Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Interview with Bloodflower's Jonnie Owen

by Jon Cronshaw

In the shadow of the Welsh Black Mountains, a new music project is coming to fruition. Bloodflower is a collaboration between singer and multi-instrumentalist Jonnie Owen and producer Tom Manning. I caught up with Jonnie to talk about his new project, and to see how things are going with their debut album.

Jon Cronshaw: How did Bloodflower come about as a project?

Jonnie Owen: It’s just me writing the music at the moment in collaboration with a long-term friend - a producer called Tom Manning. Tom found out that there was some free studio time at Monnow Valley Studio in Monmouth, Wales; he gave me a call to see if we could do anything.

We just went into the studio without any expectations; we had a couple of ideas and it just snowballed from there. We realised quite quickly that I had a lot more than just a couple of ideas. It was really exciting: we had this free studio time, so we just threw caution to the wind. We worked really well together, and it’s now an album in progress, with the working title Circadian Clock.

JC: How does Bloodflower compare to your previous projects?

JO: It’s been really good fun, because it’s different to working with a band where you might go in with an idea and try and form something organically between five members bouncing off each other and jamming with an idea. It’s purely from what I’ve put on a computer and built it up from nothing; so some of the songs have been built up from maybe just a vocal line, or from just a beat.

Everything, apart from guitars, has been a big part of this project - I’m a singer, and my second instrument is the guitar. Tom suggested that I tried writing without using the guitar. It took me out of my comfort zone from the word go. So I started using drums, bass, keyboard, percussion, synthesisers, programmed beats – I found it very liberating.

Tom’s an amazing musician in his own right – he’s a multi-instrumentalist – so between us, we can pretty much play everything. He’s a really good drummer, and if I have trouble with a beat, he’ll get behind the kit and do it.

It’s very DIY – from my point of view it’s quite a punk approach to something that hasn’t been punk before.

JC: How would you define Bloodflower’s sound if a lazy music journalist wanted a quick sound-bite?

JO: I don’t know - I suppose people will have to listen to it and define it for themselves. That’s another thing about this project; we’ve not really given much away. We want people to take our music away and attach the meaning that they want to it.

I don’t really want to talk too much about the lyrics like I’ve done in the past, because it kind of spoils it - you know what you’re listening to before you’ve even listened to it – you know what the story is, you know what the conclusion is. It’s about letting the audience take it. As soon as we release it, it’s no longer mine. It’s the idea of releasing art and letting people take from it whatever they want.

I’m not purposefully trying to add mystique or mystery to it; it just gives people more ownership of the songs and enjoy them being part of their lives.

JC: What would you say Bloodflower’s main influences are?

JO: I could reel off a list of bands, but it might start pigeonholing the whole project. Because I’ve been doing a lot of work with bass, there’s this heavy 80s influence on it – bands like Talking Heads and The Clash. I’ve been listening to a lot of Arcade Fire – they’ve got this way of shouting music at you, and you just can’t get it out of your head. Also artists like Bjork, Nick Drake – so loads of different stuff really.

I’m studying Contemporary Fiction and Social History at university, so I’ve been really inspired by writers like Haruki Murakami, J G Ballard, Jeanette Winterson - there’s so many.

JC: With a project which so studio-based, do you intend to take the music to a live setting?

JO: We’re in the middle of recruiting musicians for the live show at the moment. Tom’s going to be performing the drums, I’m going to be predominantly singing, so I want to get other musicians in that I know and trust so that I can be free as front-man. I may do a bit of piano, or the odd hit of a drum machine just to make the show look a bit more interesting. We’ll be touring and gigging next year and I’m so excited; I can’t wait to hear how the music will sound live.

JC: With your last band, you toured the UK, Europe and America - do you have similar ambitions for Bloodflower?

JO: First of all, we’ve got the album which is well on target for being finished early next year, then touring up and down the country, head into Europe and eventually the States. The main goal at the moment is to get the project functioning as a live band, and just make it an amazing live show.

Bloodflower are scheduled to release their debut album early next year. You can find out more on Bloodflower’s Facebook page HERE. You can listen to the track Indigo below.

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