John Your Mate are John Stevenson, Neil Phillips and Tim Shorten. John started writing and recording on his own in 2019. After two albums, a solo became a trio when East London based John was joined by next door neighbour Neil, who played on the ‘Taming Ghosts’ record. Tim, a long time collaborator of Neil, joined shortly after to work on the ‘Artefact’ album.
What made each member get into playing music?
Tim: “A musical mum and a sister who had a guitar which I liked to play on even though I had no idea how to.”
John: “The first Muppets album, John Williams soundtracks and then Queen. It’s all downhill from there.”
Neil: “I met Tim when I was 14, he encouraged me.”
What do you each love most about being a musician?
John: “I don’t feel like a musician. It’s always been in my bones, been tinkering since I was 16. It’s like an itch I have never properly scratched.”
Tim: “It transports me to a different place and creating music is an obsessional distraction from everyday things.”
Neil: “Watching it develop with other people.”
What would you say makes the band distinct or unique?
Tim: “No preconceptions or formulas, just creativity based around subconscious influences.”
John: “We’ve all got different influences over a long period of time and bring varied skills to the table.”
Neil: “A mix of influences that makes our music varied.”
You released your album ‘Pale Blue Dot’ earlier this year. What can you tell me about the album and recording process? How is the writing shared among you?
John: “We do it all virtually, but Neil is my next-door neighbour so that helps. It was the first album we worked on with brand new songs from start to finish. Tim came more to the front as musical songwriter, and I concentrated more on vocal melodies and lyrics. We all stick out oar into a song though. We are nice but we don’t hold back.”
Tim: “The song can start as a riff idea or a full composition but often not with words. and then get refined.”
Neil: “Generally John and Tim start ideas off. I record rough bass and then refine as drums are sorted.“
Tim: “John writes songs and melodies that can start from musical arrangements, compositions or riffs written by any of us.”
Where do you find inspiration for the music and/or lyrics?
John: “The 1990s, I grew up in my 20s at that time. Loved the Seattle sound and indie rock. In terms of lyrics, I will annoy my wife by reading a book then stopping suddenly noting down a particular line or sentence and then thinking, I’ll have that. ‘Halfway World’ from ‘Taming Ghosts’ came mainly from Kerouac, for instance. Lyrics will often come out of a situation or idea and just flow and I try not to fuck it up.
Neil: “Listening a lot to each other and other artists.”
Tim: “Musically I’m inspired by other music and artists. Inspiration comes unexpectedly from listening to loads of music. It might be a beat or a riff that triggers an idea.”
John, you recorded two solo albums before the band became a trio and recorded ‘Pale Blue Dot’. How do you think those albums compare to the new one?
John: “‘Pale Blue Dot’ was our first ‘band’ recording. I did two solo and then Neil played bass on ‘Taming Ghosts’ and that made the sound more rounded. The ‘Artefact’ album was based was demos I had recorded 25 years ago and Tim went to town on them. It was loads of fun and we all went with the flow on that one. ‘Crazy’ is a jazzy funky tune that sounded nothing like the demo and that was down to Tim and Neil. We sound like a proper band now. I am proud of the older stuff as I think I did good on my own but this feels better with my band of brothers. If I stopped now I would be happy with that album, I think it stands up.”
I heard you already started to work on the follow up to ‘Pale Blue Dot’. Is there anything you can tell us about it?
Neil: “More variety in styles, different bass sounds.”
Tim: “Yes it’s brilliant and we have released a few singles already as John mentioned.”
What project or single are you most proud of and why?
Tim: ‘Hate it’ it was a riff that I recorded as soon as I thought of it. It quickly took shape and John nailed the lyrics and melody really quickly. It just works so effortlessly.”
John: “Blimey. If you had a gun to my head. ‘Recharge’ from ‘Pale Blue Dot’. Neil and Tim made the music so perfect. The lyrics came from a very personal situation. This is one of the songs that I struggled to sing without crying.”
Where do you see the band going in the future?
Tim: “There isn’t an agenda it’s a creative process that will take us in unexpected directions.”
John: “I’ve got not allusions. I would love to play these songs live. Keep on keeping on. We just get better with every song. The boys have given me more confidence as lyricist and singer for sure. I can still write a song as well. haha.”
Neil: “More of the same, perhaps some live work.”
Can you give some advice for people starting out in a band?
Neil: “Let everyone being their own influences and playing styles.”
Tim: “Keep your ego out of it and find a really good drummer.”
John: “Do it because you enjoy it not what you think you might get out of it. Be creative and don’t be a dick.”
What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?
Neil: “Lee Ford – Push Bikes. It’s in Shack territory which is always a good thing.”
Tim: “I like the retro track by Civic Green called ‘The Writing’s on the Wall’. Very 90’s. Nice strings.”
John: “What’s amazing and depressing is that there is so much great music out there. The list is great.”