Reverend and the Makers first came to prominence with a single of pure bombast in Heavyweight Champion of the World and nine years – and four albums – on you would expect them to be feeling somewhat punch-drunk by now. Such is the curse of bands that come out swinging full of swagger and character: their forthright take on the world is exhausted and they find themselves stuck on repeat.
Instead, in new album Mirrors, the lads from Sheffield have knocked it out of the park with their best work to date, an outstanding collection of songs that stomps, swoons and bristles through your head in 35 exhilarating minutes leaving you elated and thinking such startlingly obvious things such as when music is done this well nothing compares. Not sex. Not a Dirty Maccies. Not waking up and realising its Sunday.
Okay, maybe sex. Okay, definitely sex.
We are reminded of another band who went against the usual trajectory and just got better and better through their oeuvre – Pulp – and strangely they also originated from the Steel City. They’re evidently different class up that way.
Still on a natural – and presumably unnatural – high from crafting belting songs he is justifiably proud of the Cutter caught up with singer John McClure as the Revs embark on a triumphal national tour to talk about rock and roll spirit, Chrissy Waddle, and why all of the above is a ‘right load of bollocks’.
DC: You must be chuffed at the way Mirrors has been received?
JM: Aye, eleven years into your career and having a record that is being critically acclaimed – we’re not really used to that so long may it continue.
DC: You mentioned recently that you took more of a backseat in the making of this album and brought the band to the fore. Can you expand on this?
JM: I was heavily involved in putting the record together but it was more on the vocals side of things. If you want to create a bit of a journey where you keep listening to a long player it just gets a bit dull hearing your own voice. Even I get fed up of my own voice after a bit.
DC: One of the album’s strengths is that it’s difficult to pin down. Just when you think it’s going one way it goes another and consequently you can get lost in it. Which is a rare treat these days. Was this purposeful?
JM: It was. I heard someone on Radio 1 say that the album is dead. I just thought ‘Who are you to declare the album is dead? It’s got nought to do with you’.
You can sometimes get lost into making music you think will get on the radio but I wanted to make something for us. That’s easy to say but you’ll be surprised at how many musicians get locked into making music they think they should be doing.
So I had a bit of a revelation really and I’m just going to do whatever I want forever now. It seems to serve you better.
DC: That’s always the best approach isn’t it, to create something for yourself first and foremost…
JM: It is but a lot of artists lose sight of themselves after a few years and wonder why they’re doing it. We sort of tapped into the process of making music that we love.
It was a lot of fun to make. We went to Jamaica and had a laugh out there.
DC: You’re currently on a UK tour. How is it going so far and how much of a buzz is it to play the new stuff?
JM: It’s been amazing. We played Manchester Ritz which was sold out, Sheffield Academy which was sold out, just unbelievable. The crowd have been going nuts from the moment we get on and they’ve been amazing gigs with people loving the new stuff. I think we’ve been a brilliant live band for a long time now.
DC: Sadly every new release nowadays always seems to have a narrative behind it in media terms. With Mirrors it’s that here’s a band that has stayed the distance who have produced their best work to date seemingly out of nowhere. Do you go along with this?
JM: It’s a right load of bollocks. There always has to be a story like you say. All because some in the media are idiots.
No-one saw this album coming and it just goes to show that the darling bands of the media – and I could name a few but I won’t – who have been backed to the hilt on radio and in the press don’t exist anymore. They can’t even play a gig because nobody wants to go and see them. So whoever is doing the research on behalf of the media wants to get sacked because they’re not very good.
Bands like ours continue to exist despite the media not because of it. I quite like that, being an outsider: it means you’re more tapped into the spirit of what rock and roll should be.
DC: The implication from that narrative is also that you are music veterans now. Is that an insult or a privilege?
JM: It’s a privilege because ultimately when you start making music you want to have a career. You don’t want to have three or four years then go and get a job because that’s the fear for all musicians – having to work. We’re all staving off the inevitable and eleven years in and it’s not looking like I’m getting a job anytime soon so good.
DC: Fifty years from now when you’re swigging brandy in your rocking chair looking back on a life in music what’s the moments that will spring to mind?
JM: (Coughing) Probably you asking me this question and me coughing my guts up. I’ll do well to last fifty years.
Supporting Oasis at Wembley. Knebworth with the Chilli Peppers. It’s hard to pin it to one thing but maybe supporting Oasis because I was 13 when they came out and they had a massive influence on me. I’m not saying they’re still my favourite band but they had a big impact on me so to have Noel be into what we do was great. I wish I could have told the thirteen year old me that one day you’ll support them.
