An interview with JPNSGRLS’ frontman Charlie Kerr

So this actually turned out considerably better than I hoped for.


I originally met (and was first introduced) to their music at Hit The Deck festival in Nottingham on last week. After being blown-away by their set, I took it upon myself to nab a quick interview with them; which I did. However, later on in the day someone decided to steal my phone.

Which wasn’t good.

Lost several interviews, some nice little photos and a whole bunch of phone-y stuff. This also included my interview with JPNSGIRLS (obvs.) so I was pretty disappointed.

But long story short, after messaging their Facebook, Charlie, being the fabulous man he is, offered to do a skype call. This meant I could actually plan some questions and listen to their music properly.

We spoke for half an hour so I’ll probably have to cut a lot of the crap that I babbled about or whatever, but hey!

Anyways, Charlie and the rest of JPNSGRLS were currently staying in Amsterdam, so I caught up with them just before they set off to explore the city:

So you’re off out tonight I’m guessing?

Yeah, we’ve got a night off where we’re going to rent bicycles and chase girls [laughs].

And how did you find your set yesterday?

It was incredible man. We were the first band to play, and all the fans were there, ready to consume music, and to enjoy our live show. We had tonnes of energy and they brought out the best in us.

Was it your first time in the UK?

Yeah, Nottingham was our second show ever in the UK.

Okay, and you’re doing a leg of the tour around Europe now then?

Yeah, we did both days of Hit The Deck, and after that we’re at Amsterdam with Dry The River, then three gigs in Germany with Turbo Wolf, and then I believe we’ve got six or seven more gigs in the UK, and one of in Paris [skype signal cuts out…].

It was incredible man. We were the first band to play, and all the fans were there, ready to consume music, and to enjoy our live show. We had tonnes of energy and they brought out the best in us.

Yeah sorry it cut out… you were on about the UK leg?

Yeah after a few festival performances we’ve got like 8 gigs in the UK, most of which we’re supporting Allusondrugs, which you mentioned were schoolmates of yours?

Nah, they’re from back home. Hung out with them yesterday. Really nice guys, really down to Earth. As you guys as a band how did you all come to meeting each other?

We all met at Highschool. We’re all from different highschools but we all had the same attitude about music; we wanted to succeed and take it seriously. It was our favourite passion so we wanted like-minded musicians all with that same idea. So that’s how Oliver and I started making music together really out of … “sexual interaction” mutters Oliver … and then the other two boys joined on pretty damn early. I think I only played with Oliver for a couple of years before Gram and Chris joined the band.

Yeah, there’s some really cool instrumentation that I’ve realised; especially the way that the bass-lines are woven in, and the drums are really tight and in sync, and the guitar lines really catchy and melodic. Are you guys self-taught or musically trained?

I think Gram (drums) was the only one who went to a music school of any kind. I certainly didn’t: I had a guitar teacher from the age of 10 till the age of 16, but we never went over much theory, it was mostly tablature [skype cuts out again…]. Yeah Oliver never had much lessons, but it was more learning what makes a good song and song-writing.

Who would you say is the main-songwriter then? Or is it more a collaborate effort?

I think it’s a combination of all of us really. I’ll come up with a basic version of what the song is, and I’ll take it to the band and I’ll shape it into something that turns out to be a JPNSGRLS song.

I was watching your video to “Circulation” earlier, and I have to ask you… what on earth was that about? I absolutely loved it, but I couldn’t make sense what was going on. There’s like zombies on fire and people in cars disappearing…

I went to film school and I made a good friend there. We’ve always wanting to work on a project together and I thought it’d be kinda cool to make a video set in the ‘70s and use the lyrics to mirror the physical manifestation of dying from a broken heart.

Okay, I’ll have to watch that again with that in mind!

Yeah, it’s meant to be bizarre, it’s not meant to be incredibly obvious I don’t think.

Speaking of you collaborate film efforts, do you come up with the main idea or do you work with many others?

Well we get a treatment sent from someone who wants to work with us or we’ll take the wheel ourselves and we’ll try and come up with an idea. The “Monarch Butterfly” video was my idea. We had access to free props so that’s why I had a sword for no reason.

