Pic: Bob Gordon
James Knox of J.F.K on reaching the Gozzy Rock Grand Final:
“We had an awesome time at the heat – it was so much fun. Band comps are always a bit of a stressful environment, but the Gozzy Rock team were super nice and so easy to work with and it was such an amazing venue to play at which made the whole experience really positive. We were so stoked to have made the finals and we’re super excited to get up on stage and do our thing again this Sunday – we’re up against some really talented bands so it’s going to be an awesome event.”
With their suits and onstage attitude J.F.K look like they’ve come straight out of a meeting. Their beginnings, however, were a little more serendipitous than that.
“In late 2015, our other band had just decided to call it a day,” recalls vocalist/guitarist, James Knox. “Around that time I had been writing a whole heap of material in my bedroom with the intention of releasing a few demos digitally. I ended up showing the tracks to Rob (bass) and Alex (guitar) who both really dug the vibe and that was the beginning of J.F.K.
“Co-incidentally, Anthony (drums) was in a similar situation with his band breaking up at the same time and was super keen to get on board. Tim (keys) was working in France for most of 2016 and joined the line-up at the start of this year after several months of me begging him to come back to Australia and play with us.”
Given their previously shared musical projects the band gelled quickly but Knox points out that the last six months of gigging and studio work has seen them grow exponentially. Aside from the historical reference in the band’s name, J.F.K’s origins also hint at his earlier solo ponderances.
“I originally considered having a rotating line-up so that regardless of if people were travelling or busy with work we would always be able to play shows,” he explains, “and also because I was a little conflicted about whether I wanted it to be a live ‘solo’ project or a ‘band’.
“After a couple of gigs, I realised that the character of each of the guys was really important to the identity of J.F.K and from that point on we approached things as a band. I knew that regardless of everything else, I wanted to bring energy to the live performance and I think the music I was writing ended up reflecting that. It started as almost-Britpop – influences like Oasis, The Beatles and The Hives – but has gradually become a little bit darker and rockier.
“Our first gig was at a friend’s house party in April last year and I remember wondering about how I was supposed to get up and fool people into thinking I could play guitar and sing. We’ve played so many shows since then and it’s been really cool to look back and see how much we’ve changed since last year. I’m excited to see what the rest of the year has in store for us.”
There’s also elements of garage and psych-rock that add to the band’s dynamic. As an onstage entity Know describes J.F.K as “sweaty, raw, energetic. We wear suits and we like to rock out in them.”
That’s complemented by a frontline of Rickenbacker guitars powered by Vox amps. Knox’s effects rig is housed in a well-worn, brown leather briefcase. The songs themselves go within and beyond the aesthetic, the recently-released single, Always, being another case in point.
“We were all pretty happy with how that track turned out and we’ve definitely got to thank Dave Parkin at Blackbird Studios for helping us out with the production of it,” Knox says. “We had an awesome single launch in July at The Bird and people were actually singing along to the song when we played it, which was such a strange feeling. A couple of community radio stations across the country have been giving it a spin too which is really nice.”
As for highlights thus far in the band’s short history, Knox cites a support for The Belligerents on their 2016 Australian tour before listing an already-impressive run in previous band comps.
“Taking home first place in The Herdy band comp earlier in the year was massive for us,” he notes. “We also managed to make it to the grand final of the Slim’s Jam-Boree where we bowed out to our really good friends in RAKSHA. It’s just been awesome to play with so many great Perth bands and make a whole heap of new mates.”
Another single launch beckons for J.F.K in October before they again return to the studio. Knox is up for anything – it’s his party and he’ll wear a tie if he wants to.
“I think over the next couple of months we’ll really be trying to push hard to get some national radio play,” he says. “I know I’d love to do an East Coast tour at some point next year. And if Glastonbury asks us to play main stage, I guess that would be pretty cool too.”
The 30th Anniversary Gozzy Rock Grand Final happens from 2pm on Sunday, August 27, at the Don Russell Performing Arts Centre with, J.F.K, Farraday’s Cage, Choking Stanley, Hibiscus, Mitchell Martin and Sweet Surrender, with guest sets from previous winners, Young Robyn (2016) and RAKSHA (2014).
J.F.K also perform at The Basso on Friday, August 25, (with Big Orange, Last Quokka and The Casuals) and at The Odd Fellow on Sunday, September 3, (with Dear Creature and Peppermint Showers).