Interview: Jonnie Hodson of Silveroller

Formed around guitarist Aaron Keylock and vocalist Jonnie Hodson, Silveroller are the new band that you have been waiting on. Cutting their teeth on dates with Jared James Nichols and DeWolff, the fledgling five-piece impressed with each gorgeous guitar lick and soul-drenched vocal, here’s the Reverend Jonnie with the background on Silveroller:

What are the origins of the band, how long have Silveroller been playing together?

The origins really are myself and Aaron being lost musically, not being satisfied with what we were doing at the time we met, and looking for an escape within each other, which we certainly found when we started jamming and writing together. It took a little while and a lot of roadblocks to clear in front of us to get to Silveroller, but now we’re here we are extremely proud of the work we’ve all done and we’re looking forward to sharing more music with everyone. Myself, Joe [Joe Major, drums], and Aaron have been playing together since 2019, so it’s been a while in the making. Ross [Ross Munro, organ] and Jake [Jake James Cornes, bass] are the latest additions to the band and they’re the key ingredients to us I think, they are both masters of their craft.

What should people expect when they check the band out? How would you describe Silveroller?

I think “honesty” is the best way I’d describe it. From onstage to the recorded versions of the songs. We only used click on one tune on the record, there’s no auto-tune on the vocals, no special gizmos, the band played live in the room recording the songs and I sang live with the band, I did other vocal takes too but we didn’t want to produce the life out of it. We wanted it to sound like us. Apart from Ese and sister Sheena, that’s all that’s going on on the record, us playing. Live is the same, we don’t have the girls with us yet, but eventually, we’d like harmony singers onstage. The performances are honest too, if we’ve had a bad day or things have been tough on the road it translates to a very energetic performance, everybody takes it out on stage.

How did you feel performing your first gig as a band, and how was it?!

The first Silveroller show was great, it felt like months of work flowing out of us like a big release of energy. It was a nice big stage too and I think we always come across better on bigger stages, everyone has room to move and it makes for a better show I think. We’d only had a couple of rehearsals so it was raw. Loved every second of it!

Watching the band opening for Jared James Nichols, it was obvious that there is a great deal of confidence within the band, was that confidence there from day one? Does a band know that they have created something special, or does it take an outsider to point it out?

I think everyone has confidence in each other, for sure. For me it’s almost like looking around the band, going “These guys are all killer at what they do, so I mustn’t be half bad myself!” Then it’s about keeping the energy up and listening to the way the music is flowing. It is of course lovely getting good feedback but I learned a while ago that all feedback is subjective, it’s great when it’s nice, but we always just keep doing what we do, which we understand isn’t for everyone. That’s fine too. If you want to join the ride, hop on, there’s room for everybody!

The sound that Silveroller creates on a live stage is organic and seems to have been cooked up on the spot, which songs have you created out of a jam between the band?

I’d say all of them have been jammed out to a various degree. Me and Aaron do a lot of writing together, but it’s usually bare bones, verse, chorus, verse chorus, middle eight, etc, and then we flesh it out with the boys. Sometimes Aaron has a specific idea of how he wants the boys to play a solo section, sometimes we just feel it out. That said, some songs are just totally organic, like ‘Hold’, our first single, which was written in almost real-time in the rehearsal room. There’s varied amounts of jamming onstage too, sections are just left to “keep your eyes on who’s leading and wait for the nod”. We don’t just want to play the songs by numbers, we don’t rehearse stuff to death, we want an air of “seat of the pants” to it haha.

The saxophone is quite a polarising instrument – unless you grew up on Springsteen which means it sparks some heartfelt memories – but it works when your keys player Ross breaks it out, what was it about ‘Nobody’s Business’ that you felt it needed some sax?

‘Nobody’s Business’ is a tune that’s had several lifetimes, when Ross came in and we knew he could play sax we asked him to play the outro solo on that song, we wanted something a little different. Ross is amazing, he plays a few things on the record too as well as organ and keys, and has a great ear for harmony, so he is a key part of what we do.

Two tracks have been released so far: lead single ‘Hold’ and the recent follow-up ‘Come On, Come In’, are you working on a debut album at the minute, and if so, what can people expect from it?

There’s a record on the way, it’s somewhere in between an EP and an album. It clocks in around the same time as the early Zep records or Bad Company’s debut album. There might be another single or two before it’s out, but it’s ready to go. I don’t want to give dates, these things have a habit of changing, and with the 18 months we’ve had, we’ve learned all too well that nothing is truly set in stone until it has happened. I’d say it’s a good spread of what we do, and how we sound. I’m proud of it, getting any type of Silveroller record out to the world has been much harder than you’d think, for reasons I won’t go into. It’s an understatement to say that we’ve had a lot of problems thrown at us by people who were supposed to be in our corner. We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve done so far and what’s coming. We’re not complaining though. I’m sure a lot of bands have had a bunch of various issues as well!

Silveroller will be out on the road in March 2024 opening for DeWolff, who were also part of the Jared James Nichols tour, there seems to be a lot of love between both bands. What is your best memory of the tour with Jared?