How did you shoot “Smalls”?

Using stop-motion. The director was very much a visual effects kinda-guy, so he’ll point at us and be like “I’m gonna take this shot of you, then move your foot slightly to the left and I’ll take another shot”. He’ll then take loads and just compile it together.

In terms of lyrical content, where do you find inspiration? Is it from your own personal issues or histories, or is it from poetry or a combination of all those things?

Yeah, it’s definitely a combination. I’m inspired by loads of things all the time. I’m such a film nerd, there’s probably about 300 little film-references included all together on “Circulation”. Yeah, I do come up with lyrics auto-biographically. “Circulation” is quite auto-biographical for example. I’m also inspired by what’s around me, and other artists and stuff. But the song “Mushrooms” was inspired by a Sylvia Plath poem of the same name about women suffrage. I read that poem and it became my favourite poem, and every time we play it live it’s just a beautiful anthem for the oppressed because the lyrics are so vague and strange, and I think anybody can get behind it. And a song that is kinda obviously about the issues is “Brandon” which is about Brandon Tinna, who was a trans-man who was raped and killed in 1994. Have you seen the movie “Boys Don’t Cry”?

No, I haven’t.

I watched the film which is about Brandon Tinna, and then I went and wrote that song.

Cool. Anyways, this is a bit of a random question, but on “Monarch Butterfly” you thank a man called Oliver. Who is Oliver?

I had a friend in highschool, who was coincidently from the UK (he was from Birmingham), and we’ve got a show there which will be kinda crazy. So he was my friend in Highschool, and when we were 18 he was diagnosed with leukaemia, and we lost him in about 9 months. It really shaped my life in a way, erm, because he didn’t get a chance to follow his dreams. And seeing that I realised that I needed to go after mine with a tonne of fervour, and I just realised how much of a gift life was and how quickly it can be taken away. And I’m kinda thanking him for inspiring me. It’s such a downer of an interview now [laughs].

It really shaped my life in a way, erm, because he didn’t get a chance to follow his dreams. And seeing that I realised that I needed to go after mine with a tonne of fervour, and I just realised how much of a gift life was and how quickly it can be taken away.

Okay, moving swiftly on, you do a lot of crazy dance moves. Have you ever gone too far and hurt a body-function-part-thing?

I remember… well that so much of it is a dollar-store version of James Brown…

I noticed that!

I think I caaaaan do the splits…

I think you did a decent job

Thank you! But anyway, I come down on my knee everytime. And one time when I was doing an east-coast tour I noticed that my knee was really hurting, and when I got back to the hotel and took my clothes off and looked down, the whole thing was just fuckin’ purple. The whole thing was just bruised and wrecked from doing the split all the time.

There’s also a local venue in Vancouver called Library Square, and one of our first gigs after getting signed was playing there. I think we were playing to 50 people or something, and it wasn’t that hyped, and we were the supporting act, and people didn’t really care.

Do you know who the main act was?

Yeah Fine Times, another band on our lable. And, yeah, it was at a time when I was pretty self-destructive as a frontman; like I’d beat myself up with the mic in-between times when I wasn’t singing, and just did loads of stuff to get attention- I guess I thought I was Iggy Pop or something.

Anyways, we’re closing with Monarch Butterfly and there’s these six foot monitors…

… did you jump of the six-foot monitors…?

Yeah, it gets worse. So I climb up to the six-foot monitors around the bridge, because what I figured was I was gonna jump off the six-foot monitors, onto the ground (during the bridge), continue singing the bridge and chorus, and end the set… and it was gonna be sooo epic. But what I didn’t see was that there was monitors hanging from the ceiling as well that weren’t taped up with any yellow type or anything, so it was like black camouflage in this small room.

it was at a time when I was pretty self-destructive as a frontman; like I’d beat myself up with the mic in-between times when I wasn’t singing

So I jump off these six-foot monitor, and just hit my head directly on another monitor, and my body just goes horizontal, and I just slam onto the ground, wind myself and I go to try and sing the bridge and nothing comes out. I remember finishing the set, being able to sing a tiny bit more, but I’d feel my head an it’s just bleeding so much.

