Trampolene Interview: From Swansea to Hornsey

Amelia Ward caught up with lead singer of Trampolene and The Libertines' tour poet to talk Wales, wordsmiths and working class heroes.

Skiddle Staff

Date published: 31st Oct 2017

Image: Trampolene (credit - Simon Sarin, source)

Having simmered away just under the mainstream radar for a year or two, Swansea natives Trampolene have finally released their anticipated debut album Swansea to Hornsey. The album is a breath of fresh air for fans of lyric-led guitar music; Jack's uncompromising spoken word in his gritty Welsh drawl is the perfect, unexpected accompaniment to the band's irresistible garage rock n roll bangers that document their journey over their adult years so far, metaphorical and geographical.

In recent years, they've toured extensively and received praise from some of the industry's most influential tastemakers, with Huw Stevens premiering their single 'The Gangway' in 2016, as well as repeated support from John Kennedy on Radio X.

An unlikely friendship that grew between them and The Libertines led to Jack joining the band on the road as their tour poet and playing guitar for Pete Doherty on his solo tour. With the album just out and support slots for Liam Gallagher on the horizon, we caught up with lead singer Jack Jones to talk about Wales, wordsmiths and working class heroes.

Hello, how's the dictaphone going?

We had a drama with batteries...

Ah, a classic, I do that every time. In fact when I was younger my friend asked for batteries for christmas, it really blew me away, i thought he was the coolest kid ever, when I was about 10. Here's me trying to get Fireman Sam and he's all over it with the batteries.

He sounds like an old head on young shoulders! 

Yeah he was one of those. Lives in Australia now. Goes surfing all the time, he doesn't need batteries for surfing.

Haha, well back to the UK, where are you and what are you upto today? 

I'm at my flat in London, in my one room, no, my one half a room, I'm sharing a room with my sister at the moment.

How often do you go back to Swansea?

Now and again, not as much as I should do. I'm afraid I'm gonna get my 'ead kicked in by all the boys!

Ha! Well congratulations on the album, for those that maybe aren't familiar with what you do, how would you describe your sound?

I know, shit, I need to do something about that! Well I'd describe us as a traditional British rock and roll band with a bit of spoken word in it, thats kind of what it is I suppose, without trying to be too pretentious [laughs].

You've achieved a lot since you started as a band but are only just releasing an album, was it a conscious decision to take it slowly?

That's sweet, thank you. And no, we were making everything as we went along if you know what I mean, we didn't gave a record deal, we were going into the studio when someone dropped out or if there was a free day, we didn't have a massive amount of time to make a record really, we were going in and had time to do two or three songs and then put them out and do another few new songs and it just grew.
 
Then we decided to make the album after we'd been in and out of Konk Studios [founded by The Kinks] for 4 years, we made 5 mini albums and had the the genius idea to call them 'Pocket albums' and confuse the fuck out of everyone!
 
What's the craic with the Pocket Albums?
 
Well it was more than an EP and I thought it was a cooler way than having... actually here's how it all started at the beginning, we didn't have CDs or nothing, we had everything on a USB, so on there we'd have music, videos, some poems I'd done, some of the paintings that Wayne did, our bass player paints.
 
So it was kind of like a little insight into our world that you can keep in your pocket, so that's where the idea came from, writing, art, loads of mad stuff, funny little things. Then in the end when they got transferred to iTunes and all that, we just kept it with the same name. We've done five of those mini records, two EPs and a single.
 
Do you think you've carried any of that sort of concept of it being a collection over to the new album?
 
Yeah, I believe we have, with the new album we've showed our journey so far, it's like our story as a band, our truth if that makes any sense. The poems worked their way on there, at the start they were just something I did because I had to, but then they grew and had this life of their own. The record has one at the beginning one at the middle and one at the end, the start is like our life in Swansea and side B is when we decide to head up town to that dirty city! God knows why.
 
Do you feel like you're more known for your spoken word stuff or your music?
 