I know it would be cooler to say I was into the Modern Lovers and Velvet Underground but that’s the honest truth and supporting your childhood heroes who are now buzzing off your songs…I mean, what else is there? It’s like Maradona telling you you’re a good footy player.
DC: Well moving on to your other love, football, and specifically the Owls. What’s your take on Carlos Carvalhal and the season so far?
JM: It’s looking good. I think we played one too many games with the same side at Charlton last week – he should have rotated – but we look good and we’re a bit off the radar with people not really seeing how well we’re playing. We’re poised to get into the play-offs and I can see that happening this year.
We still need a number nine – a Jordan Rhodes or a Charlie Austin or someone of that calibre but they come at a premium don’t they. Ultimately though I’m excited. Every area of the pitch they look like they know what they’re doing.
I go home and away whenever I can – I’m a season ticket holder – and they’re good to watch for the first time in a while. Beating Arsenal 3-0…I mean they had three internationals and a World Cup winner playing for them. And we didn’t just beat them, we smashed them off the park.
So fingers crossed we might get some play-off action and even get into the Prem.
DC: If Wednesday do get into the play-offs and find themselves in the Premier League next year which of the present crop of players could excel at the higher level?
JM: Kieran Lee definitely – he’s Premier League quality. Kieran Westwood is brilliant. Tom Lees is fantastic. Possibly Lucas Joao who is only young but has a lot of potential. We’re got a lot of good players but Kieran Lee is just class, a Championship Iniesta. Sam Hutchinson too perhaps: he played for Chelsea before getting that terrible injury but is slowly getting back to where he should be.
DC: You grew up near to Hillsborough….is it true you played a charity game there in 2009?
JM: I did. There was a header that I should have got but missed it. That was slightly devastating. I’ve played for Chris Waddle’s All-Stars a few times too and scored for them last week.
I’ve got so many great memories of growing up close to the ground and I don’t think you can be helped but be touched by a club the size of Sheffield Wednesday. In our last game of the season against Wycombe in the third tier we had 38,000 people watching. The term ‘sleeping giant’ never applied to anyone more than us but we’ve got tuna bucks behind us now so hopefully we’re on our way to the top.
DC: Who is your all-time favourite Wednesday hero?
JM: Chris Waddle mate, a hands-down legend. In ’93 in the FA Cup semi-final against Sheffield United you’re five minutes in and he cracks one into the top corner. He was a wonderful player to watch – the way he played the game – and it’s interesting to hear him now say that we’re coaching a lot of Danny Welbecks and James Milners, all technically good but there’s no flair or desire to beat a man.
People like John Barnes, Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne, you don’t see those players anymore.
We were fortunate to see some of his best years. He won the Football Writer’s Player of the Year while at Wednesday. It may have been his autumn years but he was still mind-blowing.
DC: I loved that team too. John Sheridan was a particular favourite….
JM: Yeah him too. They played football the right way and they were a genuine footballing side. What makes it even better is that Waddle is a lovely fella. They say you should never meet your heroes but the two posters on my wall as a kid were Noel Gallagher and Chris Waddle and I’ve come to know them both. Waddle is a total geezer.
DC: As someone who we can imagine appreciates a good kit which is your all-time favourite Wednesday number?
JM: We used to have a green and white hoops away. I’ve always got a lot of time for that one. We used to have a grey and purple one too which was pretty nice.
DC: Apologies for ending of something of a downer here but is it fair to say that for a city of Sheffield’s size – with two huge clubs – they have both under-performed historically?
JM: Oh yeah absolutely. On that same day when we had 38.000 they (United) had 30,000. That makes 68,000 in the city over one weekend. That’s a lot of people.
I’d like to say United have under-performed more than Wednesday but yeah it’s sad. There has been a lot of mismanagement that’s gone on in the boardrooms. How Dave Richards ever got a job with the FA is beyond me because he ruined Sheffield Wednesday and United have had a lot of bad chairmen, famously that fella who ran off with all the money years ago.
Unfortunately a lot of the money gravitates towards London and Manchester these days but we can’t leave clubs like Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest behind. They are the heartland of British football.
So I’m hoping we can get back into the Prem, get some of that telly money and crack on.
New album ‘Mirrors’ is out now http://www.reverendmakers.