Bwani Junction are a group of lads whose alternative musical styling has gathered growing support throughout the UK, with their Scottish fans undoubtedly loving the band’s rise in the music scene. Following on from their success in previous years, including headlining the BBC Introducing stage at T in the Park in 2011, releasing their debut album ‘Fully Cocked’ on their own label in the same year, the group played Edinburgh’s famous Hogmanay Concert in 2012, a lovely tip of the hat to the boys who were born and raised there. Childhood friends, Bwani’s easy going and relaxed vibe has evidently translated into rapid success for the band; they were nominated for Scottish Album of the Year at the inaugural award ceremony in early 2012, with NME hailing them as “a Glastonbury institution in waiting”. Their afrobeat inspired music, particularly that of ‘Marylebone’, is infectious, with the desire to dance felt almost instantaneously as the opening notes of arguably their most well-known song, ‘Two Bridges’, play out.
Speaking of success, their mini tour supporting northern indie giants Little Comets has proved to be one of many highlights for the band, with their gig at King Tuts Wah Wah Hut on the 24th of April selling out; whilst an excited crowd quickly filled up the venue as the first band, Glasgow based Poor Things, took to the stage, I interviewed the boys on all things Bwani Junction:
How did the name Bwani Junction come about?
Ah, standard story. We all met at school in Edinburgh when we were about sixteen; had a horrible name before, and it was Rory’s (Fairweather, guitar/lead vocalist) Dad who started coming up with these names and one of them stuck out, and that was Bwani Junction. It kind of suits our music. There’s not actually a relevant story to it, but later on we discovered that John Masters (author of novel ‘Bhowani Junction’) met my (Jack Fotheringham, drummer/vocalist) grandfather back in the Second World War, which is cool. But yeah, we stuck with it – ‘destiny’.
The Civil War EP is this month – how does the EP and your forthcoming album compare with your previous, debut album, ‘Fully Cocked’?
We wanted the second album to be different; if you buy a CD from a band and you get the next record and it’s the same, it’s really disappointing, like The XX, that sort of stuff. It’s going to get a bit heavier, a bit hook-y, and then our producer, when we played him the songs, had his own take on each individual song and put some radical changes on them, it’s all come out quite nicely; he described it as a ‘comic book album’. Our previous album was a lot more safe, with this album we’re trying stuff that we wouldn’t have given a chance. We wrote the tracks [for ‘Fully Cocked’] when we were about sixteen, we were kind of in to afrobeat, quite dancey, chirpy, jolly music- since leaving school things haven’t been so jolly. Yeah, this [forthcoming] album’s quite depressing compared to the last one (the rest of the band exclaim “It’s not depressing!”), well it’s a bit darker, the lyrics means a lot more and it’s been much more of a collaborative effort, the first one was more Dan (Muir, lead guitarist/vocalist) and Rory writing the tracks.
How does the song writing process begin?
We get really drunk and sit down in a dark room…nah, every song’s different, with some songs we’ll literally just go into the studio and have a jam and then half an hour later its three minutes of music and we’ll put lyrics to it; with others it’s just snippets here and there from different songs. We listen back to all the jamming we’ve done because we record everything and we just sit in the van and listen back to it, so we always have these ideas floating about as to what will go where. It actually comes quite naturally now.
What was the concept behind the newly released video for ‘Civil War’?
The lyrics of it were basically a story line, so when you’re listening to the lyrics of the song and you can tell which bit relates to which part of the video. It’s all about fighting with your partner or girlfriend, jealousy and how that’s a toxic thing. There’s kind of a worry that if you do that, it will take away from what people have predicted what follows, but hopefully it comes out well.
What are your plans for the summer?
There’s not been much festivals coming in for us, but what we’re going to try and do is get a few more, big support slots. We’re in quite a creative mode, so if we don’t have many festivals, we’ll still be writing away. Hopefully it’ll pick up; it’s usually quite last minute, like we heard about T in the Park about three weeks before the festival. We’re at a kind of weird stage where it’s sort of moving to that next level, we’re still an unknown band to a lot of people, just starting to pick up and get a few support slots; it’s a period of time where it’s all up in the air. We can’t go back and do the BBC Introducing thing again because it’s not fair to new bands; we kind of fall between that and bigger stages, we’re not big enough for them either.
Which bands would you say have influenced you?
Little Comets, definitely. Not just musically, but their attitude towards how they’ve done things. We have our own influences, we could go on for hours about who has influenced for what kind of genres. Little Comets, as a collective thing for the whole band, we first played when we were about fifteen or something in Cab Vol in Edinburgh and we saw them play and thought “That’s awesome”, that’s the kind of music we were in to at that point. They weren’t just a really good band, they were all just really genuine people, and that helped us to understand how important it is to be like that.
Dan loves The Clash, and Led Zeppelin, classic rock that sort of thing. I (Fairweather) like a lot of solo, singer-songwriters, like Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, for the lyrics, man.
Do you have plans for the year ahead?
The album is the plan for after summer, there’s no set date for it. We’re going to get out a few more singles and hopefully maybe get the album out in autumn. America would be a plan for us, that would the next thing for us. I guess it’s just how, like, we can’t plan anything ‘cos we don’t know how it (the album) is going to be picked up, we have no idea how it’s going to go really. There is talk of Brazil, Malawi, yeah and America.
