When Scottish band Jakil came to Sin City during their tour around the UK, Roisin O’Connor couldn’t resist asking for an interview, which they very nicely agreed to. Read on to find out about their music, how well the tour is going, and what they think of Swansea, along with a review of their performance.
Sitting in a small room in Sin City on some squashy sofas are the band members of Jakil, consisting of lead singer Kieran O’Brien, guitarist Jamie Robertson, guitarist Liam Narrie, bassist Kieran ‘K’ Grant, and drummer Callum Paterson. My first question is where the name Jakil came from, and the answer is pleasantly simple. They used the first initial of three of their names: Jamie, Kieran and Liam, and took it from there.
“How are you enjoying Swansea?” I ask, and they look at each other before Kieran O’Brien chooses to answer.
“We’ve actually been here before, but we were really drunk last time,” he admits sheepishly. “We’re on tour now though, and we pride ourselves on maintaining a good rep so we never really drink when we’re doing gigs.”
“Is the tour going well?”
“Really well,” he says. “So far the best we’ve done is Glasgow, but it’s always hit and miss, and you never know what kind of audience you’re going to get or who’s going to turn up. But we’ll always give a performance 100%.”
“As long as people are enjoying the music, that’s what counts,” Callum says. “If one person is tapping their foot or nodding along with a song, that’s all that matters.”
Jakil have certainly built up a great online following, and have a “DIY approach” to getting their music out there. Three of their EP’s are on iTunes, and they also have some of their stuff on Spotify, as well as the new album they’ve put together, made up of five carefully chosen songs.
It’s hard to believe how young the band actually are with this kind of mature attitude to touring and recording their music. The oldest members are twenty-two years old, and the youngest isn’t even twenty, yet they exude the quiet confidence associated with a band that has far more experience. Two of them had been studying at university when they met, but dropped out so they could join Jakil.
“It’s what we wanted to do,” one of them says, and shrugs. “I was studying music anyway, so it seemed pointless to waste such a good opportunity.”
“Anyway,” Kieran says, returning to the subject of Swansea, “I like it here. How you can be walking through a completely urban area and suddenly come across a historic building, like the castle you have in town.”
“We’re going to get food from http://www.chips.cod after the show,” Callum tells me.
They seem pleased when I tell them that their fish and chip shop of choice is now being hailed by many as one of the best in Swansea.
“Have you tried any Welsh food?” I ask, and Kieran wants to know what a traditional Welsh dish is, so I suggest laver bread.
“That sounds really cool!” Kieran says. “Like it’d be all smouldering and on fire…”
He sounds less enthusiastic when I tell him what laver bread actually is, so we change the subject and talk about where they’re heading next.
“We’ve got a gig at Oxford, then Cambridge, and then we’re heading back to London to the house we all live in,” Liam says. “It’s just such a great place to be for music, and we get on really well so it’s fun to live in the same place.”
“Do any of you cook?”
Kieran nods. “Yeah, we all have different specialities. Callum is great at stir fry, I love Italian…”
“Liam’s good at opening cans,” Jamie says, and they laugh.
“It’s hard to eat decent food when you’re on tour,” K (Kieran Grant) tells me. “Right now it’s mostly junk from petrol stations and stuff.”
“Pot noodles,” I suggest, and he pulls a face but nods in agreement.
“Basically like your stereotypical student,” Callum says.
They ask me about why I came to Swansea, and as I’m explaining, K grabs my notebook and I suddenly find myself being interviewed instead. When I manage to get it back K has scrawled “really bad at exams” and “works for BBC” (they found it amusing that my grades at A level were the initials for the company) at the bottom of the page, and the talk has turned to their music.
“What’s your favourite song you’ve written?” I ask Kieran, and he says “Landlocked” almost immediately.
“Our music’s really matured since the line-up changed,” he adds. “We all work really well together, and the content is different.”
I ask what they sing about.
“Relationships,” is Kieran’s answer. “I think it’s such a universal subject, and something you can always relate to. We’re not too big on writing about politics or anything.”
“Do you have a way of describing what your music sounds like?”
Kieran looks at the others. “I think if you took Fleetwood Mac and put them on stage-”
“-And Dave Matthews Band came down in parachutes-” Callum adds.
“-Zip wires,” Kieran corrects him, and they all nod.
“And then if you got Michael Jackson’s glove and threw glitter in our faces,” Liam finishes. “That’s what we sound like.”
I want to know what album they’d take with them if they had to be stranded on your typical desert island.
“Jeff Buckley, Grace,” Kieran says.
“Bon Iver’s first album,” says K.
Jamie picks Fleetwood Mac’s album ‘Rumours’. “The bonus edition,” he says, “I’d want all the extra stuff on there as well.”
Callum picks ‘Bad’, by Michael Jackson, and Liam is about to say what his album would be when Kieran gets there first.
“Now 42,” he whispers.
My final question is if they have any good secrets they can tell me.
“That’s really hard,” Kieran frowns. “I actually can’t think of one. We must sound really boring.”
He’s still trying to think of something when it’s time for them to set up for the gig, so we leave the room and they do a quick sound-check before launching right into their set.
Kieran was serious about the 100% for every gig. They could have an audience of ten or ten thousand, and Jakil would still give a great performance. In this case there must be ten people at most to hear them play, but they just don’t care. Kieran bounces up and down the stage with an insane amount of energy for one person, long dark hair flying all over the place, and singing into the microphone like he wants to entertain that as well. The backing vocals work well and there’s a fantastic harmony in each song, despite the bad sound quality coming from the speakers.
Their first song is Kieran’s favourite, “Landlocked”, and after that they throw themselves into each song without pause, maintaining the same energy for the entire show. There’s a five second break after “Keep Me Sunny” where they all seem to breathe out at once, and then they’re straight back into it, playing “Floorboards”, a slick-sounding piece that reminds me a little of something by the Foo Fighters.
The albums they cited as their favourites (with the exception of Now 42) have clearly influenced their style, but there’s also a fantastic originality to the content of their songs and the overlay of two guitars, the bass and the drum rhythm, along with the impressive range to O’Brien’s voice. Each song is individual but the theme of relationships runs through the set, and by the time they finish, the small audience are making a lot of noise to compensate for the lack in numbers.
Just as they’re nearly finished packing up, Kieran comes bounding over and tells me he thought of a secret during the set.
“Liam forgets to do the dishes,” he says.
You can check out the band at http://www.myspace.com/jakilonline or on their Facebook page. Got a band you think we should listen to, or want to let us know what you thought of Jakil? Leave a comment, or email firstname.lastname@example.org