Telling Pablo from DeWolff I’m an ordained Reverend in a service station and him becoming an ordained Reverend by the time we’d reached Glasgow was a funny moment! Getting to play to a bunch of new music fans we’d not reached yet will always be the highlight. The level Silveroller are at, everything is on a budget, so there’s a lot of squeezing too many people into hotel rooms, trying to cut corners, etc, so it’s a real thrill getting onstage every night and seeing the reaction. There’s certainly a lot of love between Silveroller and DeWolff! We’re so grateful we got the offer to tour with them again. I’d just like to mention Jared too, he’s one of the hardest-working men in the business, he never stops working and he kills it onstage night after night, the consummate pro, and a gentleman.

Have you used your new-found status as an ordained Reverend to get yourself out of a sticky situation yet?

No sticky situations as such! Although I have certainly confused a fair few street preachers trying to convince me to join one religion or another. I’m not religious in the slightest, I don’t believe in much that requires belief without evidence. I usually put the argument forward that music is my religion. I love telling them that my god is Muddy Waters and when they tell me that’s ridiculous, I ask them to produce a photograph of their god because I can sure produce a photograph of mine… you might imagine how this goes. It’s always good-humoured on my part! I think their reaction ranges from confusion to fury! So it probably gets me into more situations than it gets me out of!

Excluding yourself, which new band would you like to see break out and become a success?

Well, everybody in a sense! Although some particular favourites are Creepin’ Jean, The Dead Medicine Band, The Crystal Teardrop, Karma Sheen, and our buddies Penny Fade back in Liverpool. Some great outfits there! I’d love to see our friends DeWolff getting a bunch of attention, hopefully, on the tour we’re supporting them on haha! Great guys, great music, great stage wear.

What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?

I went to see the legend that is Robert Plant, it was beautiful. He’s certainly the model guy for not having an ego and being the guy in the band. Honestly, it truly moved me, and it was a vocal lesson, too!

What current social issues are you particularly passionate about?

Just speaking for myself on this and not necessarily a spokesperson for Silveroller, but there are so many. For me, homelessness in Liverpool and so many other major cities is heartbreaking. I’m worried about the NHS and its hardworking staff, it’s being dismantled and horrifically underfunded before us and the government isn’t doing enough to support vulnerable people. I’m worried about the amount of misinformation flying around on social media too. People from outside the city still buy The S*n and think it’s actually a newspaper. The media manipulate narratives, very cleverly, with the subtle use of language which is an incredible injustice in my eyes. It’s extremely hard to grow up in Liverpool and not have strong opinions, the city has been oppressed, like so many working-class areas. I’m truly worried that as humans our relationship with the planet we live on is so far away from what it should be, and its preservation seems to come second to profit. On the whole, I’m concerned for the world, but then I think most songwriters are to an extent. Honestly, if I think for too long about social issues I’d burst into tears.

What are your first musical memories? And what was the lightbulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?

There are a couple that stand out, hearing The Sweet blasting through the car stereo on holiday as a kid, driving around in rural Somerset. That was really the beginning. Then getting into Queen, but the lightbulb moment was when Queen toured with Paul Rodgers. I didn’t know what that fella down there onstage hollering Tie Your Mother Down, in a way I’d never heard it sung before, had, but my god I needed a slice of it. From there, discovering blues and soul music started to kick it all off. It seems like magic to me that stuff. Music from another dimension almost.

The album that you have in your album collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people?

I don’t think I’m that surprising really! I’m probably pretty easy to read with that stuff. I’ve got Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton on vinyl, and Teaser and The Firecat? Does that surprise people? Haha. I love early Elton, Cat Stevens is a fabulous songwriter too, I love his voice. Maybe Squeeze would be a surprise, I dig their songwriting but I only really know the singles. Apart from that it’s probably what you’d expect, rock n’ roll, blues and soul, mainly. I’m looking for Buddy Guy and Junior Wells Play The Blues and Otis Blue by Otis Redding on vinyl if anybody has spare copies! Haha.

What would be your album of 2023?

Oooh goodness me, there’s a question. For new releases, Rival Sons did a fantastic job and always do. I love Jay Buchanan, he’s a true modern-day vocal hero. Midnight Rose by Paul Rodgers was a nice surprise, the title track is beautiful. I think I’ve listened to a bunch of favourites too, Father’s and Sons by Muddy Waters is often spinning on my record player at home.

What does 2024 hold for Silveroller?

A debut release and lots of playing live I hope, we’re very much looking forward to getting back to Scotland! Scots love their rock n’ roll and Glasgow especially reminds me of home. Apart from the record and tour, more writing, recording, and creating.

 

All live images – Dave Jamieson

2024 tour dates with DeWolff:

13 March – Newcastle, The Cluny
14 March – Edinburgh. The Voodoo Rooms
15 March – Aberdeen, The Tunnels
16 March – Glasgow, Hug & Pint
17 March – Manchester, Night & Day
19 March – Bristol, The Louisiana
20 March – Oxford, The Bullingdon
21 March – Nottingham, Bodega
22 March – Hastings, Black Box
23 March – London, Omera

Connect with Silveroller online, here.

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