Birmingham-based rock band Johnny Foreigner passed two milestones so far this year – they just celebrated their ten year anniversary as a band and released their new album, Mono No Aware, that has been receiving rave reviews since its release. We caught up with vocalist and guitarist Alexei Berrow who opened up about their new album and what the past decade has been like for Johnny Foreigner.
You’ve just celebrated your 10th year together as a band. How has your relationship evolved over the past decade?
Being in a band is like being married to 3 people you never wanted to f**k (TY d’arcy wretsky). I think we’ve just adapted to each other better than most. Like, we’ve lived in each other’s pockets for so long now we’re hyper aware of each other’s quirks, and as we’ve grown lives outside of JF, we’ve gotten way more tolerant. The band that smokes together…
How has the process of writing songs changed over the last 10 years?
The actual process hasn’t, really. I make the skeleton and we flesh it as a band. Having 2 guitars has given us all more freedom. We’ve definitely shifted from quantity to quality though; we used to be so prolific and now it feels more important to make everything perfect. I still spew out a million song ideas a day, but all of our filters have improved.
What can you tell us about your new album, Mono No Aware, and the inspiration behind it?
Made in a whole bunch of spaces, captained by Dominique Jones as ever. Took waaay longer than we anticipated so we missed a whole bunch of deadlines and put ourselves out of sync with festival season and Japan; on the basis that not making the absolute best record we could was worse than all of that. Now reviews are coming in, this week has been like one long sigh of relief. Without wanting to give the game away or regurgitate PR, it’s a record about navigating and internally normalising trauma. Set to pop songs. It should have been Change but we ended up with Pinkerton. I mean, I can only say that after finishing it and stepping back, but I’m pretty sure it’s a positive rock record.
For those of us who aren’t in a band, what is the hardest part about touring?
Meeting people that, in another life, you’d be actual friends with, but instead yr forever packing all yr shit into cases and driving to the cheap hotel midway between their city and the next. That sense of disconnect with the self-same people you wanted to bring together is the worsttttt. But still acceptable collateral damage for the privilege of seeing the planet because yr doing what you love.
Has there ever been times when you’ve thought about going your separate ways?
Like, every day. Most people our age are so much more stable than us, you’d be mad not to look out of the window and wonder what if.. It’s usually a money thing though. We’ve always been equal partners in every contract; and we’re at the stage now where our irl lives pay for themselves and JF is self-sufficient. And, most importantly, still too much fun to walk away from.
What can fans expect from Johnny Foreigner for the rest of the year?
Sporadic shows until proper tour in October. Mostly UK with a bit of Japan thrown in. We’re finishing up some songs to accompany another single for then, with the idea that’ll be a nice closure EP for this campaign. That’s pretty much as far ahead as we ever plan. Me and Jun have another Yr Poetry record half done also, we kinda can’t not keep busy.
Mono No Aware is out now!
Interview by Kate Scott Daly