We recently found out about a fantastic local event that is taking place in Sidmouth at the end of July and the start of August. Situated on the edge of the sleepy coastal Devon village of Salcombe Regis (near Sidmouth), it centres around a traditional oak-framed building (McBuzz’s Barn) complete with veranda and adjoining marquee. The event coincides with (but independent of) the long-established Sidmouth Folk Festival where thousands of colourful music lovers descend on the valley for the week.
Keen to find out more about this event, we thought we'd go one step further and chat to the actual bands or acts performing at the event.
Playing on July 30th is an amazing singer songwriter called Jonah Hitchens, he will be accompanied by an army sized bunch of colleagues who call themselves 'The Superband', (believe me folks, they ARE good!) We caught up with Jonah recently and chatted about love, life and just about everything in between, read on to find out how we got on....
Just so people know a bit about you Jonah, please describe yourself and your music to us
I remember my first encounter with music when my mum brought me back a cheap guitar from the recycling centre. I was so excited even though I didn’t know how to play it, I just liked the idea. It turned out that my Dad played a bit and so he taught me a few chords until eventually I was playing along to my favourite tunes in the back garden. It was just a nice feeling and so I decided to do more of it. When I first started out I had visions of being a Rock God. Now of course I am getting into more Jazz and RnB/Soul music. As is evident in our latest video..... (first plug in question one, this is going well!)
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
Music already is a superpower. It inspires and changes people’s lives in such wonderful ways. However I think I’d have to go with the power to summon a nice refreshing beer on demand. Beer also inspires and changes people’s lives.
You mention Live, Love, Surf, Skate, Rock 'n' Roll as your 'interests', would you say that you have done all of these in equal measure? What do you prefer doing more of?
This is actually a phrase I have adopted from my Dad as he used to write it on the bottom side of my skateboard decks (LLSSRR for short). I guess the message of it really is just love the world that you are in and use it to its fullest potential. I actually can’t surf as well as my Dad but I sure can skate pretty well and as far as Rock ‘n’ Roll is concerned I can’t help but live my life by that!
I've been watching a fair few of your videos on YouTube and I see members of The Sherpas and also Ollie Harris from Dead.Ground in most of them, is this 'The Superband'? Does the lineup alter much or are these your 'main guys'?
I think that all of us are aware that this band is more of a concept than an actual set line up and rules that usual bands go by. We understand that the music that we make is much greater than ourselves as individuals and so only works when we allow it to be free in whatever way it demands. This is why you will usually see featuring players such as Ben Milverton playing guitar for our latest sessions. We also swap around drummers and bass players depending on what a song demands. However it has to be said that after a few tweeks and alterations it feels like at the moment we have found what you might call ‘the squad’. I am very proud of my band and they are all such great people.
You've done some amazing covers of some classic tracks and I must admit, you've done them proud, how do you select tracks that you want to cover? Ever had any feedback from the bands who originally performed them?
Well the first cover, Crosstown Traffic, was something that I saw a guy called Foy Vance do and I loved it so much I wanted to do it for the band. September was more of a thing where we love the song and thought we would play it because it makes us feel good. Stayin’ alive is a good example of how we will pretty much find a way to turn anything into slow funk. If something has a groove we can work with it. Unfortunately, none of the bands have ever gotten back to us. Due to either being dead or just being unaware of our existence.
What would you say is your biggest 'claim to fame'?
We were once featured on BBC Radio Devon. However we do enjoy getting comments every now and again from one of our favourite bands ‘Vulfpeck’, on Facebook and YouTube.
You already have a 'Superband', if you could form your own 'Supergroup' using ANY musicians, dead/alive or fictional, who would be in your lineup and why?
You know what, it’s going to sound about as pretentious as it gets but I am really quite happy with what I’ve got going at the moment. I know we may not be the most polished thing the world has ever seen but there is something wonderful about learning and working together and just simply having a good time with your boys whilst making some killer tunes at the same time.
I'm particularly loving 'Sugercoated Sugarcane' at the moment, great pace, dirty guitar licks and that rap/sung vocal reminds me of early Chili Peppers before they went a bit too commercial for my liking, who else would you say has heavily influenced your sound?
I am glad you like it, that’s actually the first thing we ever released so I’m glad to still be receiving compliments about it. I mean our sound has moved on slightly since then having the addition of the keys and horn section. However we do still enjoy dutty grooves. I’d say Snarky Puppy, even though we are nowhere near on their level. Just for the arranging, tasteful melodies/chord progressions and overall amazingness of the musicians. Then of course Vulfpeck, they are a band that know how to play the simplest things… but the right things and at the right time. They have such a nice groove and sound. Also, what I like about both of these bands is that they make the music that inspires them and makes them tick… they don’t try to tailor their sound to any market. However they are damn good, so people like it and they listen anyway. This is a goal in any musician’s career.
How do you approach the whole songwriting thing, melody or lyrics first?
