Janice Graham Band – Manchester’s best kept secret
The Janice Graham Band were one of the first new bands tipped when LTW started towards the end of last year. There was already quite a buzz about them; they were about to self-release their first single “No Money Honey” while those in the know waited for the world to catch up. It surely couldn’t be long.
I rarely forget when and where I saw a good band for the first time and this was a good one: they were first on the bill at the Blowout club night one Friday night in summer 2009 at Chorlton Irish Club, due onstage 8.45pm, and their manager had asked me to come down early and just see what I thought. No need to review or anything, I think he just wanted some affirmation (or otherwise) for his interest in them. Time was, back in 2005 and 2006, pretty much every Friday night was a Blowout gig; the default setting wander over to the Bierkeller (RIP) for whatever they happened to have on there. It’s less frequent these days, and sometimes suffers from the off-the-beaten-track nature of the place, but they had a good run of stuff on down there that summer.
I’d been down in London for a couple of days and fallen foul of the then newly introduced Afternoon Peak Time, which is basically where Virgin Trains take the piss on a colossal scale by not allowing normal people to travel from London to Manchester between 3 and 6pm (unless you book in advance, and I hadn’t). I’d got to Euston about five past three with an off-peak return ticket and a nearly dead phone battery. What’s the first train home I can get with this then you bastards? The one that gets in at ten to nine? Bollocks. Or at least it would be, if this were any other gig… however, the one thing that could usually be said with some certainty about a Blowout night was that any published timings were in Blowout Time, which bore only the faintest resemblance to that in the outside world. Train gets in 8.49, maybe 15 minutes to Chorlton by taxi (these days there’s a nice zippy tram service, but two years ago it was a cab or the world’s slowest bus) plus another five to get my mates out of the pub… should make that easily then. I did.
It’s been said so many times, by so many people – and it’s not even true any more – but when I saw them I just thought they were some of the local kids you sometimes get hanging round there. And then they got up on stage, Joe with his stubble-free chin and a bass that looked almost as big as him, Josh with his trumpet held in front of a face that looked like it belonged in the back row of a GCSE class, and they made this sound that forced me and my companions to do a double take. Triple take maybe. What the fuck… As I’d committed to reviewing another band on the bill I figured I’d stick in some words about them, too.
“Janice Graham (the “Band” bit came later) – like Frazer King, it’s a band not a person – barely look old enough to be on licensed premises, never mind playing soulful jazzy ska that nods to an era their parents probably don’t even remember, never mind them. You have to be pretty tight to play this kind of thing – especially when it involves a trumpet – and they are; you’d think they’d served apprenticeships in smoky old jazz clubs or something, close your eyes and only their street-smart words would give them away.”
What do you reckon? the manager asked. I told him they were a fucking good band – they had individuality, genuine musical talent, energy and a dark sense of humour. Other live reviews followed, and they were always positive. Word spread; they were the sort of band you could take pretty much anyone to see regardless of the genres they normally favoured – if they liked live music they’d enjoy Janice.
Whether anyone would ever want to sign such an anachronistic band in this day and age of record label frugality, however, that was another matter entirely. Privately I thought there was probably too much of a reality gap between my hope that someone might, and the chance that anyone would. It was thus a delightful surprise to be proved wrong, when on 20th April 2011 I received a message and request to break the news that the band had signed a three album deal with Acid Jazz Records that very morning. Yes, as in the label that brought you all that kind of grown-up clubbing type music in the 1990s such as The Brand New Heavies. Still going strong, albeit a little further from the mainstream – the Janice Graham Band’s new labelmates include such legends as the James Taylor Quartet and Tony Christie as well as folk and jazz type acts. Their first single for the label, “Murder” / “Assassiner”, is due out on 12th September and has already been getting some good reviews.
Any Mancunians wanting to get their hands on the single ahead of time, or just experience this force pf nature live – the official launch party is Saturday 20th August at Ruby Lounge. Frazer King, whom we’ve covered quite a bit here at LTW, will be supporting, and make sure you get down early doors for Jun Tzu who’s on first – an edgy Belfast-bred street-poet with some massive beats and brutally honest lyrics. You’ll also get a copy of the single (pre-release run limited to 250) – and all for a fiver. There are no advance tickets, just pay on the door.
Londoners will have to wait a little longer for the record, but you can go and watch them live at Borderline this Thursday 18th August – and we strongly recommend it. That’s a fiver too, and there are advance tickets on TicketWeb via the venue’s website. They will also be doing a full band live session for XFM Xposure with Jihn Kennedy on the Friday (19th) in between.