John Hassall & The April Rainers: »It Has Been a Challenge To Actually Get To This Point«
Photo from Instagram (theaprilrainers)
The world is just a few days away (finally) from John Hassall & The April Rainers releasing their much-awaited debut album, ‘Wheels To Idyll’, a record that has been wildly anticipated from local resident and Libertines member, John Hassall. Things seem to have moved at a slow and deliberate pace to get to this point – with everyone involved waiting until just the right moment to get the music out, and in our hands, after having heard of this record’s creation three years ago. This Friday (as of today), we’ll finally get to hear what the results are.
The results, I’m proud to say- are worth the wait. As the band will tell you themselves humbly, fans of Hassall’s “other band” are nothing less than fervently devoted to anything coming from its members. In fact, in the time it’s taken from recording to now, The Libertines have even released a new record, a solid addition to the group’s growing legacy. After hearing The April Rainers album, though, I can honestly tell you that this is more of a band than a solo outing for Hassall. There are contributions by both J. Bruno (drums) and James Jefferys (guitar), and solid harmonies on nearly every track that sound like a band that really has put the work in together. They tour as a band, the interact like a band, and you could forgive them as a band for still being very excited about getting their 1st album out there and playing it on the road – mostly so far in the UK, but nonetheless – we’re very stoked to have Hassall and the Rainers as Arhusianers, coming out with their solid debut in 2017, a big year for Aarhus and its burgeoning music scene.
I sat down with John, Jakob and James (current bass player, Erland couldn’t make it) in the atrium of Godsbanen, grabbed a few coffees and had a good chat with the boys. Join in below:
JH – John Hassall
JJ – James Jefferys
JB – Jakob Bruno
Firstly, how did the whole thing start? How did you all meet and come up with the idea to start a band?
JH: James was a male prostitute working in Aarhus
JJ: I was actually a cocktail working in a waitress bar…No, I moved to Denmark about six years ago – I had a job in a bar that I used to play in quite a lot. One day there was this night where we had in a guitar player and there was nobody in – the guy handed me a guitar and said ‘go on, you play a song’, and I played this Yeti song (John’s old band, red.).
JH: James is actually one of the few people that know Yeti…
JJ: As the night went on, more people came in and we had a normal pub night. In the morning one of my colleagues said, ‘what was that song you played earlier?’ and he was like; ‘oh, John! I go to language school with him’ – and I couldn’t believe it because I was a big Yeti fan. Ever since then, I was just on the lookout for John around town, lurking, until about a month after that I was walking up to my in-law’s house and bumped into him! He suggested that I go to his wife, Line’s poetry club night the following Thursday – John and I ended up playing a Beatles song together. We started playing a little outside of that here and there – and that turned into us eventually starting to play some of John’s own songs together. About five months after that, John bumped into jakob at a concert – where he said he played a bit of drums.
What year are we talking?
JJ: That would have been 2014 – Yeah, then Jakob asked his friend if we could use his garage to rehearse in, so it was just the three of us on his friend Mikkel’s drum kit. Mikkel Just sat in the corner on his laptop…
JH: It was weird because we were actually looking for a bass player, and he was a bass player, just sat there…we were like, ‘why don’t you get on the bass!’
JJ: About six or seven months after that we started going to Sweden.
JH: Right. We spent a lot of time working out guitar sounds and arrangements – all the different parts. We spent a lot of time in that garage, months on end. By the time we got to Kalle’s studio (Kalle Gustafsson of Soundtrack Of Our Lives/Nina Persson) in Stockholm, it was just all there, we knew exactly what we were gonna’ do. We were getting through a couple of tracks a day.
So, it went relatively quick?
JJ: All of the tracks on the album are based on live takes – just a few overdubs. All of the rhythm and john’s vocal tracks are live.
You definitely have to be pretty tight to achieve that…
JH: I was kinda weird – there was a lot of pressure playing the acoustic and singing live on a take – it was like “this has to be the take”, with the other instruments spilling out and bleeding all over everything.
