Jo-Jo & The Teeth Q&A
Mixing art-rock with hook-heavy pop-rock, spiced up with good 'old fashioned guitar based rock 'n' roll' and all wrapped up in a striking visual package, London's Jo-Jo & The Teeth are currently making waves in the London rock scene following the recent release of two gloriously anthemic tunes, 'Don't Get Too Heavy' and 'No More Good News'. With an album in the works for later this year and some more shows lined-up in the coming weeks, it is exciting times for the band who have their roots in Canada and the Isle Of Wight, and lead singer Jo-Jo answered a few questions for BBMATB on the history of the band, songwriting, the recording of the album and recommends a few other bands for you to check out amongst other topics.
Jo-Jo & The Teeth are Jo-Jo O'Donoghue (vocals), Rylan Woods (guitar), Keir Hicks (guitar), Max Battista (bass) and Andy Barker (drums).
Singles 'We're Just Animals', 'Moonchild (both 2020), 'Don't Get Too Heavy' and 'No More Good News' are available on all the major digital sites with Youtube videos for you to check out. An album is currently in production and should be out later in 2022.
Hello Jo-Jo, thanks for taking some time to answer a few questions. For those readers who may not be familiar with Jo-Jo & The Teeth, could you give a short history of the band?
The very beginnings of Jo-Jo & The Teeth was in August 2017 when Canadian lifelong songwriting duo, Jo-Jo (Me,Singer) & Rylan (Rhythm Guitar) were on tour in the UK. It was our second gig on the tour and we were jet lagged and playing at The Hope & Anchor. A trio from the Isle of Wight rocked up (they were over an hour late for soundcheck), they were the main support and ended up being quite simply the greatest band Rylan & I had ever played a gig with, and the feeling was mutual. Fast forward 6 months- Rylan & I followed our guts into the great unknown and left Canada for the mythical Isle of Wight to collaborate with these 3 strangers... fast forward 6 more months when we found ourselves about to embark on a western Canadian tour with these two Brits and no drummer: Enter the Era of Andy! Andy was a well known left handed drummer on the Isle of Wight and had gigged with the other guys in the past. Andy learned the set in less than 2 weeks and smashed the tour! This was when the 5 piece truly formed. Fast forward 6 more months -The quintet moved into a one bedroom flat in London. We played our debut performance as Jo-Jo & The Teeth to a SOLD OUT crowd on February 1, 2020, opening for Carl Barat at 93 Feet East. WHAT A DEBUT! Abruptly - COVID enters and foils all plans! It has been an uphill battle the whole way... But The TEETH ARE HERE TO STAY.
Who would you say were the main influences on Jo-Jo And The Teeth?
Our band comes from a very diverse background of musical influences, which I absolutely love about us. Everyone of us approaches music differently, hears music differently and makes music differently which is the key ingredient to our delicious Teethy cake. There's a lot of blues in us, we love players like Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King & Muddy Waters, the voices of Bessie Smith, Etta James. Rock Bands like Queen, The Rolling Stones, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, New York Dolls, The Ramones, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Queens of The Stone Age, The Clash, Nirvana, My Chemical Romance, ZZ Top, Guns N Roses, Sweet, AC/DC. Artists like David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Jack White. I mean there's really no end to what we listen to and what inspires us. The two things we all agree on is 1) Genre isn't a thing and 2) A good song's a good song's a good song, and we don't really give a shit how it's dressed up.
You've recently released a couple of singles - 'Don't Get Too Heavy' and 'No More Good News'; do you have a sense of how the singles are doing out there in the big wide world?
It was a very long time coming for us to get some releases out there, many obstacles - so honestly we're just delighted that we did it! We're getting some good radio play internationally, our first single 'Don't Get Too Heavy' was Wyatt Wendalls TRACK OF THE WEEK on Planet Rock which was exciting. Apparently 'No More Good News' is getting quite a bit of radio play in Italy which is interesting... Perhaps a tour of Italy is on the horizon... who knows!
And I believe you have a new album arriving soon. Are you able to give any details about the new album?
YES!! We are so excited about our album...we can't say when just yet but I think it's safe to say that it's all happening in 2022!!!
