10 Questions with Johnny Blazes & the Pretty Boys



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Thursday, April 7 >>–> event link


10 Questions with Johnny Blazes & the Pretty Boys | 2016 Rock & Roll Rumble

Giving Us The How-To In Band Hazing Rituals.

1] Introduce us to the members of your band. Endearing nicknames and embarrassing stories are welcome.

All of us?! Okay then, buckle up.

First off: Pops and Johnny. Pops (aka J. Johnson) and Johnny Blazes formed The Pretty Boys in 2011 after Johnny had bugged Pops for several years saying “DADDY I WANT A SOUL BAND!!” and he finally caved. Pops, who also goes by ‘Darth Blazes’, and Johnny share authorship of the Pretty Boys music, as well as organizational duties. They’ll be answering the following questions together.

In the rhythm section we have Diane ‘Dru’ Gately on drums, Kearney Kirby on bass, and Justin Francos on keys.  Dru came to us with the nickname, which is apparently short for ‘Drummypants.’ Kearney has been a friend of the Blazes family since Johnny was a wee tyke, and you can still find LPs from her 80s New Wave bands November Group and Wunderkind at least one Somerville record shop under ‘Local Music.’ Justin loves ice cream sundaes so much that one year he dressed a sundae for Halloween, changed his outgoing email name to express his love, and ate one every night every band practice.

The horn section is: David Aquilina on trumpet, Barry Davis on tenor sax, and Kat Dobbins on trombone. David is the only remaining original member of The Pretty Boys. He remembers the golden, olden days of practicing in Johnny’s burlesque/drag rehearsal room, playing the basement of Jacques with no heat, and other brand-new-band hijinks. Barry is a local boy who always invites his grandma to our shows, and has so far failed to shock the nuns at the school where he works with the lyrics of our songs. Kat is the newest member of the Pretty Boys, and was completely unfazed by our traditional hazing ritual of Johnny surprising the newest member by getting mostly naked onstage with no warning.

Our back up singers are Abigail Courage, Martine Bernard, and Alli Thresher. Abby gets tipsy off of one beer, which means her infectiously joyful laughter just becomes more plentiful. Johnny’s favorite way to elicit Abby’s laugh is to come up with create ways of hugging her hello: the around the knees hug, the lift-you-off-the-ground hug, etc. Martine pretends to be a good church-choir-singing girl, but is as sassy and sultry as the rest when you put her in a sequin dress and hand her a microphone. Alli affectionately refers to Johnny as their “older younger brother” since Johnny tends to look out for Alli with an older sibling attitude, despite being a year younger.

Our newest member is Morgan Thomson, who is doing booking and management for the Pretties. Johnny and Morgan met at Girls Rock Campaign Boston, where they were Band Coach and Band Manager for a group of awesome 9-year-olds who wrote a song about how there are “no girl-colors and no boy-colors” and anyone can wear pink or blue. Totally unprompted by us, we swear…

2] What makes for a compelling live performance?

Pops: We are at our best when the band plays like their asses are on fire and Johnny has the crowd in their hands.

Johnny: When watching other people perform, I’m most compelled by performers who have a strong stage persona. Whether it’s big and loud, or quiet and intimate, I want to see a sense of presence and intentionality in all of the performers – though especially in the person fronting.

3] If you could travel back in time through the history of popular music – to an era, a decade, a music scene – which would it be and why?

Pops: With this band, I would want to be back in the late 70’s opening for Tower of Power or Parliament/ Funkadelic… which is probably why we sound the way we do!

4] Today we look at the legends of rock to include the likes of The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, and so on. Who will be the legends of rock in 20 yearsand why?

Pops: [to Johnny] You should take a shot at this one – I have pretty low opinions of the pop/rock scene these days, and music has become so splintered and fragmented in my view that such legends are mathematically impossible today, much less 20 years out in the future. Also, with the horrible nonsense going on with Kesha, I am increasingly cynical about “legends” and “icons” and what really happens behind the scenes. Everything now sounds like IBM Watson got a hold of Pro Tools and created predicable shit designed to create mp3 download sales.

Johnny says: I agree with Pops, though kind of for different (less grumpy-old-man-ish) reasons. I think that the distinctions of genre are slipping away, and I’m not sure that ‘rock’ as we know it is going to continue to exist.  I also think that because taste (among the general public, and among people dedicated to learning about and understanding music) has become so diverse and spread out, we may not see the kinds of ‘legends’ that have existed in the past. I think there will be people who made their mark and whose names will live on, but they may be more in the pop, hip hop, and dance end of the spectrum as we move forward than in the ‘rock’ end.

5] Who is your favorite past Rumble band(s)? Hint: there have been 36 Rumbles before this year.

RUMBLE 1979 WINNERS: THE NEIGHBORHOODS! …Did we mention that Dave Minnehan is our producer?

6] What does your band hope to get out of this experience? 

Pops: We’re sincerely hoping to connect with fans, grow our audience, gain some recognition for our hard work, sell millions of copies of our record, buy a desert island in Boston Harbor, open a recording studio there and keep the rock scene thriving in Boston.

Johnny: Yeah, everything except the island part. I get seasick.

7] What are you doing to prepare? 

Johnny: I’ve got all the Pretties coming to the circus gym where I teach to cross-train on aerials, floorwork, and juggling. Everyone is on a strict diet of wheatgrass, quinoa, and dark chocolate, and is required to get at least 9 hours of sleep a night. The singers are tightening up their dance moves, the horns are polishing their licks, and Pops is fining everyone $5 per wrong note.

8] There are hundreds of new bands all over Boston and New England. Tell us about a few of your favorites. 

Not new, but very beloved by us: Sidewalk Driver, Walter Sickert & the ARmy of BRoken Toys, Jaggery, What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?, Bury Me Standing, Petty Morals, Axemunkee. New/new-ish: A Bunch of Jerks, Mission Creep, Unstraight. Our pal Julie Rhodes just put out her debut album and it’s killer!

Definitely do NOT have any love for the band we used to rehearse next door to in Charlestown who would put their bass cab right up against the wall and play as loud and testosteronely as possible. We’re pretty sure their name is Penis: The Band.

9] Describe your sound in 10 words or less.

Pops: “When you hear the horn blow, be ready to go!” (George Clinton)

Johnny: “I hope you dance…” (Lee Ann Womack)

10] What do you have to say to the 23 other bands?

We love you! It’s our honor to be sharing the stage with you, and we’re so glad that everyone’s here making Boston’s music scene the thriving, vibrant thing it is. Rock on!


bostonemissions.com | rockandrollrumble.com



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