For Folk’s Sake Interview: Jay Jay Pistolet

for folk's sake jay jay pistolet

For Folk’s Sake: Your top three influences on your Myspace are Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and The Beach Boys, how did you get into that music?
Jay Jay Pistolet: They’re undoubtedly my top three because I think they changed modern music. They had a big influence on me. Initially through my parents and then giving it another go, they started off as nursery rhymes almost, Graceland was on in the car, and then later I listened to it on another level. I was listening to Graceland on the way to the gig on the tube and dissecting the drum beats, you know really geeky stuff that I didn’t do when I was eight!

How did it come about that you were friends with Peggy Sue and Mumford and Sons and Noah and the Whale?
I think, I moved to London and I didn’t really know anyone and I was aware of these groups of people that were friends with each other, they weren’t necessarily playing the same kind of music but they’d made a name for themselves. It all seemed quite glamorous, I never wanted to be a part of it or anything but just from playing tiny pubs and clubs and stuff you just meet people and I guess over time the ones that aren’t completely whack do quite well for themselves and it almost happens accidentally. You might play your first gig with these people and it doesn’t mean anything. Say, for example, Noah and the Whale are doing really well at the moment and now suddenly it means something to people.

So have you got loads of friends who are doing really badly as well?
Laughs. Yeah!

You’ve worked with Charlie Fink from Noah and the Whale…
I have indeed, yeah, He’s produced three tracks of a four track EP that I’m doing. He’s a genius, I rate his production skills as highly as I rate his songwriting, he’s a real talent. When I first asked Charlie to do it I almost kind of wanted him to make it sound like Noah and the Whale, and he didn’t do that at all, to his credit, he took it on as something completely separate and helped me form an identity, which I’m really grateful for.

How do you form an identity?
I don’t think you should do it consciously. If I have formed an identity, it’s not because I’ve chosen to go with particular songs, it’s because I’ve written songs that I like with nice melodies, and then when it comes to production I’ve thought, oh I like it when The Beach Boys do this.

Do you feel like you have a sound at the moment?

No not yet I still think it’s evolving and I think it’s changing all the time, I change my mind every day about what I am or who I am but because I’m not in a band I’m free to do that which is quite nice

What are your long-term plans?
I want to be happy with enough songs to release an album next year, I just want to tour and play I don’t really have any aspirations to be a household name I just want to see this grow slowly and organically and hopefully I’m going to put the EP out on my own label. All my contemporary heroes are culty figures that my mum doesn’t know who they are… I know that sounds a bit pretentious.

What if EMI came to you with a three album deal, would you accept it?
I don’t think that’s as attractive as it seems, I think there are a lot of advantages to going your own way. You have such a short life expectancy at the moment and that’s because of the way the major labels behave and if you make your own terms then you don’t really have to be subject to that.

They do seem to have really pushed Noah and the Whale’s stuff…
Oh yeah, well I wouldn’t really want to comment on that, but I think in general things seem to be on a conveyor belt, I’m confident that Noah and the Whale will be around for years and years and years, but I just don’t really like the way it works.

Where does the name Jay Jay Pistolet come from?
I hate my real name so I use my initials, and then I wanted something French but I didn’t want all the credit, so I was called Jay Jay et les Pistolets, but that caused a lot of confusion so I shortened it.

How was your tour with Katie Meluah?
It was definitely really fun. It was kind of weird to be playing to so many people. It was a bit of a shock having four people doing your sound and playing to thousands of people. It was a real pleasure actually.

How was the response from Meluah’s fans?
I was really thrilled with the response I got, there were a lot of people there were just there to relax and listen to nice music and hopefully I fitted into that category.

They don’t seem like the sort of crowd that would be a baying mob…
I don’t know what her fan base is like in general but certainly on the gigs I played at they were quite chilled out and middle aged.

Is it really true that you live with Marcus Mumford?
[Taking the piss] That is really true.

Wow, that’s like the House of Folk.
It is, I live with Marcus, and I live with Winston who plays the banjo in his band and I live with a guy called Alan Pownall, who is a singer songwriter too.

How did you meet Marcus?
He’s going to kill me for saying this, but he emailed me on Myspace and said he liked my songs and could he come to a gig, and I said yes, and I put him on a guestlist having never met him, and out of character because I’m usually too lazy to do this, he told me he played and I should go and see him, and I did at The Bosun’s Locker and I really enjoyed it, and we became friends because of that. It’s a cool story and he’s embarrassed about that.
It’s a great house to live in because it’s a really creative environment and there have been a few nights where you know that cliché of jamming old blues songs and stuff, there have been a few nights when we really have done that.

What festivals have you done this summer?
I haven’t played that many festivals, I played the secret garden party and I played at Glastonbury on the Greenpeace stage, I was on a the same time as Jay Z, I was hoping people might misread my name and turn up hoping to see Jay Z.

What current stuff do you listen to?
I’ve heard a lot of people saying they’re inspired by the antifolk, for me it was more the Americana acts, I thought it was so cool that they all played together I just find that really inspiring. I listen to their music, cos, I don’t know I find it warming…

Do you think that that’s happening here a little bit, with all of you guys playing together?
The thing is London is a funny city, and major labels and press and stuff jump on it and they make something out of it perhaps before it’s ready. I think the bands I just mentioned and also the antifolk artists, they’d been left alone to get on with it. I’d love it if the same sort of thing happened but I can’t really see the same thing happening because I think a lot of people will change what music they play when they think the time’s right. Maybe I’m being too cynical. The other thing is that people bracket the singer songwriters in the same category. And say ‘oh not another singer songwriter’, I think that’s really ignorant because there’s so much you can do with an acoustic guitar. Could Johnny Flynn be any further from Jamie T or could Laura Marling be any different from Kate Nash? It’s completely different music.

Interview: Lynn Roberts