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John The Baptist

John The Baptist

Interviewed by
Charlotte Billing
Wednesday 28th September, 2011 3:39PM

Wellington hillbilly troupe John The Baptist have built up an impressive live reputation over the past couple of years. Sounding like a couple of sexed up gold-miners (their words - kind of), they are just about release their second EP titled The Great Mountain Haul which is a rollicking good listen.  We caught up with the band for a quick chat ahead of the release....

You guys have been around on the local scene since 2009, tell us how John the Baptist came into being?

We started as an acoustic duo, Shaun and Michael, mid-2008 up in Hawkes Bay. Upon arrival in Wellington, early 2009, we became a quartet after a whiskey-fuelled jam with David and Thomas. Pretty much, a week later we had our first gig.

How do you describe the sound of John The Baptist?

Like two gold miners having a pash. Maybe more.

Are there any bands/musicians particularly influential on you as a group? 

We all have pretty diverse tastes so I don’t think there are any obvious ones for the band as a whole. That said, we certainly share a common interest in folk music, in the many forms it takes rather than specific artists or genres. We’re all actively involved in the writing and arrangement work so individual influences will have an inevitable on this process.

You’re quite involved in the events of the ‘underground’ NZ music scene- why are upstart festivals like Around The Wireless and Camp A Low Hum important for young bands to survive out here?

I don’t think it’s a matter of survival; it’s up to a band to survive, or better, thrive in whatever way they choose. These events simply help by providing another platform for sharing with interested people. This is certainly the case for bands that aren’t very well known, particularly when they play immediately after a well-known act. Someone said, “It’s about good bands rather than famous bands.” I’d say that’s evident. Oh, and, it’s about good party times.

What is it about the Wellington attitude that appeals to and encourages musicians and musical communities?

It’s probably not an attitude so much as topographical influence. Rather than Auckland, which is far more spread out, everyone exists in close proximity down here. It can sometimes get a bit incestuous but it’s great creatively. You’re surrounded by active people so there’s a lot of inspiration, collaboration and support in general.

You have one EP out and another on the way, tell us a bit about it...

The songs have all been written and developed in a live context because that’s been our primary activity. The first EP was recorded a few months after we started as a four-piece in a two-hour live session. It was intended as a snapshot of the band’s beginnings rather than a nice, fancy ‘record’. This upcoming EP was also recorded in a live setting but with better production. All of the tracks on the EP are done in one take with minimal overdubs – just backing vocals, horns on one track. We chose a performance that had good energy rather than flawless technical precision. So what you hear is what you get live. Well, maybe not horns at every show...

Is it a matter of preference; playing live over recording your music as to why releases have been on the skimpy side?

Yeah, we’ve been more of a live act thus far, that's how the whole thing started. Oh, and we’re poor so gotta save up the money from gigs in order to record.

What kind of day-jobs do you all have?

Hospo-bullshit, tertiary education, and looking-for-a-day-job-bullshit.

Is it an end-goal to make music your careers, or is it something you do for fun?

Both, hopefully. Surely that’s possible?

The state of music in NZ is...

Not so dissimilar to anywhere else in the West, really. There’s plenty of great stuff happening as well as all the usual shit, the main difference being the scale in comparison to other countries.

Charlotte Billing

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