Where did you record the album? Somewhere you've recorded before? And was it self-produced or did you have help from someone in putting the record together?
It was recorded, mixed & mastered at The Albion Rooms (The Libertines HQ) in Margate, by house sound engineer extraordinaire, Jason Stafford. The record is 100% self financed and self produced. We are the epitome of an independent band, and we wanted to introduce the world to Jo-Jo & The Teeth in the most natural and organic way possible, no bells, no whistles, no frills. We wanted to get our live sound on this album, so there's nothing on this record that we can't achieve live with 5 people's body's, that means there is no additional instrumentation, no double tracked vocals, no fancy production. Just us, and I love the way it's turned out. We are very proud.
Do you have a favourite song you've released before? And are there any particular tracks on the album you're looking forward to people hearing?
I think my favourite song of ours is 'HellHound'. It's unreleased, but it will be on the record. It's WAY too long to be a single but it's my favourite to sing, and I love the lyrics, the imagery and subject matter. It's really about doing what you have to do to get by, the human experience and what that looks like... and sometimes that's ugly, especially for women, because we don't get to live by the same rules as men. My mothers fighting spirit was my inspiration for this song, wild, constant, forceful, elegant, extravagant.
How are the songs put together musically - does an individual band member come with an almost finished song that the rest of the band adds to or do they come out of a more 'band-orientated' scenario? And lyrically, are there any favourite themes you like to explore?
Rylan or I will usually start a song, usually with a verse or a chorus and then bring it to the others. Then we craft it together into its full length self, once we feel like there is nothing more we could possibly add to this song, we bring it to the band, where we workshop it together into its final form. As for lyrics I think we like to write about the human experience, our experiences on this earth. We write what we know.
Visually, you are a very striking band; Where does the inspiration(s) for the look of the band come from?
We get asked this a lot actually, it's really not that deep... I've always been ridiculous, this is not new haha. Our look is not a costume we created for on stage personas or anything like that. I have always expressed myself through hair, makeup and fashion. Rylan & I grew up together and I can confirm the same for him. He was always pushing the boundaries on what his parents would allow him to wear. We grew up in a quaint, Christian, western town and looking like us was a strong choice haha. Our band look is simply everyone feeling free and empowered enough to be themselves, that's also the message I hope people get from us - Jo-Jo & The Teeth are a celebration of being your biggest and most ridiculous selves... we are not about boxes and we are not about shrinking for the comforts of others.
What shows do you have coming up where people can catch you at?
We have so many exciting things coming up!
Our next gig is August 27 at The Fiddlers Elbow with Pretty Addicted
September is the beginning of our secret pop up shows with legendary punk band EATER, a collaboration we're really excited about! But still a bit hush hush.
September 17th we play at The Workshop
October 7th at Dublin Castle
And what is the favourite part of playing shows for you? And the least favourite?
My favourite thing about playing live is watching and hearing the songs come alive in real time, how every performance is a little different, how we all play off of each other's energies.
Least favourite... WAITING AROUND ALL DAY
Do you feel there is a good independent music scene at the moment? And are there any bands that you'd recommend to readers?
I think there's always going to be the die hard music types out there doing their thing, out there putting on shows and out there going to watch bands, that will never stop but there's so much room for improvement. I mean there's definitely bands worth seeing, bands worth supporting, they are out there fighting to keep it going. These days the live sector is competing with everything down to the phone in your pocket, with Netflix, with free shows, it's tough. Covid has been hard on every industry but man, independent live music has taken a beating.
There's lots of great acts out there right now, we just played a gig last month with Damien Smiler, thought they were great, good songs, good live show, great presence. I haven't seen the PollyPikPocketz yet, but I've heard great things, they're on my list. Kontrol Freaks are out there working their asses off, great vocal, cool band, nice people - What more do you want?! Get out there and support live music!
Finally, what plans for Jo-Jo And The Teeth for the rest of 2022 and going forward into 2023?
We're just out here trying to get everything in place to release this album before 2023. Then we're back to writing the next one... it never stops. We want to get on some tours, we want to make new music, we want to get some new tunes out, we want to expand, we want to grow... we are always looking to grow.