2016 has seen the end of many chapters. From the agonising end of The Maccabees and The Enemy, to the recent split of Brangelina!
Camden’s Tribes suffered a similar fate to all those above three years ago, splitting after their second album Wish to Scream. It was a bitter blow to their tribes of fans, the indie rock four piece’s unique combination of grunge and anthemic choruses earned Tribes quite the cult following.
However, among the rubble of Tribes’ demise, there was a Ritz. Frontman Johnny Lloyd built a bridge over the end of Tribes, and quite simply got over it! The shaggy haired frontman returned to the public’s consciousness and returned as a solo artist.
Johnny Lloyd is ready to write his own chapter now, recently releasing the rather melancholy Dreamland EP. It’s arguably his most exciting yet sombre work to date about “new beginnings, realisations and trying to find a place in life.” The EP was produced by Jamie T and Hugo White (The Maccabees), so it’s fair to say there’s a lot of expectation riding on the EP!
Anyway I caught up with Johnny Lloyd and discussed Tribes, Dreamland EP and what the future holds for the former “Sappho” man.
I’m not going to dwell on Tribes too much! Sadly you parted ways in 2013, do you look back on Tribes fondly?
Yeah massively, it’s been the best part of my life by far. It was a great time, but it came to an end with the record label (Island). But yeah, hugely fondly and it was an amazing period, you can’t repeat that stuff. We’re all still in touch now.
You did achieved a lot with Tribes especially off of first album Baby, are you proud of what you achieved?
Yeah I really am! You have your whole life to write the first record. I’m really proud of both the albums, I’m proud of what we made with Mike Crossey, and proud that it did so well. It was all a learning experience the whole thing.
Your second effort Wish to Scream was not reviewed so favourably, how do you look back on the album?
That was my favourite one despite the reviews. For me there was a lot more craft in it, but obviously it was a more acoustic record and people expected something else.
Afterwards you became a solo artist and recently released Dreamland EP, do you think being a solo artist gives you a better platform to express yourself?
Yeah, well I felt pretty free in the band as well. I definitely feel that I’m making better music now, but I feel that’s being more free in my own head. I’m definitely working harder on the music, it’s quite an eclectic bunch of people that have been involved in the record. Working with Jamie T and Hugo White (The Maccabees). I feel really proud of what I’m doing and I’m looking forward to more people hearing it.
How many songs did you have for Dreamland EP, how did you whittle it down just four?
I wrote about 100 for it, we literally put them in a bag and picked them out! Well I sent a load of the demos to Jamie and Hugo who picked them out of the bunch and that’s literally how I did it. I put my trust in them and decided being the kind of dudes that they are that they would know what was best. I put my trust in them and I’m happy with how it turned out.
Dreamland EP turned out much more solemn and darker than both Tribes’ efforts, was this a contrived effort?
It feels more moody and more atmospheric. It was not conscious, I’ve always been a more upbeat rock and roll but these songs didn’t make it onto the EP. There will be those songs live not all dark like “Happy Humans”. The EP was just reflective of the time, I wanted to set aside what I had done in the past and what I wanted to move on with. This was very much Hugo’s influence!
The first single “Hello Death” seems to optimise this moodier direction, with you singing “Hello Death/ You’ve come again/ My oldest friend.” How was this song created?
The idea of “Hello Death” was to make something quite minor. I wanted to do something that I hadn’t done before and try out that kind of range. I put those songs to Jamie T and he was definitely more into that kind of idea than the others. The song is pretty much a live tape, which is Jamie’s sort of style. I wanted to do something darker to completely reset and wipe the slate clean. I think if I put something out upbeat it would have been too similar.
Did you ever feel pressure to go in an acoustic direction after an acoustic tour last year?
I thought it would be me, I thought it would be the new outlet. It just didn’t feel like that, and I didn’t get the kick out of it like electric. It was a nice experiment though. I’m not going back, not as a primary goal.
Are you happy with how Dreamland EP has been received, and will you be doing another EP or LP?
Yeah I did. I think it’s been a nice slow burner. I’m really looking forward to doing another EP at the end of this year. That should be coming out in April and I’m really looking forward to it.
You’ve mentioned working with Jamie T and Hugo White on the production, what was it like working with these two influential artists?
They were great, both very different. Jamie knows exactly what he is like and is plug in and play, whereas Hugo is much more methodical. Which you could probably imagine seeing the different sort of styles with The Maccabees. Hugo build records, and it’s very much we try everything before before we find the sound. He put enormous amount of effort into it, it was weeks and weeks working with him. It is incredible his work ethic, and that is the level you have to be it to achieve what he has. I am really looking forward to working with Hugo again!
Will you be working with Jamie T again too?
Jamie’s a bit busy with his stuff, I haven’t really chatted to him about it. I’ll say at some point will do something together, but not sure.
What did you think of Jamie T’s new album Trick?
I love it, I love it. I love all his stuff, it’s f**king amazing. It’s great how quick he puts it out. He’s another guy with that work ethic, just intense.
I see you’ve supported Jamie T amongst other big names like Mystery Jets and The Maccabees, what’s it like getting back on the road?
It was good and really nice to be back on the road as a band. Miguel from Tribes is travelling with me, and it just feels like a really tight unit. It was weird seeing my name at first, but it feels good now! It was nice playing regularly and getting back into it, I’m proud of the amount of shows we have done this year.
You start your UK tour on the 28th September in Brighton! Are you looking forward to playing more intimate venues?
It’s always fun doing venues of that size, you literally meet everyone at the show afterwards. I’m looking forward to all the venues, it’s gonna be a good stretch. It’s a real test, there’s no thrills and barely dressing rooms, you just get up and do it! If it works in this environment it tends to work on bigger stages.
In that environment do you recognise fans from the Tribes days? You had quite the cult following!
The odd one. It was impassioned people that liked Tribes. It’s never just ‘I like this band’, people sort of say they were there at a moment. It’s nice to meet people who were really into the music and like what you did.
Talking of venues, how do you feel about Fabric’s closure in London?
I just feel like everyone else really. Camden where I’ve been living for the past five or six years has seen a change. For new bands I don’t really see any venues. The places where I used to hang have closed and turned into flats. It was inevitable, there’s so much protest but it was a ticking clock, and money overcomes it. I’m disheartened by it like everyone, across all music genres. Fabric closing is a massive blow!
Johnny Lloyd’s debut Dreamland EP is out now and you can catch him on tour September and October!