How did You choose to work with Kalle then?
JH: Just kind of coincidentally he was in Aarhus at an exhibition, he met a friend of mine who said ‘yeah, I know John from The Libertines’ and kale said (*imitation Swedish accent that sounds Welsh) “I love the Libertines, Tell John if he ever wants to come and record, I’ll give him a good price in Gothenburg”, and it was just like looking a gift horse in the mouth or something…we all took the ferry there and it was like recording in an analogue paradise…it was like the holy grail…
JJ: I really couldn’t believe it, they just have everything – sitars hanging on the wall, mellotrons, farafisas – everything – Grand pianos that have been played by everyone…
JH: ABBA’s plate reverb!
JB: Lenny Kravitz’s bass that we used on ‘Intercity’
JJ: The console was the Queen Neve, Bowie had recorded on it, Johnny Cash – it’s an actual piece of musical history
JH: the best thing was that we got to use ABBA’s plate reverb, and the 12-string acoustic I used was Django Reinhart’s…It was pretty hard to live up to his playing just going ‘G…C…G’!
So that was 3 years ago you recorded the album though…
JH: It’s been a long process
JJ: well, we did all the recording in three sessions, three separate trips that took about a week and a half in total – we went over to mix it as the final trip – but in all, I think we spent about two weeks on it
JH: so, the waiting has been a bit longer. You get quite a few obstacles that come up when you’re trying to accomplish anything. It has been a challenge to actually get to this point – I think it’s probably be a bit weird if it is easy. I think we’ve really grown as a band through the challenges, and now, finally, it’s gonna be coming out on the 10th!
Let’s chat about some of the songs then, were you writing mainly in Aarhus at the time?
JH: it’s quite interesting – someone was saying the other day, do you think the fact that you’re living in Aarhus affected the kind of songs I was writing, I was kind of like, I’ve never thought about it, but it probably did. They’re quite spacious…in the past, they’ve been quite compact and in your face. The songs are quite soundscape-y, I think that comes from being in a quite spacious environment like Aarhus
Yeah, Like I wouldn’t say exactly ‘country’, but it’s not a very London sound, or an urban type vibe, more chilled out
JH: It does feel like more of a kind of release from that everyday busyness.
JB: I would describe it as feeling a bit more like a summer holiday
JH: I hope that people get that feeling, that they get relaxed and happy, like being on holiday…
There are a couple of contributions from you guys on the record too, “Julie July” and “If I Die, We All Die”…
JB: Julie July was a song I had out on this record I put out (2013’s Baby I Blow My Brains Out For You), I gave it to John for Christmas one year – when we asked me if I’d join the band, he asked me if I’d play this song on the record, because he liked it…
JJ: with my song, we played a gig once where we played separately, our own songs…this was originally a song that I played on the piano and it was on one of my old albums (26 Pitchforks), john asked me to transpose it for guitar and we started doing it together…
JH: I just think the lead guitar on that is so amazing…who plays lead guitar on that? OH, It’s me isn’t it
JJ: totally ruined it…but yeah, I love the way a song can evolve and change..it sticks out a little on the album, kind of like our (*from The Zombies’ Odyssey And Oracle) “Butchers Song”…
Yeah, I was gonna say, there’s certainly a few touchstones there – a lot of 60s British stuff – Macca/Beatles, Zombies, Village Green- era Kinks…
JH: yeah, I think that’s quite true to say really Sgt. Peppers and Odyssey and Oracle are quite big influences, but we also quite like Incredible String Band as well, some British folk in there…
JJ: I find there are some (Crowded House) Woodface-y touches here and there
That’s not something I would have instantly pegged you for though…
JH: You wouldn’t admit to it really…
JJ: Australian soft rock
We call it “Hostel Rock”, because every time you go to a hostel, there’s always some Aussies or Kiwis playing Crowded House…
JJ: Haha, yeah – but there’s also a few Big Star-ish moments on there as well.
