Originally started under the idea of becoming the biggest band in Melbourne in six months, then quitting while ahead, Johnny Rock & The Limits are a band who aren’t afraid of setting themselves lofty goals. Famous in their hometown for the swagger filled shows and cock-sure strut, having earned themselves quite a following on the back of their themed shows, the band have come a long way in short time, their current single Give You What You Need even getting picked up as part of the latest Cornetto commercial campaign. With their debut album Finally Famous also having piqued the interest of fans, the band are currently on their way up the east coast in support of the album and single, set to play at this weeks Mum at World Bar, this Friday February 11th. We caught up with main man Johnny Rock ahead of the show.
Music Feeds: So you guys like to put on themed gigs can you tell us about those?
Johnny Rock: We liked the idea of not only having a gig but having a party. And everyone knows that parties go down better with a theme so we started with a 3D themed show by accident. We found an old 1950’s 3D horror film to project on the back wall of the venue, “Return of the Thing from Black Lagoon” I think it was called. Then when we found out that getting those old style 3D paper glasses wasn’t that hard the theme was born. We gave out the glasses and everyone went nuts. It was no turning back from there. 80’s prom themed show was inevitable but i don’t think anyone was expecting us to fill the room with streamers and pink balloons. Everyone turned up dressed up in crazy prom dresses too! We’ve done about 4 themed shows and have no intentions of stopping there.
MF: You’ve been gathering a following pretty quickly since you formed what’s your secret?
JR: After a few years of being in “serious” bands I wanted to start a band that was just fun. A band I would want to go see every week. It had to be fun it had to make me want to dance and rock out every time. Seems pretty simple but I guess that’s the trick isn’t it? I got a band together in literally a week and booked our debut show headlining Revolver Upstairs (a big indie venue in Melbourne) that was in less than 6 weeks. So we had to write a set and be prepared to perform it in about a month so we had no time to spend creating masterpieces. Songs had to be catchy, upbeat and most of all enjoyable for us to play instantly or we scrapped it. We’ve never thought too much about it and as long as the songs excited us then we’re happy. I guess lots of people agree.
MF: You’ve released your debut album Finally Famous, can you tell us about that?
JR: That album was recorded almost as quickly as we wrote it. It was done over a weekend about 2 months after we formed. I love it the most out of all our recordings as it captured the spontaneity of how it was written. A lot of those songs are still in our set as they are just as fun and exciting as they were when we wrote them. We’ve re recorded one of those songs for the latest Cornetto commercial with producer Gareth Parton (Go! Team, Foals). Which just goes to show that a good song never dies.
MF: Is this your first visit up to Sydney? Anything special planned?
JR: Yes it is! I don’t know why it’s taken us so long to get there but we’re finally jumping on the Hume and getting some mileage on the clock. I wish we had the following in Sydney to put on one of our themed shows but for this gig we’re just giving everyone there a good taste of what we do. We’ve got the full 5 piece lineup coming and we’re throwing in some horns too. If Sydney likes what we do we’ll be back soon with more.
MF: You have some pretty flattering live reviews up on the Myspace, would you say you’re a live band first, studio band second or do both disciples enjoy and equal place in the band’s heart?
JR: As the one of the primary philosophies of the band when we started was to put on a great live show, recording was initially a secondary goal. In fact, it was only due to public demand that we recorded that album in the first place. I was happy to just put up a live recording of one of our songs on Myspace. since then we’ve grown to appreciate recording a lot more. If you figure out why you get off on some of your favourite recordings then when you listen to your own songs you suddenly hear how you want them to sound to get the best impact. You don’t always have that perspective on songwriting live. You need that distance. Then it gets really exciting in the studio, just like when you first wrote the song. I’d love to spend more time in the studio with producers, but till the cash comes rolling in, home recording is filling that void.
MF: With the name Johnny Rock and The Limits, I’m assuming Johnny Rock is the principle songwriter, is this the case? How does the songwriting work in the band?
JR: The name comes from the initial idea of the band to only last 6 months. We were to be the biggest band in Melbourne in 6 months then quit while we were ahead! Unfortunately The Limits was already a band in 3 countries so I chucked my alter ego, Johnny Rock, at the start. The rest of the band weren’t too happy but it’s stuck now and we kind of like having this Ziggy Stardust kind of moniker to hide behind. Despite the name we write a lot of the music collaboratively. As the singer I think I have a lot of influence over the tone of the song by offering the melody and lyrics which generally leads to certain arrangement choices and how everyone else in the band approaches the song with their instrument. So in that respect I see myself as a bit of a conductor but the music comes from all of us and the best bits come from people stuffing up and accidentally coming up with something cool. The philosophy of songwriting has not changed from the beginning. If we’re not excited in the first few minutes we dump it and move on, so songs get written very quickly.
MF: What do you have coming up in the coming months?
JR: We’re touring up the coast, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane launching our “Give You What You Need” single (as heard on the Cornetto commercial). Then we’re touring again. Got the bug now and can’t shake it!
Johnny Rock & The Limits are playing Mum at World Bar this Friday February 11th