Making a Connection with Johnny Booth

Based out of Long Island, New York, Johnny Booth is a hardcore collective more than ready to take on the big leagues.  Connections is the name of their recent release from Hotfoot Records, produced by none other than Jamie King at The Basement Recording Studios.   The band has extensive touring and the terrific stories from the road to back it all up.  Here is a recent interview we conducted with one of the Johnny Booth members to find out more about their new album, introspective songs, opening for Texas In July, and many other topics of interest…

Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Johnny Booth, and how long the band has been together.
Hello, my name is Andrew Herman and I’m the vocalist for Johnny Booth. The band has been together for a little under 5 years now.

Where is the band based out of and what is the local music scene like? Are there any local bands you could recommend?
It’s actually kind of complicated, we started the band while attending Suny Oneonta, so the first 3 years we were based out of Oneonta, NY. Now that we all have graduated the band has moved back to where we are from, about 4 hours down state on Long Island NY. That being said I think everyone in the band can agree that NY has a really good music scene but it’s definitely different depending on where you are in the state. I think the main issue on Long Island is getting reliable venues that won’t shut down or stop having heavy shows. There are so many great bands in the area but I would definitely say go check out The Viking, FXZERO, Sylar and Crowd Walk – to name a few.

How did your cooperation with Hotfoot Records come about?
After we recorded our full length “Connections” we sent out an EPK to a lot of different labels. When Hotfoot approached us we were in talks with other labels as well but they offered us the best deal… and honestly everyone who works at Hotfoot is local so we can actually talk in person, which is really nice. They’re also very pleasant to work with and we get along with them, so that definitely played a big role in the final decision.

Is there any story or concept behind the Connections CD title?
Well the whole idea behind the title and concept behind the album was inspired by a document written in the 1960’s titled “First Things First” by Ken Garland, a British Graphic designer. It was a pledge to reassess the goals of the industry and what is important in life / society as a whole. I think even though this document was about graphic designers specifically it’s something everyone should read and can apply to there own professions and how they view society. The Album is about taking that concept of stepping back and reassessing ourselves and the world we live in. Originally the title was a full sentence from the document itself: “We propose a reversal of priorities in favor of more useful, lasting and democratic forms of connection.” We wound up just shortening the title and making it more our own by calling it “Connections.”

Select two songs from Connections and what inspired the lyrics.
The second song on the CD titled “Pills for the Havoc,” is about being young and sick in this country. Its mostly about my feelings on the health care issue and is a very personal song for me. About two years ago I saw first hand what happens in this country when you are seriously ill with no health insurance, it’s appalling how little people care until they’re the ones sick.  The last few lines of the song I think sum it up best “let’s make a promise to each other, that our illnesses will not be business. They prey on profit, they prey on profit.”

The last song on the album titled “To Samo, From Samo” which is named after a Jean-Michel Basquiat’s alter ego and graffiti name. I actually wrote this song in the studio.  While we were away recording, I received news of a close relative of mine committing suicide. There are suicidal undertones to a few songs on the album but “To Samo, Fom Samo” is my attempt to come to grips with my thoughts of suicide, my family member committing suicide and a reflection on his life and my own. The final line in this song actually comes from a suicide letter written in the 18th century by Sebastien Chamfort: “And so I leave this world, where the heart must either break or turn to lead.” At the time the letter really resonated with me and I felt like it was fitting in the song.

Who exactly is Johnny Booth and what made you decide to name your band after this individual?
Well John Wilkes Booth is more commonly known as the guy who assassinated U.S. president Lincoln. Originally our name was not serious and more of a play on words; we were called John Wilke’s Booth. We were supposed to just be a booth owned by a guy names John Wilkes. Needles to say no one got it and if you have to explain a joke, it’s not really funny. After the first few months of playing shows we decided changing the name would be in our best interest. Johnny Booth just sort of stuck and we’ve been going by it ever since.

Who did the cover art for Connections and how much input did you have on it?
Our good friend, Sam Carlson (http://Obilex.com, epona8@gmail.com) who we all went to college with when we started this band did the cover art. He is a very talented artist with a lot of digital paint skills. We all sat down, came up with the concept and sent it over to Sam. The album cover we have now is actually the third or forth revision. We definitely had a lot of say in how it looked, but Sam really developed the concept and ran with it. We are more then happy with the results.

What could one expect from a live Johnny Booth show?
Honestly, I don’t know what to expect half the time. Its something we never really spoke about but crazy things always seem to happen. We always try to have a more high-energy type of show. We all like very different music and come from completely different sides of the spectrum so I’ve always felt like we put on a dynamic performance. I think we just try to let go and not think about it, just do it.

What was it like opening for Texas In July and were they cool to hang out with?
That show in particular was a lot of fun, I think they played very well and the crowed was awesome. We actually recorded that show and most of the footage in our “Pills for the Havoc” video was taken there. They were nice guys; we didn’t get a lot of time to hang out with them but they seemed very friendly.

What kind of touring have you done so far, and do you have any unusual or scary stories from the road?
In the past four years, we’ve done a lot in the north east and we’ve gone up and down the east coast. We try to tour and play as much as possible. We have a lot more tours coming up and we recently got signed to a full U.S. and Canada booking agent called The Phoenix Agency. Life on the road is very interesting and crazy… honestly at first it was a little scary we really rely a lot on the kindness of strangers. As we’ve grown and gotten more experience on the road we’ve learned to have a lot more fun with it. There has definitely been a lot of crazy times we’ve had like betting hair in drinking games and seeing people threatened at knife point at 3 AM in Miami. You meet a lot of awesome and interesting people living this kind of life style. One time I spent 3 hours talking to a homeless former jazz musician in Atlanta about reflecting on his life and passed experiences leading him to where he was then. I think one of the weirder things that have happened was when we were staying with a few friends of ours in upstate NY and one of the guys at 4am came running into the room and said it’s great turkey hunting season and started waving a shotgun around. Being on the road can get crazy but I think that’s what you have to love about it to get into this type of industry.

When you look back on your Sagua EP, what do you think of it now? And how does the EP compare to Connections?
I know everyone in the band has different opinions of the Sagua EP, but I still love that EP. I think it’s one of the most honest things I’ve ever done. I’ve never really recorded anything serious before that, so it was a big learning experience for me personally. I feel like the way we go about writing is very much in the moment and about reflecting on what is happening in our lives and society then. I think it’s very hard to compare the two because they came out so far a part, we are just different people now so the full length Connections is very different then Sagua. I do think Connections is a lot more developed and we are all very happy and proud of it.

What’s up next for Johnny Booth?
As of now, Johnny Booth is concentrating on touring and getting our music and message out there. We’ll be printing a lot more merch and really just going for it, we’re not getting any younger, so now is the time to really push ourselves. We are also in the process of writing a new album and already have a few new songs on the way.

Any final words of wisdom?
This industry is definitely a tough one and there are never guarantees in life… but I really do believe if you stay patient and persistent, your goals will be achieved.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions! Hope to see your band out here in the Los Angeles area sometime soon!
Thank you so much I appreciate this opportunity and I guarantee we will be playing Los Angeles someday soon. You can check out any upcoming shows we have on our facebook: facebook.com/johnnyboothmusic or on our website: johnnybooth.com

(Interview by Kenneth Morton)

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