Interview: JAWS

Photo by Peter Lally

One of the striking aspects of listening to JAWS’ 2019 album, The Ceiling, is the astute lyrical observations that permeate the almost experimental soundscape. Catching up with lead singer, Connor Schofield one Saturday afternoon in April I got a good sense of the calm, thoughtful way the writer of those songs views the world.

When we spoke, the UK was in the third month of our third national lockdown—during a pandemic that has hit the entertainment sector particularly hard. Rather than focussing on the gloom of missed opportunities and cancelled gigs, Connor gave the impression of a man at peace with the recent past and is part of a band looking forward. 

I spoke to him to find out more about JAWS’ next project: a limited-edition photobook set for release on 28 May. JAWS will also be releasing a previously unheard track from their recording sessions for The Ceiling on 14 May.

What does the lead singer of a band do to pass time in a year of lockdowns? 

Things have worked out pretty well for me. I went back into education and have been doing a Masters in Music Production here in London. I wanted to do something to further my career when away from the band and to help with recording with other artists. It is something that will definitely stick with me when writing songs and producing music in the future.

When writing songs, what is your process? 

I tend to make the demos and then we worry about how to play it when the band are together. Once we are together, there are always changes and tweaks.

The song ‘Patience’ intrigues me. The beginning sounds like the introduction to some 1970s psychedelic kid’s TV show and it ends up a dance track. How do you approach writing something like that?

I worry about the music first and then the lyrics. All artists are different but for me, it is all about the music. 

I was fascinated by the changes in that song. When you are writing do you know whether you want the track to be heavy on bass or drums for example? 

I have a vague idea of what direction I want the music to go in. If I start the track on an acoustic guitar I will have an idea of what will work at various points. On ‘Patience’ there were two types of drum rhythm and I think that comes from the fact that over the years I have been more influenced by pop music, by electronic music.

Photo by Peter Lally

You mention the recent influences of pop and electronic music but JAWS are often labelled as dream pop or indie rock. How would you categorise your music?

It is fair to say that we do fit into the indie-pop brackets but, I don’t set out to make a particular sound. To be honest, I make what I would like to listen to.

When listening to The Ceiling, I felt some of the tracks have a Stone Roses vibe to them. Do you count the band amongst your influences?

When we started out people did compare me to Richard Ashcroft and Ian Brown but that was probably as much in looks/style as it was music. I have always had The Stone Roses at the back of my mind but more generally the ‘baggy’ music Britpop scene were early influences. I probably started listening to the likes of Oasis and others after we had started the band.

The Ceiling has the feel of a live album across several tracks, particularly on my personal favourite ‘The End of the World’. Did you set out to make it sound live?

No, that wasn’t intentional but I like that feedback. We do intend to try and record the next album live, get the four of us together in the studio and play. We are at a place where we would feel comfortable doing that and then make a few production tweaks.

Speaking of playing live, do JAWS have any plans for touring?

We are aiming for a winter 2021 tour, assuming everything continues to open up. It will be great just to get back in the swing and for everyone to have a chance to express themselves after a year inside. After all, we have been inside too.

Are there any places that you are particularly looking forward to playing? 

I am really looking forward to playing in London. I have lived down here for a couple of years and my friends haven’t had the chance to see us play live. Manchester is always a great place to play so I am looking forward to that.

I know the band has been together since 2012 but do you need much practice when you have been locked away from each other for so long?

We had a performance in December and soon got back into the groove. We did a livestream from a venue and only had one rehearsal but it went well. When you do something for so long it is in the bones. Also the thrill you get when all together in the same room playing to a live audience—it’s something you can’t describe.

With live music hopefully opening up, who would you like to see live?

Definitely Radiohead—I’m not sure why I haven’t yet seen them live. Oh, and U2. I’d love to see songs from The Joshua Tree era live.

Your next project is a photo book capturing images from your last tour. Could you tell me more about this?

We invited a photographer, Peter Lally, on our last tour to capture the essence of a band on tour. You can Google any artist and see live photos but we wanted to capture what people don’t usually see—the getting ready and the pre and post-show aspects that only the roadies usually see. I think there is more value in this intimate stuff. It makes the band more relatable.

I did check out some of Peter Lally’s live photos on his website. I was struck by the energy in the photos of Leon playing bass.

I am quite a relaxed character on stage but Leon has the energy on stage. When we next come to Norwich it is certainly worth you coming along and watching Leon!

Photo by Peter Lally

After the photobook and the tour are there plans for any new music? Given the intensity of emotion on The Ceiling, which touched upon subjects such as anxiety, what impact has the pandemic had on themes and moods in any new music?

I have been writing new stuff which I will share with the band when we catch up. I have been down here in London and they are all still in Birmingham so we haven’t been able to see each other for a while. It hasn’t been too bad hanging out with myself—it suits my personality. I know people who have struggled and felt lonely but it’s important you reach out to them. As for themes, that’s a tricky one. I don’t want to say the same things as everyone else—many people will be writing about lockdown and the impact of the pandemic.

As things start opening up again and people start going on dates, what JAWS record would you suggest someone stick on if they bring their date back?

None of them! (Laughing) It’s a difficult one because I don’t like hearing my own voice when someone puts our music on. But ‘Driving at Night’ is a good one. Probably that one.

JAWS will take to the road in November and December for their first live dates since 2019. The band will play an extensive run of shows including dates in Bristol, Brighton, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham and London.

Interview conducted by Andrew Butcher

Photos by Peter Lally

This article was published as part of The Indiependent‘s May 2021 magazine edition.

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