laura Manuel (now McClure).
The Makes and their bandleader’s relative inactivity has led many of the Sheffield-based band’s newer fans to proclaim them “the most underrated band in the world.”
McClure however believes this is simply due to their lack of radio presence. “They don’t play our music over here… I think we upset someone way back when,” he says. “They think … if they let me onto the radio, I’ll say something that’ll upset everyone.”
Already noted for being a very outspoken musician, he is almost the latest form of Morrissey for his strong opinions on pop consumption and politics.
As much as he sounds a bit disappointed, McClure is ever the optimist. “I quite like it – it’s good to be underrated. It’s better to be the guy outside the greenhouse throwing stones than the guy who’s inside.”
The new album @Reverend_Makers is also the name of McClure’s Twitter account, he’s shown himself to be one of the most prolific tweeters. His feed filled with soccer observations, pop culture rants and especially his opinions on the radio:
“Cheryl Cole, The Wanted, JLS, The Script, Justin Bieber are my life! Omg omg… we’re doomed I swear hahaha,” goes one particular post. “They have this target that they have between 14-24 [years-old]… and their [the presenters] average age is 33,” he says of radio and its target markets.
McClure isn’t all doom and gloom. He is a strong advocator of local bands, especially the more inventive of British bands like Django Django. “It’s not like the quality of music has diminished … [but] when radio stops listening to music and starts looking at graphs, then we’re pretty doomed,” reasons McClure.
At the end of the day, there is the one thing McClure will be positive about: his fans. For him, that’s what it’s all about. Out of every five tweets, four will be a response to a fan.
“Since Twitter, it’s a liberation because it’s just me and the fans,” he remarks enthuastically.
The new album’s success has been largely pushed by his consistent responses to fans, the album has already reaching the Top 10 in the UK alongside, as McClure liked to point out, Justin Bieber.
But its not only the social media presence that’s helped the album. In an age when buying a CD is rarer than a unicorn, Reverend and the Makers decided to make the album ridiculously inexpensive for their fans. The new album can be purchased from Amazon for as little as £4 (approx $AU 6), which McClure said was a conscious decision to avoid piracy.
“People are stealing things left, right and centre. Four quid’s a bargain, even on iTunes for 7 quid you get 22 tracks!” he said. “It’s nice to give value for money in the recession.”
With all the success will the band return to Australia for their first tour here since 2008? “I’m hoping with the success of this new album they’ll [Australia] invite us to come and play some shows.”
Adding that, “we go down well in Australia. Australians are a bit more like people from the North of England … they’re straight talking.”
“Australia knows good music. It’s harder to fool Australians.”
@Reverend_Makers is out now through Shock. You can listen to an exclusive stream of the album right here.