Then Chris (bassist) goes to me “they’re really into it! Let’s do another couple of songs!” and yeah, I had to go to the hospital after the set. The injuries are real.

Haha all that adrenaline huh? Anyways yeah, yesterday you played a few new songs, is this a sign of future recordings?

Yeah we’ve been writing a tonne and will be recording some new material in August.

So what other acts did you see at Hit The Deck?

Yeah, we saw The Swellers. I was completely exhausted so we were just hanging out. We also had a friend visit us from Scotland and stuff. In Bristol we saw Cancer Bats and Monuments and some other bands… but in Nottingham we were just too tired to do much else.

Yeah, that’s fair enough. What would you say has been the highlight of your playing career… except this interview right now?

[laughs] Yeah man, there were a few little bucket-list moments that have just happened along the way, but one of our shows that we played at SXSW goes down as one of my absolute favourites. It was really, really incredible. There’s also a local, great venue in Vancouver called The Commodore, and all of us in JPNSGRLS, that was our favourite place to go watch shows. So, it’s always been our dream to play on that stage, so we actually did get to play on that stage.

Right, quick-fire (ish) question time! Favourite cartoon?

Y’know what, with these kind of questions, I’d go with the first thing that came to mind; and that would be Johnny Bravo. Although, saying that out loud I’d have to say The Simpsons.

Definitely. Seasons 4 – 6 man, some of the best seasons of television ever.

Yeah, I like seasons 2 – 8, there’s some really good episodes in 8, like where they go to rock camp.

And yeah, that one with Hank Scorpio is incredible.

Yeah. I’m really big into cartoons though, so I’m trying to think of what else I like… The old Batman cartoons are great… Bob’s Burgers is really funny.

Yeah, cool. Favourite non-cartoon TV programme?

Game of Thrones is really cool.

Yeah, I’ve never gotten into Game of Thrones. I recently finished Breaking Bad so I’m trying to think of what to move onto next…

Breaking Bad is excellent. I got to meet Aaron Paul the other day which was really cool.

Yeah, my mate met him at Coachella…

Yeah, that’s where I met him!

Did you get him to shout “bitch” at you?

Nah, thought that too many people would have asked him to do that. He’s one of my favourite actors. Erm, other shows I like… Arrested Development is really funny… and yeah that’s what I can gather right now.

Anyways, last question! What are you listening to right now?

In the van we’re listening to Turbo Wolf, and Allusondrugs, and Dry The River. Obviously because we’re going on tour with them so want to get more familiar with their music. Those records are all excellent.

Game of Thrones is really cool.

We have friends from Toronto called the OVGMs [nb: unsure if that’s spelt correctly], and we listened to their whole record in the car and it’s really good. And we’ve been listening to Radiohead, Franz Ferdinand and The Beatles.. so yeah.

Favourite Radiohead album though?

We were all talking about this recently [laughs]

Yeah, it’s such a controversial question!

I think because it was the record that I got most into them, I’d say “In Rainbows”.

Yeah, Kid A is mine.

Kid A is excellent. As is OK Computer, those are probably mine.

To be fair, all their albums are pretty solid… Except maybe King Of Limbs, apparently that just okay.

Yeah, it’s not instantly catchy but I think it’s really cool. Oliver really likes The Bends, and Gram really like Hail To The Thief. I think Chris and I would both say In Rainbows.

Anyways, yeah I think I’m gonna let you explore Amsterdam and ride bikes and follow girls, if that’s alright with you! But yeah, I really appreciate the fact that we could do this though because of the phone problem which sucked…

No man it’s my pleasure. To have a journalist also be a fan, and to kinda be cool about the whole thing is rare. So yeah, just fucking tell your friends about us.

Oh man I will do, linked your track on my Facebook earlier. I’ve sent it to a few friends so yeah.

Yeah, please continue to do so. We want to come back to the UK as soon as possible, so any geeking about the band is what we need to give us that momentum!

Anyways, I’m gonna let you go out and enjoy the city!

Yeah dude enjoy the video games!

Yeah Cities: Skylines! [Laughs]


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