JH: You can be like, really influenced by something, and even if you wanted to sound like something, you just invariably don’t. I think these songs…they just don’t sound like anything really…I mean, you can say that it sounds like the Beatles, but it doesn’t sound anything like the Beatles really…
I think the first track, “Sun In The Afternoon” really has a Paul vibe to it, like something he might have done for Abbey Road or Wings…
JB: the way we produced the drums is a bit kind of “Abbey Road” … like a muffled dry sound
JH: That was the kind of drum sound we were going for – that “baggage-case-falling-down-the-stairs” sound
JJ: the production on the album is so un-stylized, that if you listen to it next to other modern albums, it does not compare at all, does it?
JH: it’s very raw in a way, it’s just a very nice recording.
Playing live – Last summer you did a short tour of the UK warming up for Pete Doherty. What was that experience like? I’m trying to put myself in your shoes – with the history of having been in the Libertines with Pete, and then your new band warming up for him in these really big halls
JH: It was kinda weird for me because obviously, I’m in a band with Pete. I’ve never been in that situation before. It was amazing, though, for some reason I wasn’t at all nervous before the gigs, it all felt very natural with this joyful experience of going on tour around the UK, playing a couple of really nice old Victorian venues, Albert Hall in Manchester and Hackney Empire, London – I fucking loved it to be honest – I love playing to so many people, playing these tunes. It seemed that generally, people had a lot of time for it, they really listened.
James, I remember seeing you post a pic from a sound check in this massive hall looking out to the audience with this sort of half excited, half terrified look like “holy shit”…
JJ: Yeah, it’s clearly the biggest places I’ve ever played. I was absolutely shitting it…and then the moment we went out on stage, we were just totally totally totally fine. Before we played, I was just inconsolably shaking and as soon as we went out, the love from the audience…as soon as they saw John…Libertines fans are extremely loyal people and they want to like it immediately – and as soon as they see anything Libertines related they’re just really really receptive audiences – which really helped – because if they would have been hostile, I don’t think I would have been able to handle that….
Like if You were…I dunno…a Sex Pistols-related thing…
JJ: Right, or even if they would have been apathetic – like if we were just some unknown band that came out and they were playing on their telephones or whatever, but they weren’t, they wanted us to do well, and we did.
JH: it was very nice of Pete to have us along, it was very cool of him – we really appreciated that
And Jakob, you had a wonderful Instagram post from around this time – something like, “I remember being a teenager and dancing around my room to John’s music in the Libertines, and now I’m in a band with him, touring the UK and he’s my mate.” Do you ever get those kind of moments where you look around and go like – fucking ay!
JB: I don’t think about it every day – but it occurred to me when we released the first single that it was like a dream of mine I’d had since I was like 15
JH: I don’t know why, but I’ve got this feeling like I’ve known you for ages…do you get that? Like I think we’ve got some kind of common relationship you know?
I think you go through that though when you’re in a band, that you become as close as brothers or sisters…
JH: Jakobs like my sister ha…it is though really, it’s kind of like a relationship in a way, you put a lot of time into it together and if someone leaves the band or something, it hurts, so it is kind of like being in a relationship.
So, what’s next when the album comes out then?
JH: We’ve got a tour to promote the album for a week in the UK, planning on an Aarhus gig of course soon and some festivals in the summer. We’re going to do another album, which should hopefully take another ten years….
Ha, but yeah – given that the songs are a few years old on the record, you must have a few more ready to go, have you?
JH: I actually have quite a few, and I’m sure the boys have got some ready for us as well.
One can only hope that The April Rainers’ next album doesn’t take three more years to create, but if it’s one thing we’ve learned about Hassall and company, it’s that good things will come to those who can stick it out.
“Wheels To Idyll” is out this Friday, 10/3. You really should drop into one of our local record shops and ask about it. Preorder “Wheels To Idyll” – Here.