Do you have any favourite gig venues?
King Tuts, yeah it’s definitely one of them, we first played here when we were about eighteen. It’s funny, someone the other day was saying King Tut’s is such a hole, but I was like, “Really?!” It’s really nice in comparison to some places we’ve played; we’ve played some proper toilets, like every band should. Sneaky Pete’s has always been a favourite of ours; all the people in there are really nice. KoKo would be one for us, down in London; we’ve played there a few times, and every time we’ve played it’s been amazing, for an English venue. For Scotland, King Tuts, definitely.
Do you think there’s a difference in how your music is received in England and Scotland, as well as elsewhere?
They think we’re a bunch of northern wankers, don’t they? The crowd is different, definitely; I don’t want to diss English people, but when we play down south, there’s a vibe that you’re there to impress, and it’s a little more difficult to get people involved. People are kind of waiting for someone else to say they like something, or for someone to start dancing. It’s like old school discos; it’s just awkward. Not saying everyone down south are like that, we have had some really good shows, but up here, we start our first song and people start dancing; everyone’s always smashed and wanting to have a good time.
Are there any songs that get a bigger response from the crowd?
The new one ‘Borneo’ has gone down really well; the shocking ones we don’t play anymore. We did ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ straight after we played ‘Fife’, it went down like a sack of shit; we’d just recorded it and didn’t really know it. The ones that tend to go down best, we think “We’ll make that the next single”, so it’s usually the ones we choose as singles are the ones that people respond to.
Have you played any Glasgow University venues before?
We played the QMU with Twin Atlantic in 2011, that was fun. That was with Kassidy as well. [The QMU] is alright, it’s a good size, but the sound…I don’t know. Can’t really remember it to be honest.
You played the Tenement Trail (an all-day music event run by Tenement TV) in March; what are your thoughts on that style of live music?
It’s really cool; the last one we did there was pretty much a sold out gig, which we weren’t expecting. All the bands that were playing were really good, there was just a great vibe, everyone was really up for it. The Tenement TV guys always put on a good show, so we were really keen to work with them; they’re doing really well for themselves, good promoters for young bands at our stage as well.
Any interesting tour stories?
Jack Ah, too many! How disgusting do you want them to get? Well, we woke up after playing with Little Comets in London, we’d all went out for a, well, I’d say a few drinks, but it turned into a drinking competition with Little Comets, we all had a bottle of Jaeger each. Our manager woke up, all of us had passed out in the van, and we woke up and I was naked in the back, Dan had managed to piss the front seat and Rory was upside down in the van, and there was a tour bus of kids driving past. So that was quite interesting.
Fergus (Robson, bass/vocals) I woke up and he (Jack) was sitting just there, and I felt pretty normal, because I hadn’t pissed myself, was upside down, or naked. The first thing I saw [was] Jack, from the waist down, just completely naked.
Dan I was pretty glad though. We’d been in a VIP bit [at a festival], with Matt Cardle and all that shit, Ronan Keating…
Rory (Triumphantly) I stole Ronan Keating’s hat!
Dan …so yeah, we got pissed with a whole load of people, got back to the van about six, just sort of walked the whole length of the festival, and then opened the door, got in, and Gordon (Muir, manager) just wakes up and says “Shall we get going then?” and we’re all like (groans) “No…” We left as soon as we got in.
Rory My wellies are still there…
Perfect festival line-up?
Jack We’d all choose different bands; for a festival, I’d probably say Kings of Leon. I’ve never seen them before, I think they’d be a sweet festival band.
Dan I’m not a huge Killers fan, but I was massively impressed when I’ve seen them a few times at festivals. They really know how to hold a hundred thousand people in the palm of their hands. Rage Against the Machine were pretty spectacular, so were The Prodigy.
Rory I’d like to see Alt-J this year.
Dan As a headline though? I think you need to sell out though, they haven’t really sold out. Not that Rage could ever sell out.
Fergus I’d say Rage Against; I was looking at Leeds Festival and I saw that System of a Down are playing, I’ve loved them since I was really young but I’ve never seen them live.
Dan The Rolling Stones. I don’t care what people say about how old they are, but I still love them. If I had the money, I would definitely go and see them, but sadly this doesn’t pay.
Any final thoughts?
Dan Civil War EP is out on Monday the 29th [of April], please help us, please. We have no money…
Rory Buy it now, please.
It is without a doubt the band are heading for big things; with their second album on the way, as well as support from Radio 1 heavies Zane Lowe and Huw Stephens, you can bet that the Bwani boys will breathe life in to the quite frankly beige UK music scene. Their reggae-tinged sound contrasts with quite often melancholic and heartfelt lyrics, showing that, despite their relative youth, Bwani Junction are a band to be reckoned with. Definitely ones to watch.
-‘Two Bridges’ (Fully Cocked, 2011)
-‘My Body, My Mind’ (Fully Cocked, 2011)
-‘Civil War’ (Civil War EP, 2013)
The Civil War EP is released on the 29th of April.