Make Music

2019 Listings: Friday, June 21st

The Johns

The Johns are a musically groovy, visually striking, and lyrically unprecedented garage tropicalia band from New York City.

The Johns are a musically groovy, visually striking, and lyrically unprecedented garage tropicalia band from New York City. The band combines the complexity and insight of The Silver Jews with the immediacy, economy, and seaside sensibilities of The Ramones and the softly intricate rhythms of the Caribbean music heard at every bodega in town. Basketball player-poet Johnny Dydo fronts the band, his baritone visions exploding through his grunge-princess regalia leaving fans and passers-by collecting and contemplating shards of pink hair, coded dreams, and bits of seashells whose songs can only be imagined in some integrity long ago crushed by the surf or swept away by the Atlantic. Johnny's persona embodies the apparent contradictions that define the band... masculine and feminine, funny and a little scary, brilliant surface and depths so remote they would be unobservable if not for the clarity and specificity of the plan according to which they are constructed.

Johnny began to write songs and record them on his four-track tape recorder in his mother's house in the months after she died. He soon started passing cassettes out to friends and called his new project The Johns. At the same time he co-founded the harmony-driven pop band The WoWz and joined the psychedelic antifolk collective Huggabroomstik, playing drums in both bands and gradually developing a unique approach to rhythm. Between tours with these bands The Johns' recordings got weirder and more sophisticated, resulting in an experimental “comedy album” and the 1300-word epic “mystery song,” a magical realist autobiographical account of an abusive relationship from the point of view of a private investigator. Around the corner from his apartment there were two Spanish record stores on opposite sides of Knickerbocker Avenue blasting music at each other every day. Johnny got into cumbia and would buy old merengue and bachata cassettes and walk around Brooklyn and Queens for miles listening to them at half-speed on a dictaphone. He started incorporating bongos and other auxiliary percussion into his music giving his lo-fi recordings robust polyrhythms that complemented the classic garage tones and extraordinary lyrics. He started calling his music “garage tropicalia.”

In 2015 Johnny put together a band to realize this new kind of music. Noah Boeling lends a sensitivity and dynamism on drums while Owen Jones provides a contrapuntal seasoning on bongos. Preston Spurlock locks it all together with the melodic glue of his arpeggiated bass lines. This core is often accompanied by Lettice Loraine on tertiary percussion and Julie LaMendola and Leslie Graves on backing vocals. Soon the band was getting attention in the Bushwick DIY scene and sharing the stage with more established acts like Jeffrey Lewis, Nick Hakim and Combo Chimbita, and playing a sold-out show at Union Pool.

The Johns have toured extensively in Europe and played at the Egersund Visefestival in Norway and the Down by the River Festival in Berlin. Back in New York they have played at the Antifolk Festival and the Rock! Away! Festival. Last fall the Johns recorded a track for the “Songs by Turner Cody” tribute compilation where they will be featured alongside Adam Green and Herman Dune among other stars.

Most recently The Johns went to record at Black Lodge Studios in Bedstuy, Brooklyn with producers Ben Fries (winner best documentary score/music at SXSW, director of several Holy Ghost! videos) and Philip Mossman (guitarist of LCD Soundsystem 2004 – 2011). The resulting album “Forge” sees Johnny's song writing at new levels of maturity. The songs may seem, at first, improbable, but are quickly revealed to be inevitable. The record opens with Johnny cooing “slowly, with difficulty, by sheer momentum.” Solving for mass using the equation for momentum p = m x v, we learn right away that we are dealing with something enormous here. The physical proportions of the lyrics are a direct manifestation of the labor that constitutes them while offering itself as subject. This labyrinthine gravity is offset by dancy polyrhythms and the buoyant force of raw emotion. Forge will be released this summer by Concierge Records and Lousy Moon Records.

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