Pennyblackmusic Presents: Johny Brown (Band of Holy Joy) - With Hector Gannet and Andy Thompson @The Water Rats, London, Saturday 25, May, 2024

Headlining are Johny Brown (Band of Holy Joy) With support from Hector Gannet And Andy Thompson
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Mark Vennis And A Different Place - Interview

  by Andrew Twambley and John Clarkson

published: 8 / 3 / 2024

Mark Vennis And A Different Place - Interview


Portsmouth-born but now London-based singer-songwriter Mark Vennis talks to Andrew Twambley and John Clarkson about his band A Different Place’s new mini-album ‘Small Town Vampire’, which reflects on the boredom of small town life.

Portsmouth-born but now London-based singer-songwriter Mark Vennis and his band A Different Place have captured on their punk and new wave-influenced new seven-song mini-album ‘Small Town Vampire’ the soul-sapping dullness of Little England and satellite town living. A lyrical songwriter, Vennis provides “A long list of boredoms that grind you down”- the dead end jobs and unscrupulous bosses that dominate the lives of his characters, the endless predictability, the groundhog and predictable nights out, and the misunderstandings ad the occasional spills of violence that come about as a brief break frpm the monotony. While Vennis has conjured up a nightmare vision of small town life, ‘Small Town Vampire’ is, however, primarily about escape, having the guts to leave however otherwise awful the safeness of routine, and to find something better and an alternative to one’s roots. We spoke to Mark Vennis about ‘Small Town Vampires’. PB: We have read that your music has been somewhat influenced by The Clash, Bob Marley and Paul Weller, but when we listen to ‘Small Town Vampire’ we hear New York Dolls and The Byrds but the lyrics make us think of The Jam and The Members… am we crazy? MV: No not crazy. We are very much influenced by the Clash and Bob Marley and Paul Weller (I think you can hear the influence clearly of the Clash on my last album ‘Fighting on All Fronts’) but, yes, I would say this album is a much more stripped down rock n roll thing. My curse (or blessing) is that I am influenced by many genres of music and these songs seemed to work best with that post punk type of sound. Of course. the Byrds, but also REM and the Smiths. The lyrics - I would say that Joe Strummer and Paul Weller are the biggest influences. Those Jam songs - like ‘Town Called Malice’, ‘Mr Clean’, ‘Man in the Corner Shop’ - lyrically have so much everyday detail in them, I always think they are the musical equivalent of social realist films by directors like Ken Loach. In Joe’s case he brought that humanity to his songs, while joining the dots politically. PB: The album is 24 minutes long and is described as a mini album… what’s the reason for that? MV: They are a set of songs that all belong together - so we released them as that. Short and sweet. PB: Why did you not go for a traditional 10 song album? Was it a case of less being more? MV: We had these seven songs ready to go so… they seemed to be self-contained and thematically all talked to each other. PB: Your lyrics are very much written from the perspective of fighting your way out of a small town and coming up against the evils of power and big business… is that a personal experience of yours? MV: I think everyone has experienced that feeling of powerlessness. We do not often have control over our own lives. I saw with my parents and my friends’ parents how there is no outlet from that routine of work, money, worry and kids. There is that pretence of freedom, but in reality you are meant to stay in your lane. Punk rock allowed an expression of creativity from people who didn’t have it before. And that was a lifeline for me. So yes, kind of a personal experience in the sense that I moved from a small town to London – but wherever you are you are rubbing up against power and big business. PB: You have said that it is not strictly autobiographical. Where does autobiography end and observation begin? MV: I view writing lyrics like writing condensed versions of a book or a film. They tell a story and draw pictures. So, like a book, the lyrics reflects both personal experience and observations. I do not buy into the idea that you can only write about your own personal experience – an essential component of being a good songwriter is empathy and being able to see the world from different perspectives. But, of course, your own life and emotion informs the songs. PB: Is the main aim of ‘Small Town Vampire’ to show that there is the way out of the suffocating small town mentality and “dead eyed scenes” that you so beautifully describe if you have got the guts and determination to do so? MV: My take away is: Be yourself, know that you can map a way out, that music, film, books, art can be a central part of your journey giving you an ability to deal with life’s ups and downs. So yes you can find a way out of that small-minded attitude… although for some of my characters (‘Same Old Story’) you are just stuck in it, despite having these great ideas, you cannot break out of the torpor. Easier just to carry on. PB: Is life, however, really any better in the city or is it “the same old story” on a different scale? MV: Ha. Well that’s another album – the big city album! When you are a teenager the bright lights call, and when you get there, you are right, there are another set of problems to deal with. But the pluses of the city are that it is more anonymous, less judgemental, more vibrant, more multi-cultural and, for a small town kid who feels like an outsider in their hometown, that siren call is very attractive, understandably so. PB: Who are A Different Place? MV: Dave Sweetenham on bass has been with the band since the beginning. Sean Quinn on guitar and backing vox Brian Gee on drums and backing vox And, of course, me on guitar and vocals. PB: Thank you.

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Mark Vennis And A Different Place - Interview

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