Some bands slog their guts out for years before getting their big break, some bands slog their guts out for years and never get anywhere and then some bands get signed before they’ve even played a gig. So goes the story of Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong - the band whose front man used to be a drummer and who currently graces our screens in the Beeb’s latest period drama. The band with a tongue twister for a name, who in the same year as playing their first show are now preparing to taking the UK’s biggest arenas in support of Pete Doherty’s Babyshambles, Kaiser Chiefs and CSS.
All this seems even more impressive when you take in account the fact that the band were meant to be just a bit of fun, an outlet for some of Joe‘s songs. You see Joe Lean used to spend his time at the back of the action drumming for the Pipettes. We’ll let him take up the story: “It wasn’t ever supposed to be my main priority, it was just formed between my mates (Joe (Vocals), Tommy D (Guitar), Dom O'Dare (Guitar), Panda (Bass), Bummer Jong (Drums)) to have some fun in between Pipettes stuff. I never thought I’d have to leave the Pipettes to do this band. I literally thought that we‘d spend our whole life playing in pubs which didn‘t usually have music on with one monitor.” However, this all changed pretty quickly says Joe, “We got a single deal after our first sound check, a publishing deal after our third gig and a record deal after our fifth gig!” Simple as.
The aforementioned single deal was with the ever-so-cool Young & Lost who JL&TJJJ released their debut ‘Lucio Starts Fire’ this October. The album deal on the other hand is with Vertigo, signing for whom the band all took very seriously. Says Joe, “I wanted to do everything differently to how the Pipettes did it this time round because when I was kind of justifying it to myself it was as a new experience. In my mind I said if we ever did sign a deal I wanted to sign to a major.” And despite the tag of a “fun side project” for the band the early days still saw them taking their genesis very seriously. “The Pipettes did gigs and kind of improved in the public eye,” explains Joe. “We rehearsed for nine months before doing our first gigs because I really wanted us to come out all guns blazing.”
One thing the band have also worked on from an early time is the accessibility of their music, Joe has often spoke about how inclusive he wants it to be, from the ages of “8 to 80” he says. He tells Gigwise, “This is imperative to us. It’s really important to us that this isn’t a clique or a fad, I just think that something that is inherent in Pop music today is that you have to be part of a scene. You have to be emo or nu-rave.” One thing that helps the band achieve this inclusiveness is that Joe isn’t afraid to admit to a few skeletons in his musical closet, in fact they are as much as part as his outlook on music as are the more acclaimed acts from his record collection.
He tells us, “Since I was born I was forced to listen to four bands – Beach Boys, Prince, Ramones and Jimi Hendrix. Then I started to get into my own music when I was about six or seven. The first seven inch I bought was EMF and the first tape was Vanilla Ice.” While holed up in his bedromm his play lists would consist of “a bit of Prince, a bit of Kylie, a bit of Ramones, a bit of Jason Donovan, New Kids On the Block and then back to Jimi Hendrix.” So, we ask how does this translate into his own song writing? “I’m just really interested in how to compose all different kind of genres. I just want to carry on learning about other genres in the hope that I’ll become a better composer at the end of it.”
And further more how does that translate in to the sound of the bands songs? “We kind of had a plan of what we wanted to sound like and that was to write kind of soul and motown songs, covering the kind of subjects they would and then arrange them around the boys with guitars aesthetic. Almost as if the guitars are playing the exact parts of the piano and the strings you would normally have with soul/motown music.” He adds: “In the early days of pop music everyone was involved, I just wish it was like that now. I wish people's eyes were a little more open to new things. I just want to bring people together basically.” Something that leads on to our next question nicely.
As we’ve already alluded to this autumn/winter Joe Lean will take his band around some of the UK’s biggest venues playing to thousands rather than hundreds each night, we ask how they feel about this? “We do like bigger stages, because we like the room and space. We got a similar experience when playing V this summer. I just see it as a big opportunity to play to loads of people and hopefully win their hearts.” And how do they think their songs, made for “pubs”, will come across in such a vast space? “Well, everyone normally prefers smaller gigs don’t they, I know I do,” he says honestly and then laughs. “But you don’t turn down playing Wembley Arena if you’re asked do you?”
Following those dates and several of their own headlines shows in December the band plan to find time to record their debut album, for which “most of the songs have already been written”, before releasing a single and doing a wider UK tour in the New Year, getting back to the more intimate venues the Jing Jang Jong are used to. Finally, and we cannot resist asking before end our time with Joe, we touch on the subject of the bands name which is as playful as it is absurd. Says Joe, “I’m not really gonna tell anyone what the name's about, not for a long time anyway. I didn’t look for it; I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. It’s just our name.”