Usually I’ll get a nice melody or some chords and then they will make me think of something that will inspire lyrics from somewhere. However a couple of times it has been the other way around. For example the B-side from our latest Single ‘The Feeling’ is a song called ‘Better Days’. The story behind this was that a good friend of mine, Nigel Robinson, who I met through being a good friend of my Grancha’s and also working with at Glastonbury festival, sent me an email with some lyrics on it. These lyrics were written by his wife who sadly passed away some years ago. He said that she was a musician herself with a good heart and a great spirit. He asked if I would finish writing the song based on these lyrics that she wrote. This of course is a huge responsibility as I now have to write music (and add lyrics to compliment inspired by the ones she had already written) that completely summed up everything that she had in mind when writing it. It took me a few weeks to try and get into her head but it worked eventually. And Nigel saw it live for the first time at the launch and totally loved it so that’s a good sign. You can listen to this song on Bandcamp (link coming further down)
Tell me how you make the PERFECT cup of tea....
Okay good question. In fact one I have a lot of inner anger about. I often get told by tea lovers that I make great tea... That’s because I make it for tea lovers. Not over milky sugar junkies that wouldn’t know the difference between sweetened hot water and weak milky tea. I am considering just making tea for people that will appreciate it.
So, firstly I boil the kettle having placed the teabag on the bottom of the cup in a place where I know that the water is going to have full initial impact. The first contact with teabag and water is so crucially important, a tea is made or lost in these early stages. When the kettle is boiled (as it is still rolling, we’re talking switch has just flicked) then I take the kettle and pour the water at a height so that the water has had more of a fall thus more of a punch when it makes contact with the bag. Like I said this first stage is so important. You will notice already that the water is turning into tea at a rapid pace… your tea is looking good. Then, you just leave it, doing nothing for a while. Some people time it…. But when you know tea you just know, ya know? This next bit might be a little bit controversial, as the teabag is still in I then put a dash of milk in. The reasoning for this is that if for some stupid reason I have put too much milk in and the tea is slowly being ruined before my very eyes, then I can save it with a good squeeze. After the milk I give it a squeeze anyway as I take it out and serve up. This should be about the best thing you can get. Of course, during the process depending on circumstance you can alter this, but that can’t be taught… you just have to know.
Michael Eavis wants you to provide 3 headline acts for next year's Glast Fest, who would you put up on the Pyramid stage and why?
Selfishly I’d go with Stevie Wonder because I missed the chance to see him the other day. Then maybe the Foo Fighters as the one year I went expecting them to play, Dave went and broke his leg so I had to watch Florence and The Machine instead… sure, also very good but not when you’re expecting the Foos!! Thirdly… You know what I don’t even like the Pyramid stage anyway, I’d be hanging out at West Holt where all the good bands are … this is where you would have seen Earth Wind and Fire this year. So I’d be there watching Snarky Puppy, Vulfpeck, and hey maybe they’d even let us have a go sometime!
In your opinion, what would you say is the BEST album ever released?
I very rarely like questions like this because my opinion changes so often. However credit to the guy, Jeff Buckley made that one album and it totally sinks me in to a bath of feels every time.
You recently did a launch party gig on a boat for your latest single 'The Feeling', were any of the band seasick or get scurvy? Seriously though, how was the event?
Ha the only things that were sick were our beats! The event was absolutely fantastic, as soon as we set sail we knew that we’d pulled it off. It was a beautiful evening and everyone was having such a good time. Adam Moran kicked things off with the music. Being the happy chap he is only made it all better. We pretty much sold completely out of discs too! You can listen to 'The Feeling' single HERE to try and get some of that magic yourself…
You're playing at the Sidmouth Fringe on Saturday 30th July alongside Cave Mouth, Circumnavigate and Sculpture Music, quite an epic bill for just one night!
I can hardly contain myself. We have been looking forward to this one for a while.
Which other local events/festivals can we expect to see you at this year?
Surprisingly we’re pretty dry after Fringe which upsets us somewhat. Please book us we’re a good bunch of lads, desperate to play and we’ll talk to your in-laws and play with your dogs.
Do you prefer Ollie Harris (lead guitarist) with or without his fringe?
I’ll take the fringe without the Ollie.
Jonah was doing such a great job of answering our questions, we thought we'd shine the light on him with our 'Quickfire' round, here's how he got on....
Dylan or Clapton?
Whiskey or Wine?
Wine…. But I do love a good whiskey also!
Burger or Kebab?
Electric or Acoustic?
Road trip or Boat trip?
Summer or Winter?
Summer, but I love the world at all times!
Pub or Trendy wine bar?
Blood Sugar Sex Magik or Californication?
Blood Sugar Sex Magic
De Niro or Pacino?
Dead.Ground or The Sherpas?
The Sherpas don’t technically exist under that name anymore so I can diplomatically say Dead.Ground
Leave or Remain?
Don’t talk to me about damn politics!
God or Google?
I don’t tend to talk about religion either, however I’m currently running Google chrome, so I guess I’d have to say that. When God makes an internet browser I’ll happily give it a bash.
We'd like to thank Jonah for taking the time out to answer our questions and we wish him every success for the future.
If you're available on July 30th and want to catch Jonah live (along with 3 other amazing bands), why not head down to The Sidmouth Fringe Sessions? Full details, including directions can be located HERE
In the meantime, you can keep up to date with all things Jonah Hitchen by clicking on the links below;