We caught up with The Romaines for an exclusive and charming interview you'll find below!
Listen via Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/3CbDjotcFmjqp3BldJOWkr
This year we see the release of your newest album, "The Romaines". What inspired you to put a spin on the classic Ramones tracks?
We were drinking Mai Tais and listening to records one night, there was a big spill, and our Ramones and Don Ho records got fused together. It created some sort of scientific or magical reaction—when we got back to work on our Ramones cover band, things were never the same again
When creating and penning the your own songs, what artists or influences did you channel?
Prolific writers like Tom Waits, Frank Black and Tim Armstrong have all been influences, more so in their penning style—similar to writers Joyce, Dostoevsky, Hemmingway, Proust or Kerouac—it is an attitude of fierce living, greater than practice and repetition, which creates the best art. That’s why these artists are always reinventing themselves; none of their work is contrived. When we do the right work (whatever that work may be) the songs just roll out as gifts from the universe.
You seem to be very hands on in the process of your music and songwriting which is GREAT! Can you walk us through the process for the latest release?
It was a very natural progression to Romaine’s Island-style music, because I already had my lap-steel and ukuleles in play for the recent John Juan “Never Sleeping” album—a record where the instruments are applied in a more Alternative fashion.
My friend John Jackson (an old neighbor of mine) and I started Romaines. Deciding to be in full character, we became John and Johnny Romaine for the album. The two of us had a blast slowing the songs down and making conversations of the lyrics. The dual vocal narrative became such an identity, our producer (Angel Roche Jr.), had us track all our vocals simultaneously, so we could play off each other.
When you have a concept for a song, how do you execute it? Especially with the latest release; how did you interpret the songs?
We really tend to go where the songs lead us. The project was concepted as a duo, but Angel—who has a Grammy for his percussion work with Ziggy Marley—surprised us by throwing fabulous vibey hand beats on the tracks, using little toy percussion pieces, in the middle of the night! The percussion sounded so good it was a no brainer to bring in “Never Sleeping” bass player Eric Klerk, to compliment it all. Soon our versions of the songs had their own identity.
“Island Instrumentals” is also a published Romaines record, where the instrumentals sound like their own unaffected work, that would never be fingered for a Ramones song. Although, when performed at our live quarantine show on Youtube recently, Youtube’s robot analyzers instantly identified the Ramones’ songs and flagged them as licensing conflicts. Even though the songs were so much slower, and performed in a completely original style of their own, the evidence held strong that they are indeed the same songs before, now, and forever.
What was your favorite part of the recording process for The Romaines?
Laughing about what other songs or albums to record. It became so fun with Angel and Eric (John Juan rhythm section) tracking on the record too.
As 2020 is off to a running start, what surprises do you have up your sleeve in terms of music, videos, and additional releases this year; especially in the current realm of things?
Romaines will be releasing more live outdoor videos on YouTube (Romaines Band, on YouTube).
John Juan will continue to demo new original music on YouTube show Café Juan,along with showcasing other artists—Café Juan always features another craft/activity of the songwriter, other than the music (e.g. cooking, gardening, surfing ect.)
We are lucky to already have already been doing small production, at home, videos. Now, on to season 2 of Café Juan,we are starting to get it dialed! It’s hilarious being ahead of the curve with our Low-fi content—when so many major artists are doing terrible home videos, ours are well lit with good sound.
I also hope to finish an audio book that goes along with John Juan “Never Sleeping” album and re-release the album with the book—as intended—with a missing track too.