Fresh from a tour of record stores to promote Reverend & The Makers’ impressive new album, the band’s frontman Jon McClure is in an animated mood.
Though he concedes that the Sheffield group’s records seem destined to plateau in the same place – “every time it goes top 20, unless like we were suddenly all over the telly” – he feels such events are always worth doing for the fans’ sake. “They love coming and meeting us,” he says.
Mirrors is the quintet’s fifth album in a decade and has received the warmest press reaction since their debut, The State of Things, that featured the top 10 hit Heavyweight Champion of the World. It marks the group’s transition from indie dance grooves to something more varied and often psychedelic.
“Making dance music when you’re in your mid thirties is a bit s***, innit, when you don’t go to clubs,” McClure says with customary frankness. “My last rave was about two years ago but me and my wife [Laura, who’s also in the band] have had a baby and it would feel false to make banging club music any more. We kind of did it by accident, really, just messing about in the studio then it just happened.
“But what is really weird,” he adds, “is getting critical acclaim. There’s not a bad review, people called it ‘a masterpiece’ and one thing and another. I’ve been doing this 11 years and one thing we’ve never been is trendy, not even remotely, so to suddenly have all these serious rock critics saying it’s ‘a classic’ and this, that and the other is a bit weird – but good. If somebody had said ‘Five top 20 albums for a one hit wonder’ it’s not bad, is it?”
The fact that the band had found its own niche gave McClure and his bandmates the encouragement to push the boundaries. “I thought we’re here now, I think we might be here to stay,” he says, “so we might as well explore the place.”
In addition to the new album, which McClure admits was influenced by The Beatles, Love, The Flaming Groovies, the Small Faces’ classic Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake and Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd, he has also made a film to accompany it as well as publishing a book of poetry. The 33-year-old singer is also in the midst of writing a historical fiction novel.
All of which goes against the laddish stereotype that others have often attached to Reverend & The Makers.
“People often describe us as a ‘lad band’ despite the fact that Laura’s been contributing to what we do since the beginning,” McClure notes, slightly despairingly. “I often think that ‘lad’ is a term used by the music press in London to denote what they deem to be working class music, I think it’s a lazy term. All right I am a lad but I’m an artist and I do interesting things. What is to say that people who are working class and go to football can’t be artistic? I don’t buy into those boxes. I just thought I’d make a piece of art that I love and we did. I will listen to this album myself when I’m in my dotage.”
He feels the music industry is too quick to write bands off if their second album is not as good as their first. “It’s like Wayne Coyne or Nick Cave or Mark E Smith or James Murphy or Josh Homme, there’s a whole list of people who haven’t made their best music into well into their thirties if not their forties. I think I haven’t made my best record yet, I think it’s in the future.”
McClure’s interest in poetry goes back to his youth. “I wrote poems before I wrote songs, really, for years and years and years,” he says, adding how “fortunate” he’s been to collaborate with the likes of John Cooper Clarke. The book is his attempt to correct mishearings of his words on lyric websites. He asked Horace Panter, from The Specials, “who I’m a massive fan of – I love his music and his art”, to illustrate it. He’s heartened that people like it. “It’s lovely to have that respect as a lyricist and other people who write words dig what I do. Moreover other musicians dig the album a lot – that, as a lyricist and a songwriter, is everything, really.”
Reverend & The Makers play at O2 Academy Sheffield on November 14 and Leeds University Stylus on November 20. For details visit http://www.reverendmakers.com/