It's been more than two years since the last JJ72 single. After the lukewarm critical reception of their sophomore album, and the departure of bassist Hilary Woods, the Dublin three-piece disappeared off the scope almost entirely. Now, they're back - with a new album and a tour to support. Despite the gloomy weather, singer Mark Greaney is in good spirits.
â€œWe have a new bassist, a new lineup â€“ it's like a new band, really.â€ Not that new â€“ there's still the trademark wailing vocal and that particular wall-of sound softened distortion. Greaney's in an affable mood and tends to slip into Joyce-esque stream-of-consciousness musings, peppered frequently with "you know's" and "really's." â€œI think we're a better band now . . . before, when we were good, we were really, really good â€“ but some of our shows could be quite brittle, almost pained sounding, sometimes . . . we're much tighter as a band, now.â€
Comprising an entire third of the group, it might have seemed that the departed Woods was central to the band's image â€“ but neither Mark nor drummer Fergal wanted to replace her with another girl, feeling that this would somehow diminish her contribution. After dozens of rehearsals with potential new members, though, it became clear that it simply â€œwasn't happening.â€ For almost a year the band went without a bass player - until an encounter in a bar with Sarah Fox. â€œI know it sounds sleazy,â€ he laughs. â€œShe was doing some sessions with a band there. We thought she was a really great bass player . . . we had a few rehearsals, a few rehearsals became ten rehearsals, and it went on from there.â€
But it's not just the new bassist who has to win over the fans. The recent warmup tour debuted a landslide of new songs, and Mark confesses to feeling nervous about their reception. â€œSongs that you think are really great â€“ when you tour them, they can turn out to be the worst ones. It all depends what people's reactions are like.â€ But the reception has been good, and Mark is unstinting in his praise of their fans. â€œThey're very patient, they're very loyal, they're very â€“ kind of hardcore, in a way.â€ He seems a little surprised by this, as if he'd never thought of it that way before.
It's a rainy Monday, and an interstitial phase for the band. They're currently resting between tours, having just completed a warmup tour in Ireland in preparation for a tour of the UK. â€œIt was great to play Dublin again â€“ you know, the homecoming show â€“ well, we did a great gig.â€ Playing festivals this year has also helped get them into their stride, particularly the heavily metal-oriented Download, where JJ72 represented indie along with genre luminaries like Feeder. How did it all go down? â€œGreat. It was wierd â€“ we were the third band on the first 'indie' day, as they called it â€“ we were the guinea pigs in one way. The Others went on after us and got bottled. We had a lucky escape. And we shared the same stage as Megadeth . . . not many bands can say that! They were brilliant, by the way,â€ he adds.
After some twenty-eight months incubating new material it's going to be a busy season for the Dublin three-piece. Single 'Coming Home' will be released on August 29, followed by a UK tour in September and, possibly, a European tour in October in support of the album â€“ which, after several months of speculation, is still nameless. â€œWe've got a shortlist, but we're trying to keep it short. I can write songs - lyric after lyric but to name them all, to justify them I suppose â€“ that's really difficult. We've really got to think about it.â€ Strange to think that, despite all the work done already, the hard part is yet to come.