Interview: John Hassall & The April Rainers

We were fortunate enough to catch up with the wonderful John Hassall and the April Rainers before their gig at Leicester’s Soundhouse. The project takes on a slightly different sound to John’s other band,The Libertines, and in many ways is a wonderful, idyllic reflection of life in Denmark. The band’s debut album “Wheels To Idyll” is currently streaming on Spotify. 

How did The April Rainers come about?

John: We’ve actually been going for a fairly long time, for about three years. It basically started after I met James in Denmark and then we met Jakob and Erlend. I moved to Denmark in 2008 and so it has been quite a long time since we started especially considering we only released the first song at the end of last year. Now we have the album coming out.

I read that James was working in a bar in Aarhus. How did it go from that to then being a band?

James: I knew that John was somewhere in Aarhus so I tried to keep my eye out for him.

John: He was stalking me!

James: I’m actually a big fan of John’s other band, Yeti (if you don’t know them you should definitely check them out). “Never Lose Your Sense Of Wonder” was a song I played in the pub the night we first met. I knew he was around and bumped into him one day and invited me to his wife’s poetry club where I played a few days later.

Jakob: Did you take a selfie with John when you first met?

James: No I withheld from that, though I was a massive Yeti fan. Playing on one of John’s song was pretty weird.

John: It was a pretty massive coincidence to meet the only Yeti fan in the world in your hometown in Denmark. But yeah thats how it started pretty much, it was very fortuitous that we met each other and we clicked very well.

It seems like it started as more of a creative collective of musicians, were you always aiming to release music as a band?

John: My intention was always to do an album. But you never know what’s round the corner because you meet someone and things take a different turn. I knew when I moved to Denmark that I was going to write some songs.

“Wheels To Idyll” is out officially next week, if you could describe that album in three words what would they be?

John: Optimistic, Joyful, Creative.

James: Mellifluous, varied and… wank! No, floral.

Thats an aura which I got when listening, really positive and optimistic. Is that a vibe you wanted to pursue?

John: My intention was to create something that is positive and optimistic. If I am going to spend time writing a song which takes some time then I want to do something that I enjoy.

Someone actually asked me the other day, an artist friend called Ed who always does really dark depressing art. He asked to swap, I do something dark and depressing and he’ll do something positive and it didn’t work out at all. I find it hard, maybe I should try do something like that at some point.

At the same time you don’t have to be positive in a song to be positive, you can have a slightly dark song which is still optimistic but a bit under the surface.

James: Its about what it is used for, one of my favourite artists is Elliot Smith whom everyone thinks is a depressing song writer yet i’ve never got that from what he has written. Likewise I don’t listen to happy music and get happy, i’m not that manipulable. It is about how it is interpreted by the individual.

John: It boils down to hope really and how far you can translate such hope into a song. It doesn’t have to be “happy clappy.”

The word which hit me is idyllic, it feels like it was made for a wondrous world and everything seems a bit more positive when listening to it…

John: it is quite pastoral and idyllic, thats pretty much what I wanted to relate to and feel in my life.

James: Theres lots of spaces and meadows…

John: It’s not as if every song is about that but its about optimism more than anything and trying to find that in your life and putting it into a song.

Did anyone in particular influence you whilst writing “Wheels To Idyll?”

John: Yeah loads of stuff, personally i’m a big fan of The Beatles, The Zombies and stuff like that. There are different influences there though it doesnt sound anything like them.

One of the songs which impressed us most was “Intercity 125,” what can you tell us about that particular song?

John: I always bang on about this but the idea of the album is about going to see my Granny in the countryside. That song was about taking the train on my own as a kid. It is basically trying to sincerely relate what I was seeing and feeling at the time into a song.

How do you feel this current tour is going?

John: For me it has been really great actually, just driving about the English and Welsh countryside in our massive van. For me it feels like a realisation of everything I wanted to achieve on the album and it has been ideal.

How has travelling to cities which aren’t traditionally toured in before?

James: I am from a town in Kent called Medway which is pretty colourful so i’m quite familiar with towns like Bedford for example where everything isn’t as clean cut and I kinda like that in many ways. I think places like London are great to play in but a lot of people who live there are in a different zone in their heads as well as with who they are.

Erlend: It’s been great man, I’ve never been to Bedford or Cardiff. There was a Polish discothek next to the venue in Bedford and a fight broke out five minutes before the gig. A guy got his teeth knocked out which was quite disturbing.

James: It’s a bit weird being in England in general because living in Denmark you realise just how gated and safe it is.

John: They call it the duck pond because when you are in Denmark it is a really high quality of living and everything is very civilised.

Do you feel like an idyllic album could have been written in somewhere such as London?

John: No I don’t think so. It’s not to say I cant experience the same feelings being in London, you can feel as much joy there as in Denmark.

Obviously you supported Peter Doherty last year in quite large venues, do you feel different coming back to smaller, yet equally nice pub sized venues such as Leicester’s Soundhouse?

James: I think there’s more pressure in a venue such as the Soundhouse. I get more nervous playing smaller venues than I do playing big places. Hackney Empire is the biggest place I’ve ever played, it was like a sea of people.

Erlend: Playing in venues such as this now is what we’re used to having played in other bands.

John: I love doing those big gigs, it was a great pleasure and privilege playing at Hackney Empire.

Beyond this tour, do you have anymore touring commitments in support of the album?

John: We have a couple of festival coming up and we’ll be coming back to the UK to play some more again as well as in our hometown and probably Copenhagen.

Will there be a second album coming? Would it pursue a similar sound to the first?

John: Yeah definitely, I think it would be impossible to keep the same vibe and I certainly wouldn’t try and do that. I think it should come organically, I’ve forced it a little bit sometimes and you can feel that. It has to have heart in it!

Where would you like to see the band in five years time?

James: At the bottom of the ocean!

John: I would like to see us being able to get paid a bit of money to be doing what its doing and to have people getting into the band and appreciate what we are doing.

Check out the video for “Intercity 125” taken from ‘Wheels to Idyll’ below:

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Image via John Hassall & The April Rainers

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