Wildfire 2016 Interview: The Jokers

The Jokers - HurricaneThe Jokers were the festival closers this year, headlining the Sunday night. I sat down and had a chinwag with them during the day as they were enjoying the festivities and before they made the entire weekend for our photographer’s little boy (read the review for more details)! Replies cobbled together from various members of the full band who sat with me in a very noisy café while we nattered about all things rock…

You were down to play last year, weren’t you?

Yeah, but we had to cancel as we were down in Germany with the record company. We have played Edinburgh and Glasgow before, though – this year, in fact. Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee last year. We toured with Hayseed Dixie one time. They’re superb musicians.

Where have you come from today?

We were in Stoke last night. It was a biker event just to warm up for tonight. We’re getting along well with the MCC groups. Every time we play, they seem to give someone else the nod and we get an invitation to play another event somewhere else. We’re all from Manchester and Liverpool sort of area so it was kind of local for us.

It was a nice drive. We did halfway last night then slept in the van and did the rest today. This isn’t too far up – you can just keep going once you hit Scotland, all the way up to the Highlands!

So what do you have planned for us tonight?

We’ve not been given set times as yet but either way, probably the best rock show you’ve ever seen. Just good old rock n’ roll.

How long have you guys been going together?

Well one or two of us are fairly recent but the rest… about a thousand years. In fact it’s our birthday today! We did the first album in 2009 so that’s probably our official start date. Three albums down the line… and this is our second gig! Before that we were just messing around until we decided we had enough songs for an album. We recorded it, liked it and realised we didn’t have a name yet. Heath Ledger had just died so The Jokers was one option and we went with it. It was a simple name that people wouldn’t have to think about. That and Jokers is synonymous with idiots – if the cap fits… There’s also the link to the old court jesters and entertainers. They’re even mentioned in “American Pie” – the jester stealing the king’s crown. We’re awesome, you see. People don’t take us seriously, but we’re the ones you should be watching out for.

For anyone who’s not caught you before, how would you describe your music?

[sound like a hoarse parrot trying to alert its owners to a fire (I said I’d try to transcribe the sound, so there you go) – Mosh] Classic rock and roll. Definitely British – we try to be British – but there is a big Free influence and the like in there, too. AC/DC, that kind of thing – rock and roll party anthems. We want everyone singing along and they usually can after a couple of songs.

How do you feel your sound has changed from album one to album three?

A lot. As I said, we worked on the first one mainly in the studio as we were discovering ourselves as a band. You can do anything in the studio – violins playing, whatever. The thing is there are only four of us and we quickly realised that we couldn’t replicate what was on the record when we played live. The second album is mainly the core of our live set now. Every song is one we can play live. The third album is along the same lines.

How are you finding being in independent band in the music industry?

It’s not easy, you do have to keep plugging away, working hard, networking. Like we said earlier with the MCC, you perform well and people hear about you and you get more shows. We sell a lot at shows, things like vinyl copies of the album sell really well – at least as well as the CD. The package we sell, you get the vinyl but they put a CD in with it. A lot of people keep the vinyl on the shelf to look at or to use to follow the lyrics, and the CD to actually play.

We really had to build thing up from the ground level, We’ve had to go out and make ends meet. We’re a hard working live band. You go back to the likes of Maiden and AC/DC, and they did the same thing. Building things up brick by brick, being a live band at the centre of it all, building a solid and reliable collection of core followers. There’s no shortcut for that kind of thing.

Do you find that the Internet has been a help of a hindrance?

You do have that side with music being easy to rip off, but the social networking side of things has been massively helpful. Everyone knows where you’re playing, for instance. Another problem is that there are thousands of bands out there making their music available and 99.9% of them just aren’t quite on the mark – they might just be doing it for a hobby or whatever. Those really special acts that are working so hard are buried deep amongst them. Back in the day there was maybe one radio show and three TV channels – get on one of them and the world knew you!

The first time you play a place you might have ten people there. The next time, it’s twenty. It’s word of mouth and entertaining people that’s the best way to increase your audience now. We’re really lucky that now we advertise a show and a decent number of people turn up. We have fans who’ll turn up at show after show. There was a woman in Spain who travelled 250km to see us!

Wildfire is all about discovering new bands as well as seeing ones you already know. Is there a band that you guys know of that we probably don’t that we should be checking out?

There was a band we played with in Glasgow – I think they were just called the Peter Smith band. He was Irish and there was a Spanish guy that played with them. They were well good. [courtesy of the internet, I’m fairly certain this is the man / band in question! – Mosh] There was rock, reggae, funk – superb band.

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