Could you share a little of the band’s background? How did you meet, and how long have you been playing together?
I originally started recording songs at home on my own, under the name Benny & The Joydanaires. I posted a few tunes on the Internet and on a local muzo site. Some people actually thought it was a real band until they read that The Joydanaires members consisted of Elton John, David Furnish, and the one remaining Bee Gee. The music would have been virtually impossible to recreate live as I would have needed to be playing with at least a twelve-piece band. James [drummer] heard the tune and messaged me asking about getting it together as a band. He knew of a bass player that may have been interested and, from that connection, Giles [bassist] contacted me. The two of them had played together for quite a while in another band before I approached them. I had written about thirteen songs during the Summer, bodging riffs and lyrics together so most of the material was already there, but had to be stripped back. We started off as a four-piece with two guitars, but it was all too noisy and, as a guitarist, I was forever fighting to be heard. After a couple of months, we decided to try it as a three-piece and found that it worked much better.
Your name is Benny Joy, and the band is called The Joydanaires. Does there happen to be a link to 50s vocal quartet, The Jordanaires?
I knew The Jordanaires were Elvis’ backing singers or something, but I was only making and recording music as a kind of spoof band originally, so I ripped off the name and played around with my surname. I dropped the ‘Benny’ part when the band came together, because otherwise it would sound like I’m some deluded wannabe star that wanted the band to be all about me, which isn’t the case.
Your first gig was at the Heddon Valley Beer Festival. Can you share a little about the experience?
As it was our first gig, we had an afternoon slot – about 4 o’clock, I think – so we were up against the face painters… nobody wants that. We had a blast though. It was good to get out of the rehearsal room and finally let other people hear it. It all went pretty smoothly – good sound man, good ale, and a great bouncy castle. As with a lot of festivals, you have plenty of acoustic stuff to get people chilled, and then we went on to shatter the peace. Most people were probably not expecting upbeat electric noise, but no plastic cups or half-cooked beef-burgers were thrown at us. It was fun and being so far away from the crowd, no one could see that I was very nearly defecating myself.
What has been your favourite gig so far, and why?
Our favourite gig so far would probably be one we did at a venue called GLT in Barnstaple – a nicely-sized room with a good sound. There was no need to mic up guitar amps, just an overhead on the drums to beef things up a little. I’ve been to many gigs where the band, usually the guitarist, plays way too loudly, and I think it puts some people off. It sounds odd, but really loud guitars are actually quite annoying to me. It was only our second proper gig and it was great to play to a nice crowd of people.
The band is currently made of drums, bass, guitar, and harmonica. Would you ever be tempted to bring another instrument into the mix, and if so, what?
In short, no – are you trying to get into our band again, Nickie? We’ve told you before, we do not need bagpipes.
A girl can try. Your music has a real 60s/70s psychedelic rock sound, and you’ve been compared to The Doors in the past. What would you say have been your top musical influences?
I don’t put a label on any music as it is usually wrong. Someone did say we sound like The Doors, but that was after hearing one song that has a few quiet “wing it” sections, then turns into guitar mayhem and nasty harmonica. Did Jim ever play harp? He mimics a harmonica in one song, but I think all the booze would have rotted the reeds. As a guitarist, I don’t have influences as such – I play what I can and what I have learnt. I have never bothered learning covers as, for me personally, there is no point. If I can play other people’s stuff, surely I can write a tune. Oh, unless, of course you want to be one of those types that play acoustic renditions of Jack Johnson songs on the beach, or around a campfire, and impress all of your friends with the amount of talent you have been blessed with. I would say that our music doesn’t really have a specific genre. We just construct songs, usually starting with guitar, and see where it takes us.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your songs?
A lot of people say that they get inspired by sitting down by a river or up in the woods. I reckon they’re just trying to sound arty. I don’t really get inspired as such, I just pick up the guitar and write words on paper… they’re only songs, anyway. Anyone can do it. I also believe anyone can sing. Yeah, you might not have the best voice, but who cares? Perfect singing isn’t something that has ever interested me.
Do you have a favourite of your own songs to perform from your current set list?
I personally like a song that involves playing a bit of harmonica and songs that can be extended on the fly – to go off on one. We all have fun playing Light On The Day – it has all of the above.
What guitars do you use on stage, and what do you use each one for?
I use a Gibson Les Paul special with P90s for the majority of songs, and a Fender Strat for the slide stuff. With the Gibson, I flipped the magnets on one of the pickups to get a cleaner out of phase sound in the middle position. It gives a nice volume drop too, so in the quieter sections there’s no need to adjust controls or use a volume pedal. For the Strat I added a kill switch and wired the 7 sound mod, so I can have the bridge and neck in parallel, with all three pickups in parallel. The bridge and neck is the killer! I have a Fender Telecaster for back-up if needed on stage. The Tele is also my fist choice of guitar at home to pick up if I get the urge to play tennis racket-style unplugged.
Fender or Gibson – which is your favourite?
I am a destroyer of all guitars. I paint, strip, heat gun, drill holes, rewire, and generally devalue them. I have no attachment to them whatsoever. People who polish six-stringers shouldn’t be allowed to play guitar in public (bass players are an exception to this rule). Giles has lots of quality bass guitars and appears every other rehearsal with one I ain’t seen before… Musicman, Gibson, Ricky, Jazz, headless Steinberger, some electric upright Bass. I’m sure he has more. James just has a drum-kit with expletives marked on the ride cymbal, because I’m frequently shouting “More ride, ya bastard!” Oh, and he also has a box of broken sticks. I have no idea why.
You use a rare double-deluxe valve amp on stage (that you made yourself!). What does this do for your sound?
A mate gave me the idea to build my own amp, so I took the plunge and built a couple of kits. The first was an 18-watt plexi clone, and it took about two days to build. It wasn’t loud enough in a gig situation, so I built the 36-watt version. Because it was in kit form, I didn’t feel satisfied that I had actually built my own amp, as some gimp had packed all the components up neatly and ironed out every conceivable problem. The same mate built several clones of a 50s fender 5e3 tweed deluxe; I thought that they didn’t have enough volume on stage, but they had a classic sound. I searched the Internet and found a shematic/layout of a 5e3 double deluxe (the amp Fender never built). It has two extra 6v6 valves (twice the power apparently), and bigger transformers. It took me a few weeks to build and to find a nice enclosure to drop it in. The initial power-up was a bit scary, so I got my niece to switch it on (joke!). It’s a very dirty sounding amp with all interactive volume/tone controls, so you can get so many different sounds with a tweaking. It’s only about 30 watts, but that’s more than enough! It hasn’t let me down yet, and combined with my 66 WEM valve custom copicat, it’s pretty nasty. It probably cost about £500 in parts to build, but it’s totally unique, and I finished the chassis in a nice 60s paisley finish, housed in a red tolex head.
What’s the best advice you’ve received as a musician that you think is relevant to everyone?
Our advice to others would be: do not do it for the money – you will be disappointed.
What can we expect next from The Joydanaires?
It would be great to get our music out to a wider audience, and to play some bigger venues. Supporting a good touring band would be an ideal start.
And of course – if each of you could have any rider request in the world, what would you ask for?
A coffee, a real Ale, and a Guinness.