The UK has always tried to rival its stateside cousins when it comes to discovering the secret to that elusive pop-punk sound and, with the explosion of catchy Brit-punk over the past couple of years, we’ve never been closer. With bands like Junior we make the move from American mimicry to stand-alone brilliance, from their Pop Punk 101 research to their imaginative twists. We spoke to the band about their EP Juniorland, released in late 2015, as well as their dream alter-egos and why charity means so much to them…
1) You guys released your Juniorland EP towards the end of last year, how excited were you to put some new material out there?
Si: It’s always a cool moment when you create something and then put it out there for the world to see (and also a bit scary in case they don’t dig it!), but I think having a label like it enough to put money into making CDs and flags of it gave us an extra boost of excitement. Plus, with this release, it’s the first Junior music that I’ve been involved in the writing process of too, so that was dope.
2) ‘A House That’s Not Quite Home’ was the first single you released from the record; it’s quite a sentimental tune, was there a personal aspect to the track that made you want to release it first?
Matt: I think It definitely comes from a personal place and introduces you to the record’s running themes, but I think the reason we wanted to release it first was because we felt it was the best representation of the direction we were going. It’s a sort of patchwork of every element that the record is made of, very riff and chorus heavy.
3) You headed out on a small tour of the UK in November and premiered some tracks from the EP, how did they go down live?
Si: Yeah, November was fun! We did another tour over the summer before the record came out and we tried a few of the songs out then, but it’s way better when you’re playing songs that people know and sing, or at least dance to. I think that’s always our aim for a Junior show – to get everyone moving and having a good time. Often we lead by example, like by getting Mark to do a backflip or something…
4) Your record has been picked up and praised by a lot of smaller, D.I.Y websites and publications – how important is this underground aspect of the alternative scene to bands like Junior?
Si: Oh man, it’s the little underground sites, zines, and publications that MAKE bands like us. I get the impression that folks who run small D.I.Y. music-based things do it because they really LOVE music and the alternative scene, often pouring hours of their own time, completely unpaid, into making content and finding out about exciting new music, and I think people who follow those outlets tend to be people looking for something fresh and are really hungry for good stuff. So getting support from those sorts of places is better than anything you could buy.
5) You played a show with Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! in Cardiff lately, how much fun was it to support a band like that in your own hometown?
Matt: I had the best time! I think Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! are a great band and they put on a killer show, we were super stoked to get on the bill and play to people who have never heard us before.
7) You decided to release a Christmas song ‘Say You’re Coming Home’ at the end of the year and donated the proceeds to homeless charity Llamau. What made you deicide to do that?
Si: A few years ago, my old band pulled together a bunch of South Wales bands to record a cover of the Band Aid song and we spent ages looking into various causes that we could support with the track, and Llamau really stood out. Since then, I’ve done a few more things for them, including a sponsored sleep out in the depths of winter. I’ve met with them a few times around my Heads Above the Waves project too. They’re all lovely people doing super important work with homeless people, and vulnerable, young people in particular, helping them get back on their feet. One hundred per cent a worthwhile cause, and we’ll hopefully do a bunch more to help support them in the future.
8) Did you have fun getting into the Christmas spirit together in the recording studio?
Mark: We actually home-recorded this song, which wasn’t our original plan; however, with us all living pretty busy lives, plus Christmas making it even harder on time restrictions, we figured it was best to home record it, instead of not doing it at all! We released a Halloween song in 2014 in the same fashion, and I kind of like the D.I.Y feel to our holiday songs. Writing and recording both songs got me in the mood for the holidays, so we definitely plan to keep it up. Who knows, maybe we’ll release an Easter song next?!
9) You had a bit of fun on New Year’s Eve, with a tribute night at The Bunker in Cardiff where you guys are performed as blink-182 – would you say they were one of your main influences as a band?
Mark: New Year’s Eve was super fun! We’re all massively influenced by blink-182, and I think it’s quite obvious. We’ve done a tribute gig to blink before and, although some people might find it cringey and a bit cheesy, it’s so much fun so we jumped at the offer to do it again, especially on New Year’s Eve!
10) If you had to pick any other artist – alive or dead, from any genre – to be for a day, who would you pick and why?
Si: I think I’d wanna be Dr. Dre for a day. I imagine he’s probably got a pretty cool life on the go.
Matt: I’d be William Shatner and do one of his weird spoken word songs. That’d be tight.
Mark: Hall and/or Oates. Just imagine how great that would be!
11) And, finally, what have you guys got planned for 2016?
Mark : We’re really hoping for a big year in 2016. Although we’ve been a band for two years now, we kind of look at 2015 as our debut year, as it was the first time we toured, played more outside of Wales and professionally recorded our EP. We want to tour as much as possible this year and hopefully make a bit more of a name for ourselves. If you haven’t seen us yet, please come out to a show! They’re lots of fun and, if you cheer enough, Si will take his top off and I’ll do a backflip, so that’s a perk!
You can catch Junior on tour with As The Sun Sleeps in February, find out about tour dates and tickets here.