Brian Jonestown Massacre tambourine man Joel Gion is back with a new single, Tomorrow ahead of the follow-up to his well-received solo debut album Apple Bonkers.
One of the most flamboyant and outspoken members of BJM, Gion is one its longest serving members, behind band leader and chief composer Anton Newcombe – who featured in EP in December.
Cut from a similar psych-rock pattern to BJM, Tomorrow and Gion’s forthcoming sophomore album, features contributions from band members Collin Hegna, Dan Allaire, Ryan Van Kriedt, and Robert Campanella.
But this is no BJM re-tread, as both lyrically as musically Gion shows he’s not afraid to strike out on his own.
Deceptively singalong, Tomorrow looks at the uncertain future ahead in America and urges people not to be dragged down by the divisive rhetoric of the election campaigns.
In an interview to mark the release of the single, Gion tells Matt Catchpole about his development as a songwriter and the thrill he still gets from touring and playing with BJM.
Tomorrow sounds to me a bit like The Beach Boys meets The Jesus and Mary Chain – how would you describe it?
Those are nice comparisons. The J&MC angle came out in my good buddy Paul Dillon‘s feedbacky guitar overdub, but the rest to be honest was me channeling a ’60s psych soul thing. The Beach Boys are pretty white, haha, but I appreciate what your hearing – sounds like a compliment.
It is! I understand Tomorrow won’t be appearing on your forthcoming follow-up Apple Bonkers – but is it a clue to want we can expect to hear on the album?
There’s enough going on with the record where it’s going to wind up being pretty schizophrenic – but yeah, that will be a vibe on there. I may even throw Tomorrow on it after all. People seem to like it and it’s every writer’s dream to hear their songs on vinyl.
What will it be called and what influenced your writing this time?
I am the biggest influence, so it’s self titled. Joking aside, the songs this time better represent where my head is generally at. Psych but also soul, tropicalia and groovy ’60s movie soundtrack sounds. All kinds of stuff really. With Apple Bonkers I was focused more on the kind of music that got me here. I’m a late bloomer so had to get that out of me first.
When you first started out with Brian Jonestown Massacre all those years ago – did you think you’d still be together after all this time?
I actually did. Even in the early days ,when not too many people were aware of the band outside of the US, I knew I was in one of the best bands in the world. I knew Europe would get it, but this was pre-internet so you couldn’t get the word over without a good distribution deal. Once it did it blew up. Successive generations continue to get into the band – older folks are reminded of the glory days while at the same time we are something that won’t happen again and young people appreciate that. We didn’t give a fuck.
Anton lives in Europe now and many of the other BJM members are quite spread out – does it make it more fun when you all get together?
Yeah not a lot of bands get to do this for more than a few years, so we really make sure to enjoy our time cause there is a lot of love here. Some of us stay up a lot and party and crack each other up constantly. We had so much drama over the years we deserve this. Treat every time like it’s going to be the last, ’cause who knows?
Do you think you’ve mellowed with age at all?
If I hadn’t mellowed a bit I’d be dead by now, so I’m ok with that. On tour I’m still drinking a beer for breakfast every day, but I don’t stay up partying for three days and nights in a row anymore. I can’t stand to be conscious that long anymore! It was a grand run!
What does Anton make of your solo material? Do you think you’ve learned from him at all in your songwriting?
He said he’s proud of me which makes me happy, but when we do BJM we talk BJM – which is the way I like it.
Did you always harbour ambitions of becoming a songwriter in your own right?
No! I just wanted to party and dress cool and be all that, but the time came where it wasn’t enough.
Do you enjoy the added pressure of being the frontman?
Yes. But if you ask Anton I was already the frontman, or so he tells me.
You’re famous as the tambourine player in BJM, but had you always played other instruments, like guitar?
It’s always been in my back pocket, but not needed when there’s four other guys on stage doing it.
What’s more important to you, your solo work or BJM?
I understand you’re writing on a book at the moment – can you tell us any more about that?
I’m working on a series of short and not so short stories. Mostly my time shortly before BJM, how I became the person you see. There are also blanks to be filled in the time line and I’ll tie it all together for the uninitiated. Nothing juicy, just more craziness. We’ll see.
You figure prominently in the merchandising of Dig! – were you as disappointed in the final movie as Anton and others were?
No. I look pretty good. I get why they are pissed about it.
How are you looking forward to the next four years under president Trump?
The world now has to perform under a four- year long anxiety attack.
Where do you think Clinton and the Democrats went wrong?
Clinton fucked us when they rigged the Democratic election. Bernie (Sanders) would’ve kicked Donald’s ass and we’d all be partying in the streets right now.
Any plans to tour the new album? Will you be coming to Europe?
Depends on BJM. I work around our touring schedule. I ain’t missin’ that party baby!
Lastly name one song you really wish you’d written?
I wish I could’ve written The Doors Roadhouse Blues almost exclusively for the line “Well I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer”. It’s the simplest statement yet in context the ultimate fuck you to the square world. I’m gonna get out of bed and immediately start getting fucked up because I do not give a shit. Haha! So cool I love it.
- Tomorrow is out now as a digital single on iTunes and other streaming platforms. Gion’s new album is scheduled for release in early Spring