In the spotlight – Jonny Phillips Trio

In the spotlight – Jonny Phillips Trio

After bringing a pot of indie rock to a simmer on the musical stove, The Jonny Phillips Trio (UK) throw in a pinch of prog, a couple of spoonfuls of blues, and maybe a psychedelic or two to create a tantalising one-pot wonder of explosive auricular fusion. Musically guaranteed to satisfy the soul and body, some intricate songwriting will satiate the mind.

Since supporting Wille & The Bandits for a section of their UK tour back in 2018, the JP3 have been busy gigging their songs and honing their sound. Happy with the live product, they set to work on producing ‘Yin’ – their debut EP which incudes their Cool Top 20 song ‘Admiring The View’. I asked frontman Jonny some questions.

What was the role of music in the early years of your life?

“I grew up on 70s rock and the classic singer/songwriters: Dylan, Paul Simon, Bob Marley, which is what my Dad was in to. One evening as a kid, I was watching him play guitar along to some songs he knew, and then ‘Peaches‘ by The Stranglers came on, which he couldn’t play. Later, I went up to bed, then a few minutes later he came and woke me up saying ‘guess what I’ve learnt?’, and he then played me the ‘Peaches’ riff. I thought that was so cool. Just hearing something, working it out and playing it. And that’s when I decided to play guitar.”

Were you in any other bands before forming The Jonny Phillips Trio?

“I used to be in a indie/folk band called Willowen with Kris, our bassist. We gigged a lot and played some great shows, including supporting The Wurzels, and playing Isle of Wight Festival, but we all moved to different parts of the country and had other things that took over. It was a good time, though.”

How did the story of The Jonny Phillips Trio begin?

“Kris was (and is) in a band called Krista Green & The Bees with Justin, our drummer. I joined the Bees after Willowen disbanded. I had a festival slot booked as the Jonny Phillips Band, but didn’t have a drummer at the time, so asked Justin if he was up for stepping in for the show. He did, smashed it, and we never looked back, and thus the Jonny Phillips Trio was born. And we’re still all Krista Green’s Bees too.”

How would you describe your band members an and how would they describe you?

“They are both super talented! And such lovely guys too. It really is a pleasure being in a band with them. I write some songs with strange structures, and lots of chords, and they just roll with it and write some fantastic parts.”

“There’s an ironic joke among us that being in a band with me is like a dictatorship. I’m so indecisive, socialist, and vague, it’s the complete opposite – it’s probably pretty unhelpful sometimes!”

What do you do when you aren’t working on music?

“I have a 3 year old, so a lot of my time goes to her! But when she’s gone to bed and I’m not doing music stuff, I read a lot of the beatnik generation authors: Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson and Richard Brautigan.”

“To be honest though, I’m happiest around music, so try to go to gigs as much as I can, even if it’s watching recorded live concerts – festival season is always a good time too!”

What inspires you to write songs and what is your creative process?

“It’s mostly just time for me. When I write, a song tends to come out in one go, though it sometimes takes a while to get to that point. I find it difficult to go back to something I’ve started, I’m often in a different state of mind by then. This isn’t the most efficient method. So I’ve been working on different writing styles recently. I used to spend hours noodling on guitar and then lyrics would eventually come, but I’ve started writing lyrics first, and then going to the guitar, which has brought round a few new ones. I’ve quite enjoyed experimenting. Once I have the basic songs, we then jam as a band, and Kris and Justin work out their parts, and the song as a whole usually changes and develops – it’s a collective, ever-developing process.”

You just started releasing music this year, how has this experience been for you?

“It’s honestly all been a great experience! There’s something extra fulfilling about being a DIY band. Between you and me, I don’t know what I’m doing! So it’s been a huge learning curve, but has been a fun ride so far. In other projects I’ve been involved in, I’ve always been pretty detached from the admin side and let other people make the decisions. Whereas with the Jonny Phillips Trio, I’ve actively engaged in the promo side, the organising of filming for the video etc. Completely out of my comfort zone, but I’m really enjoying it!”

“‘Yin’ has been really well received by most which has been hugely encouraging, and the JP3 really believe in the music we’re creating – we’re having a great time.”

Tell me about your EP ‘Yin’. Is there a story to the artwork?

“I nearly went to art college, but decided against it for various reasons, and haven’t done so much of it since music has become my main focus. So I had a lot of fun getting back to it and creating the ‘yin’ artwork.”

“The 3 cogs obviously represent the Trio, but they’re also a symbol of society and the ‘machine’ we all seem to be part of. You might notice that gears don’t work in the formation they’re in… we’re all about anti-capitalism in the JP3.”

What should we expect from your next release?

“Without giving too much away, the next release is the ‘yang’ EP – creating the balance of ‘yin’ which focusses on the bigger, perhaps darker, issues of life.”

“We’re back in the studio at the moment, so if all goes well ‘yang’ should be out by the end of 2022.”

What was the last album you bought and in what format did you buy it?

“I recently made a conscious environmental decision to go digital. I adore physical copies and had a huge CD collection, and a pretty decent vinyl collection, but Mother Earth comes first, so I made digital copies and sold it all. It was a sad day, but also positive..? So the last album I bought was a digital copy of My Baby’s latests release ‘Sake Sake Sake’. I adore them, and it’s a fantastic album – they just keep managing to develop their sound. I saw them a few months back when they cam to the UK and was blown away. I can’t wait until they’re back in October, and who knows, maybe the JP3 could land the support slot?”

If you could work with any other artist from the past (dead or alive) who would it be?

“We all really admire Kula Shaker – who also have a new album coming out in a couple of months. Their song writing, musicianship and influences of Eastern cultures are a big inspiration for us, and something I think we strive for in a way. I’d also love to write or jam with John Butler. He’s a brilliant song writer and guitarist, and I think working with him would be a lot of fun.”

What do you think are the biggest obstacles for bands these days?

“In some ways, I think it’s never been easier to be a musician, but it’s also never been harder to “make it” in the industry. There are so many people making music all wanting to be heard, which as a listener of music is the best thing ever, and even as a creator has a lot of positives. But if you’re looking to get your music out to the masses, it’s easy to feel drowned or overwhelmed by the possibilities, the platforms available and where to actually send your music. Still, if you’re having fun doing it and the people who are listening are enjoying it then, it can’t be so bad. There are so many different options to get your music out to at least some people.”

How would you define the word ‘success’?

“As above, I think. As long as you’re loving what you’re doing, then you’ve already succeeded. Life is a linear journey, and you’ve got to enjoy as much of it as you can. You’ve got to be doing what you’re doing for yourself. If it feels like a chore, or your heart’s not in it, how are you supposed to stay creative?”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?

“I’m really loving ‘Night To Day’ by Skinny Dippers. It sounds really thought out and has a great blend of indie/rock and ethereal/psychedelic. They’ve got a really lovely sound. I adore a strange chord thrown in too, so they immediately appeal just for that.”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?

“I’d love to add a Krista Green & The Bees track, but that feels a bit shameless seeing as the JP3 make up 3/4 of them! Though do check us out ;)”

“I think I’d like to add ‘None Of Us Do’ by Lee Rasdall-Dove. It has literally just come out, so is as fresh as it gets. He records and performs his stuff all himself, and in my opinion, he’s a super talent. He deserves to go far with his music, he works so hard and is a genuinely lovely guy. The song has a message that most of us can probably relate to, and is super catchy.”

Vocals/guitar – Jonny Phillips; Bass – Kris Venzi-James; Drums – Justin Young

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