Both I think, primarily the poems were a sort of gateway to the music. It was strange at gigs when we did the poems peolpe would be like 'Shut up and play the guitar', but as time went on, we got this whole other audience and people didn't realise it all comes together so they were like 'Stop playing guitar and do some poems'. So it turned totally on it's head. I feel like now, people get its all part of it. I'm unbelievably grateful to the poems.
 
 
Who's your favourite writer?

Dylan Thomas, definitely. I grew up with a mad complex when I was a kid because I was angry he was more famous than I was! I remember being angry that I had to learn his poems in school, I hated him! And then I when I left school I appreciated him more. I didn't do well at school, I was kicked out and I was dyslexic so I hated every second of English, it happened really late for me, I didn't get into it until I was 18 or 19 and then I started reading. It changed my life. I started to have more belief in things, the spelling was probably all terrible nobody could probably understand it!

John Cooper Clarke said your poetry is 'exceptional', how do you react to accolades from such respected artists?
 
Yeah that was a complete shock. When I started doing the poems people said it's like John Cooper Clarke, straight away they put it together. When I started getting into him and listening to him I was blown away that anyone would ever mention me with him, I felt lucky that people would even think i was at all like him. Then someone must have sent him a poem or something and I got a lovely message from him, I had a big smile on my face that day.
 
 
 
What was it he said to you?
 
He said something like it was exceptional poetry or something like that... I can remember it perfectly, why am I pretending I can't haha. He said it was 'exceptional poetry, funny and depressing at the same time and it's not often you can say that about something'. Everything else is irrelevant now I can go home and go to my grave with a smile on my face!

Obviously you have had a lot to do with the Libertines, how did you fall in with them and do you think it's had an impact on your sound?

Yeah, and again that has a lot to do with the poems. When me and Wayne first moved to London, we met Carl years ago now and our van had broke down on the side of the road and I was changing the tyre and someone tapped me on the shoulder asking if I need a hand and it was Carl! Somehow we stayed in touch, so over the years he was kind of just asking how we were doing, that type of thing.

He'd somehow stumbled across them on a mad Youtube binge and he asked to meet me, when I did he started narrating my own peoms back to me and they asked if I'd be this Libertines tour poet kind of thing. So on all the arena shows I'd go out just before the band and I'd do 'Ketamine', 'Poundland' and then their own poem that they asked me to write for them, 'To Be A Libertine'.

Pete had a solo album coming out but didn't ask me himself personally about playing guitar for him. The first big Trampolene show, we had sold out Water Rats and it was a really big deal for us, the first time we had sold out a 250 capacity venue. We thought that life couldn't get any better, so we went on a massive night out, and at about 1pm the day after I had a missed call off Peter's manager and I rang him back and he said 'Peter wants you to be his new guitar player, what do you think?', and I think my exact words were 'fucking right' or something like that!

And then I was on a flight to Buenos Aires at 7pm that night. I had 23 songs to learn in about a day, then I learnt them all somehow, then as soon as I'd learnt them all I had to learn a different 22 by the time I'd got there!

Were you in to the Libertines when you were younger?

Yeah I was, I'd heard of them, I knew their hit songs but I'd never seen them play and it was interesting for me to get to know them and study the guitar players and get to know their songs that way, that was when I started to appreciate and really love their songs. They are so intricate, you wouldn't think this of the boys but they're very well thought out, there are intricacies and little things that Peter does that really make them special.

The first thing people think about when they think of Pete isn't his songwriting but that is the main reason that I think about him, and it's the main reason that he got where he was. He's extremely gifted with his words and as a guitar player too, he's got these massive hands and can play some bloody strange chords. But yeah, that was a big learning thing to me, that's how I got into it.

Do you think that meeting them and spending time with them has had an impact on you personally and musically?

It must have, the way I live my life and everything I experience becomes what my songs are and what the bands is so it must have influenced it. I've never sat down and said let's do a Libertines style song but your friends influence your life and I've probably been with Peter more than anyone else the past year of my life, so he's a big influence in music but actually in life too.

