For nearly 20 years, Charlie Johns has been playing the guitar. During that time, he has balanced his time between being a singer-songwriter; his first album was released under the alias of ‘Bracelet’ when he was 13, and in various bands. Amongst them is Aspen Sails, a folk duo which saw Charlie team up with fellow art student Robert Telezynski. Within months they were snapped up by Alcopop! Records. “We were very fortunate,” states Johns. However, by 2011 the duo had called it quits. “Who knows, Aspen Sails may come back from the dead at some point,” adds Charlie.
In the years that followed, Charlie focused on interests away from music before fronting indie pop-rock quartet Real Talk, but now he’s come full-circle and is set to release a new solo EP, ‘Miss Someone’, on June 8th. “I’m back to making music myself and it feels good”, says Charlie enthusiastically. “’Miss Someone’ is the first solo record I have made with a full band.”
The title track, which you can hear exclusively below, sees Johns embrace his pop sensibility though he gives the impression that the finished song is more twisted than a normal pop song. He explains, “I’ve always wanted to make a pop song with intentionally anti-pop chords. It is full of feedback, really weird open-tuning chords and could be easily construed as a shoegaze song from a certain perspective. On the other side, it has these weird Californian Pop (Beach Boys) elements to it like the harmonies preceding the verses.”
The track serves as an introduction to an EP that Johns promises to be loud and “crafty”. “Pop songs can and should be scary, and weird, and sad and contemporary,” he states. “Bands that I think do this really well are Idaho, Wilco, Loney Dear and Elliott Smith.”
On hearing ‘Miss Someone’, the influence of Elliott Smith is clear, and alongside Ryan Adams, the track is rooted in a broad singer-songwriter sphere. “I guess you could say that the ‘grungy’ chords of Elliott Smith in his later records are emulated on ‘Miss Someone’, and the catchy vocal melodies in it are quite Ryan Adam,” says Charlie.
Like most musicians, Johns uses his music as escapism. When he’s not playing music, he’s focusing on his other career as a published author, specialising in philosophy and fiction writer. “If I’m spending all day thinking about the delay between a burning star and my perception of it, or Zeno’s paradox, then when I get home I just wanna pick up a guitar and join the rest of the world,” explains Johns. “Music is a form of escapism for me, it’s more pleasurable than philosophy and fiction.”
While Charlie has a proven track record to write sincere indie-pop songs. He’s not the only member of his family with musical talent. Older brother Harry is the vocalist for Leeds punk rockers Brawlers and has also gone down the solo route before. “Harry has always been great with giving me advice though, mainly about the music industry as opposed to anything musical,” says Charlie when asked if his brother has offered advice on going solo. “I think for people like me and Harry, it’s pretty natural to play solo; if you play in a band there’s still that part before where you pick up the guitar in your bedroom and write something, that part never disappears.”
With the songs found on ‘Miss Someone’ set to leave Charlie’s bedroom and out into the public soon, it is just the start of a busy but fun period for him. Amongst his plans are a split 7" with Loney, Dear, aka Swedish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Emil Svanängen, various shows, and a new video. While a new book titled ‘The Neurotic Turn’, is set to be published in November by Repeater Books.
‘Miss Someone’ EP by Charlie Johns is set to be self-released on Thursday, 8th June.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)
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