Volume 93, Issue 30
Friday, October 22, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Johnny Faourite amongst the young'uns
Photo by Chris Wahl
EVERYBODY IN SINGLE-BREASTED SUITS. The Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra bring their finest duds and swinging sound to The Embassy tonight.
By Michael Murphy
Waiting for Johnny Favourite to call, I reassure myself by thinking I've got him all figured out a pin-striped, slick-haired crooner with a 12 piece swing band.
Though some might assume Favourite would have rather lived in the swinging, big band-aided 1930s than in the shadow of Y2K, it takes very little time for him to debunk these presumptions. "No they didn't have Playstation then," he quips. "Plus, medicinally, everything was horrible."
Somewhat discouraged, but not yet beat, I push on, insinuating the Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra is heavily steeped in '30s big band nostalgia. "I take it you haven't seen us live," he rejoins dryly. "If you see us live, you wouldn't think anything about nostalgia. Not when one of the guys is naked, wrapped in cellophane and crowd surfing."
At this point, I give up and decide it may be best to simply let the man speak for himself. "I like popular American song," Favourite says in an attempt to explain his art. "People like Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone and all those kinda guys. Mostly it's in the lyrics like Gershwin songs."
So what does he think of contemporary songwriters? "I admit there's some little navel-gazers around today that just write beautiful words," he falsely enthuses, coating each word in a thick syrupy sarcasm. "I mean like, the message in the Sarah McLachlan song 'I Will Remember' over and over again. I don't think Gershwin has anything on a songwriter like that, but it's still pretty good stuff."
Asked about the words to his own songs, Favourite replies with something approaching sincerity. "The lyrics I write, I just sort of make up and then practice. Sometimes I stumble on something and then work on it a little bit."
Originating in Halifax, the Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra released its major label debut in 1998. Holiday Romance sold fairly well and helped the group build a considerable fan base in Canada. First-year Western students may remember the band as the surprise musical act who kicked off this year's frosh week.
Favourite says he enjoyed playing for Western's frosh, but admits he wasn't exactly in on the surprise. "It was great, except I didn't know it was the surprise band thing," he relates. "I was standing backstage and I'd just found out this was a surprise for the kids. I think they were expecting the Tea Party or I Mother Earth or something."
Apparently his insecurities were unfounded. "When they announced us I was holding my breath because I was just waiting for a big groan to come from the crowd, but nobody did."
One topic that gets a guaranteed groan out of Favourite is the state of pop music. Bring up the current scene and he quickly draws from his well of sardonic wit and razor-sharp sarcasm.
"The number one recording artist is a 17 year-old virgin with breast implants singing, 'Hit me baby one more time,'" he declares. "I don't know, to me that's pretty fucking good right there that's the height of pop culture."
The discussion circles back to Holiday Romance and its successor, which is now in the works. "The album's a year old this month," Favourite says. "It was a nice little snapshot of where we were then, but we're a completely different band now. Our new songs aren't even swing it's a departure."
The Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra forsaking swing? Sounds far-fetched, but perhaps it isn't. After all, a quick and lively mind like Johnny Favourite's probably can't stay in one place for very long.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999