Interview Week: The Sophisticated Pop World of Jonquil

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Oxford, England's Jonquil released Point of Go in February on Brooklyn's Dovecote Records, and since then they've toured the US and Europe, playing their keyboard-based variety of mellow, chill pop music. A number one favorite for a relaxed cookout with julep-in-hand, Jonquil embody a certain kind of laid-back attitude in every song without resorting to frequently trotted-out tropes. Accomplished musicians all, the members are involved in lots of different projects, including Chad Valley, Pocket House, and Solid Gold Dragons, and it's clear that what they enjoy most is playing their songs. Recently, their track “Run” was remixed by Cascine artist RX Gibbs, resulting in a gem that has real staying power. Check it out while you read the interview.

Your music has always struck me as emotional music with great keyboards that you can dance to. Is this one of the mission statements of Jonquil?

Emotional music that you can dance to is certainly one of the mission statements but the ‘great keyboards’ are just one of the tools we use I suppose, not so much in our remit. We’ve always used the instruments that we’re equipped with and when that was Hugo’s collection of weird folk trinkets and Sam’s collection of brass instruments, it informed the music, just as Hugo’s ever growing synth collection has forged some of the sound for Point Of Go.

How did the whole mechanical bull business, animal heads, and a lip syncing blonde come about in the “It's My Part” video?

Our friend Franklyn Banks, who made a video for us a few years ago for the tune “Get Up”, came to us with the idea and we loved it, although we were a little apprehensive about the potential for injuries on the bull. As it turned out, the warehouse where we filmed it was so freezing cold that we couldn’t feel a thing as we fell.

Was Point of Go, the album, built around the two-part title track?

No, the track(s) had the name first. We spent a long time naming the album, trying to avoid having a ‘title track’ at all, but in all honesty no great inspiration came and we settled on what seemed to fit very nicely.

So break down for us how you all balance out the scheduling duties between Jonquil and then for all the Chad Valley, Pocket House and Solid Gold Dragons, etc?

We’re all fairly restlessly creative and like to fill our time with making music but certainly can’t hang out perpetually so it makes a lot of sense to have solo projects. The juxtaposition between the complete control you have when you’re making music on your own and the way we write together as friends in Jonquil certainly does a lot to remind us how much we enjoy both things. The time balance is owed a lot to enforced, imaginary deadlines from our heroic managers.

Do you all plan conferences and divide the months by which artist is touring in which project when kind of thing?

Yes, exactly. It helps that a lot of the people that work with us are on board with all the projects so clashes are few and far between.

Does being in a band of many bands create a collective competitive drive musically?

If it’s ever competitive its only in jest, we all support one another totally. It helps us to focus the ‘mission statement’ as you put it, as our own individual penchants can be released elsewhere.

Has it gotten to where, say, solo work with Chad Valley begins to influence Jonquil, or vice versa, and so on?

We’re all individual musicians so everything we make is a sum of what we have to offer. The dilution process is just different in Jonquil.

I hear plush things about Oxford, can you all give us a scene assessment at this point in time?

The solo projects that you mentioned are part of an extended family of artists and musicians, which we call Blessing Force. We put on ‘multi media’ events and a record label has sprung from the idea, but the problem we often face is finding decent venues in the city. Regardless of that though, it’s an exciting time, what with all the support we offer each other.

Is it really full of “Swells?”

No, it’s very flat, everyone cycles everywhere. There’s one big hill which we used to live at the top of so perhaps the lyrics are talking about the arduous struggle we faced on the ride home after a night out. The surrounding countryside is beautiful rolling hills, though, and we definitely love how quick and easy to reach it is.

Is Oxford for good for forward thinking pop as it is in academics?

I don’t know, the academics keep themselves to themselves and I suppose we do too. We just have a great group of friends.

“Getaway” got me dreaming about vacations and the like; where is the best getaway holiday for you?

We all like sunny cities full of culture, life and delicious food so I’m going to say Lisbon, in Portugal.

You seem to be part of a big movement to create sophisticated dance music. Is this an apt observation?

Rather than sophisticated dance music, we’re trying to make sophisticated pop music that you can dance to, which maybe isn’t such a big movement. In the UK there is certainly a lot of smart dance producers though and we’re definitely into a lot of those scenes.

Without thinking for too long, what are two of the sickest dance music tracks?

Theo Parrish, “Falling Up” and Studio, “West Side.”

Being that Jonquil has been around for about half a decade now, how has the music changed for you if at all?

It has changed so much! Jonquil started out as a very delicate, ambient weird folk project when we were all mad into Stars of the Lid and The Microphones. It's been a steady progression, getting more and more poppy, and I suppose indie, but the idea to make something we feel is new and old at the same time has always been consistent.

On tour, what is the best utilitarian keyboard for the road?

Nord Electro 3, it's got the sounds we need and its super solid.

You guys all seem like gear blokes, what are some of your favorite instruments, pedals, organs, synths for recording, jamming, and the like?

Hugo’s dream synth is the PPG Wave 3.1, although it's out of his price range. We all like copycat tape delays. Sam’s trumpet is a cream of the crop, custom built beauty and Dom is very pleased with his primary coloured new ‘jam blocks’ – they’re easier to play than his old ones, a better shape.

What new artists are you all excited about?

Kindness and Nzca/Lines are both great London bands to check out.

Any sounds or acts that don't excite?

Ed Sheeran is the fucking worst.