Inteview:: Johnny from Razorlight

Razorlight exploded onto the scene with their dance floor anthems of the Up All Night record. There new self-titled LP is hitting North America, and along with it is the praise or disdain of anyone who lsitens. This is one band that seems to leave no middle ground.

We talked to Johnny about the evolution of the band, how things have changed for the lads since the last album took off, and what it takes to be a band that stands the test of time. Say what you want about the front man, he is driven to be great and make his mark on music. Will it happen, only time and records will tell.

HH:: The new album, opens with In the Morning, and right away, fans of the last record are going to be a bit shocked by the change in style. Is this symbolic of waking up after the night before, the success of the record, the big shows and now it is a new day for you guys?
J::I don’t know if that it was any symbolic decision. We just wanted to be true to ourselves. Make music that got us excited. I mean, when we made the first record, we just wanted to have 10 songs, so we could play a show in a bar, not just open up for some shitty local band. We didn’t expect it to be a big success. We just made a really raw record and wanted to get our music out there.

Now we are trying to create a space in the in the world that is just us. The razorlight space. Once you are part of a scene, it is so easy to get lumped into it. It happens to every band. I know we are still paying out dues, but we simply want to exist without comparisons. If we keep writing fantastic songs, that will happen.

HH:: On songs like America, you can't help but notice a Crowded House
influence. The album is more slowed down and you make a jump from big hooks. Was this done to show people you weren't just big catchy guitars and could write different songs?
J:: Well thanks. I don’t know if there was a decision to jump away from any style. I was more concerned without writing anything to self-indulgent. Once some people get some praise, they start thinking everything they write is great and important. They end up writing 6 minute ballads about their cat, your cat and how they get along. That’s why this record is so succinct. We wanted to just deliver great songs. We didn’t want to lose the dance floor rockers, so it is a nice mix. Like 5 ballads, 5 rockers.

HH:: It’s got to be hard trying to compete for a fan base in North America. When British bands make the jump to large venues and festivals and obtain some success from an album, music fans want to knock them down. Rather than hate a band that actually sucks, they seem to want to challenge every aspect of the band. Is this hard?
J:: I tend not to pay attention to anything like that. It’s mainly just indie-snobbery and I’ve never been interested in that. I mean, it’s so easy to attack the scene, but I was a big part of it. The records I bought, that I was involved with in 2004. Now there are so many bands doing the same thing, it’s easy to attack it. But I think there are two ways to be a big band. The first is the type of band that explodes and then implodes. They explode at the right time, but then spend the rest of their career trying to replicate the success.

The second type is a band that writes great songs, but never gets the timing right. They are never quite right of the moment, but they consistently get better. You just know though, each record is better than the one before it. That’s what we want. It’s so easy to like a scene, and we get so many fans saying, “Oh man, I hate that you guys are everywhere.” But I’m like, where were you in 2004? Not around.

HH::I noticed that America is the subject of a few tracks on the new record. Were you inspired when you came here?
J:: Inspired is a great description. As a European coming over here, you really aren’t prepared for it. Traveling and playing in the US improved our music 100%. The expanse of the land, it makes you feel so small. I’d just stare out the window of the tour bus and take it in. It helped us focus on getting better.

HH::It’s interesting talking to you. After a few minutes, you can tell you are very determined to be a part of something great. Not many artists focus on that facet of music. It’s a unique position.
J:: Well I think if you are going to sing, you need to make sure you are making the most of it. If I’m going to scream, I’m going to scream as loud as I can. If I’m only singing for three minutes, I’m not going to waste a syllable. I don’t want to waste a single breath.

HH:: That’s funny, because as I listened to both records, if you compare this record to the first, you'd notice you seemed to focus on the delivery of your lyrics a lot more. My comparison was that you actually took a step back and took a deep breath. Instead of focusing on energy, it's like you took some time and really wanted to explore what your voice could do. Like maturation?
J:: Well it is important. I felt like I had a lot of energy, but I wasted some. It’s no secret that when it comes to sounds, less is more. I mean, everyone learns that but you forget. It’s easy to remember when you hear old Led Zeppelin records, I mean those huge sounds. The less you do, the bigger it sounds.

HH:: So how does this new style play at the big stadium shows. Are the fans still into it as much?
J:: Oh man, it feels brilliant. I mean, now when the huge mosh pits start, its so great. We dance, sing a few, dance, sing a few more. It’s great. You take the four hits from the first record, the crowd loves them, but they are really into the new stuff.

HH: Cool. One last question. We like to ask musicians what influences them outside of the music world. What help you be creative?
J:: Oh, I’m the easiest person in the world to buy a Christmas gift for. Just get me a book. I’m genuinely interested in EVERYTHING. Creativity comes from everything. Music, architecture, it doesn’t matter. I want to learn about everything.

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