If you haven’t heard of Jonquil yet, you will soon. The synthesizer-based calypso-pop these 4 lads from Oxford make is catchy, edgy - and, more importantly, it makes girls dance and hipster dudes bob their heads.
Jonquil played Glasslands Monday night, part of their first US tour to promote their new album, Point of Go. The band’s African-influenced guitar riffs - particularly in songs like “It’s My Part,” have drawn comparisons to Vampire Weekend - but the slick bass lines and disco beat in “Swell” are more reminiscent of Phoenix. “Mexico,” with it’s perky keyboard part and cheery percussion, even brings Paul Simon's Graceland to mind. Hugo Manuel sings spiraling melodies over drones and dueling trumpets, in a creamy falsetto.
I had a chance to interview Jonquil before their show on Monday. They told me about their history, their influences, and how they chose their unusual name. Here's some excerpts:
How long had you been playing music together before recording your first album?
The first Jonquil album was a result of Hugo just recording songs in his bedroom, drafting people in as, and when, he needed. Forming a band and playing shows came later.
What were you doing before you started Jonquil?
We've all been in bands for a long time. Sam was in a prog band called Youth Movies and I played drums in an emo-jazz outfit called Great Eskimo Hoax. Hugo has always made tunes on his computer. Other than that, we were all excelling academically (laughs).
What have the highlights of your US tour been so far?
We're still very much mid-tour and so far the highlights have been visiting the Outer Banks in North Carolina, seeing dolphins from the doorstep of our beach house, and visiting the Adirondacks, skimming stones.
Point Of Go has gotten great reviews. Why do you think audiences are responding so positively to it?
We set out to write a pop record that was more immediate than anything we had done previously. So far the response has made us feel like we have succeeded to some degree.
Who did you grow up listening to?
Some of the big ones we all agree have had an influence on us are Talking Heads, Fleetwood Mac and Chic.
You recently reduced your lineup from a sextet to a quartet. Why did you make that decision? Is your live show significantly different now that your band is a third smaller.
It was the result of three members leaving to form their own band, Trophy Wife. We decided to stick with the downsize and just draft in a new drummer as we felt it would be more appropriate for writing the more streamlined pop we hope we've achieved.
I read somewhere that a horticultural book was involved in choosing the band’s name. Is that true? How did you narrow it down to Jonquil?
True Story. It was a complicated process that involved rock paper scissors, names out of a hat and an arm wrestle.