It was recorded in a garage in Wigan, which is just northwest of Manchester. Drummer Jordan Lilford describes the entire week-long session as cold, cramped, and tenuous. By the end of it, they had all started to unnerve each other.
It wouldn't be the first time. Tall For Jockeys came together shortly after the bassist from their original band called it quits. They almost continued down that path, but then decided to use the departure as a catalyst. They recruited another longtime friend to play bass, changed the sound, changed the name, and changed everything until it felt more focused.
"[Josh] Reid woke up in the middle of the night with the name and asked us our thoughts," says Lilford. "Cal was the first to say that the name sounded like a pop punk band. But he's just a new bassist so we went with the name anyway."
Get Japan On The Phone by Tall For Jockeys is alternative rock at its grungy best.
Tall For Jockeys never intended to be labeled a grunge band, but the moniker seems to be sticking. And there is some good and bad associated with the term. While almost everybody loves a bit of grunge, nobody ever expects it to evolve. It was about a place in time, a bright and burning retread of rock and roll.
"Everyone's a critic now and there are a lot of loose comparisons that get thrown around," says Lilford. "I don't think we try to set ourselves apart. We just do whatever comes naturally because there wouldn't be any fun in doing stuff that's already been done."
What is fun for the band is being "blown away" as an opening act at the Ruby Lounge. Jay Taylor has been very supportive of the new band, enough to put them on the ticket with reasonably established acts like Those Darlins and The Calimocho Club. They'll add Future Of The Left to that list this month.
"Everything is very much a group effort. Someone usually brings in a riff or two they like to rehearsal and we all bounce ideas around," says Lilford. "Once the music is all there, Josh Reid writes his 'feelings' into the music."
The EP kicks off with Riptide, a song that singer/guitarist Reid (he trades rhythm and lead guitar duties with Whelo) brought into rehearsal as a skeleton before the band started building chords, beats, and melodies around it. It's easily one of their most accessible songs with distorted guitars, sludgy bass line, down tempo drums, and Reid's melodic but straining anxiousness.
As good as Riptide might be, the band has taken to opening gigs with Louis TherouXXX, a cock rocker that they originally scrapped. Recast with its chugging guitar open and throwback feel, it's easy to understand why the band opens up with the angst-laden driver. It sets a furious stage pace that immediately draws attention.
"Heir started as a jam that just happened at practice," says Lilford. "The slow breakdown happened accidentally. And then Reid started screaming lines over the top and suddenly we brought something more sinister in the world."
The lyrics to Heir are perhaps some of Reid's most compelling work. Tall For Jockeys turns death on its head and focuses in the survivors, especially those waiting around for a cut of the pie. "You're an oxygen thief. You're an oxygen thief. I'll make the funeral plans if you write the will," dares Reid at the climatic finish.
Of course, everything is subject to change. The band has put together several more songs that they'll be testing out live in Manchester this summer. While Lilford says it's too soon to think about about a full length, they already have one "anthemic" track that's near completion. And, because some members study in Leeds, they plan to add that city to their roster too.
"It's just a loose base for us sometimes, I suppose," says Lilford. "Cal's house is pretty disgusting though, so we prefer to stay away. As I said earlier, we try not to take this too seriously. Too many bands try too hard and it's sad to see them flogging themselves."
Call Japan On The Phone By Tall For Jockeys Rings 9.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
As an emerging alternative rock band from Manchester (although most are from nearby Warrington), Tall For Jockeys is a band to watch from afar. While some elements of the music do take a nod from grunge, there is a noticeable diversity in their arrangements, play style and potential.
While Call Japan On The Phone is not for sale, you can still find it online. All four tracks are available for free download via Bandcamp. No email is required, but you can be a sport and set your own price for each song. You can also follow the band on Facebook, where they post upcoming gigs and other things that they just happen to like. Hat tip to Christian Van Fields and Rob Lawson for the first rate garage production.