Philosophically, just by the way he lives his life, he can make you think about your own. The way he is, not related to drugs or anything, just naturally the way he is, he's a very different person. Without any of that stuff, the way he thinks. Sometimes he'll see something, it's like he doesn't feel pressure from anyone, the normal pressures in life dont seem to apply to him, he's got his own clock and that's what he lives by and it doesn't matter what else needs to be done.

He's a very emotional man, if he does something and he feels in a certain moment it's like he can't escape it or move away from it. It's all about that moment for him. that's the journey of the artist, he lives the life of an artist, so the way he sees things and the way he experiences things is all part of it, whether he's having a bowl of cereal or painting a massive canvas.

When you're around someone who's that in tune with stuff, I get surprised by the things he notices or the things he'll see, like a pattern in his cereal bowl or something haha. If he sees something that he thinks is beautiful he wont be able to go outside for a day or something ha. He's like that. He's the best person to be around.

So from one rock star to another, you're supporting Liam Gallagher on tour, I bet you're probably sick of talking about it, how does that feel?

I could talk about that for the rest of my life! I can't wait!

Would you say that Liam's music and Oasis were a part of your life when you were younger or do you feel like you were too young when they were around?

Yeah, I was saying this to Wayne yesterday, I suppose they were before but it feels like they are such a massive part of the country's culture that it's almost like they've always been there anyway. I remember my old man singing 'Slide Away' to me when I was in the bath when I was a kid. Their music has always been around my house and in my life for as long as I can remember. 

Just to go back to what you said before about when you moved to London, I feel like it's not really 'cool' to like stuff like that anymore, do you think there's maybe a bit of snobbery around admitting in some ways?

It is such a working class thing. It's like a classic rags to riches tale, so if you're young and don't have much money or hope you can always think, one day, I could be in the biggest band in the world. It's like the Beatles story, it hones in on being working class and it's about defying the odds as well. But I totally know what you mean, in London, when I first came here, I always remember this, I was into rock and roll, that was what I wanted I had no shame in it.

But then when I went round east London, it was like looked down up on, it wasnt electronic or Radiohead or The xx, this other world of things. To those people in that scene, rock n roll is the most boring uncool thing in the world but to me its the most invigorating and loyal music there is. It's funny you should say it because I thought it when I came, that I've come to a town to play music that I love and actually everyone here fucking hates it! I suppose Liam has helped to bring the sort of music we love back into the mainstream recently.

You've had a lot to do with This Feeling (read more about them here) and are touring with them soon, how important do you think they are for guitar music and bands? 

They're the only ones. Mikey [Mikey Jonns] is amazing, I will praise that man until the day i die! We've been doing the tours with Mikey and This Feeling for three or four years and this is the first tour where a lot of them are sold out so it shows how the tide is changing.
 
 
You played at the reopening of the Bataclan in Paris, how much of an effect do you think it has had that those sorts of incidents are becoming more regular, both on artists and fans?
 
Hmm this is a good one. I think probably in years to come I'll be prouder of that than I am of a lot of things. It was two nights and that was one of my first shows playing guitar for Peter, there was a big French tour after that. Me and Pete have talked about this. If you even have the dread of knowing something like that could happen, it rallies him up more to go out there and do the best show he can.
 
I don't know if it's affected anyone as such in their actions. There seems to be a lot of defiance in people. As far as from the artists point of view, we've always just gone out there and done it and thought if that's gonna happen to us so be it, its just harrowing to even think about. I suppose if there's any sort of silver lining it's just that people have come together.
 
On a slightly lighter note and finally, you have an unlimited amount of money, a time machine and one day, what do you do?
 
Oh wow, what a great question! Well, there's so much you could do but what I would do is go back in time, see my grandad again and buy him some fish and chips. Oh I'm gonna cry now!!