Reverend and the Makers discuss new album Heatwave In The Cold North and importance of staying grounded
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The latest musical offering from the Sheffield stalwarts combines their typically on point and honest world view, combined with a sonic palette that will continue to surprise and challenge listeners who think they have Reverend And The Makers all sussed out. Spoiler: They don’t.
It was only natural to spend a little time discussing the new album, continued relevance in an ever-changing music scene, a dash of politics, as well as what we'd say to our younger selves if given the opportunity.
“I feel very lucky, as there’s a lot of bands from our era who have gone by the wayside and I think it’s a real shame”, notes Jon McClure (The Reverend)
The forthcoming Heatwave In The Cold North is the seventh studio album in sixteen years from the Sheffield quintet, and follows a 2019 Best Of… I would argue perhaps that moniker was a little too soon.
It’s a perfect encapsulation of the band’s urge to now shatter their own artistic parameters with a blend of out-and-out Pop, R’n’B, and Classic Soul. An ode to Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfrield and long hazy afternoons, the softly spangled psychedelic soul of ‘High’ sets the listener up for a melodic ear-worm which continues in the rich vein of previous hit single ‘Heatwave’.
“You never think you’re going to be in a band when you’re in your forties. You know, ‘one album and you’re out’ sort of thing. To still be doing it and it going from strength to strength is amazing really”
The words of gratefulness and humility come forth from Jon with an ease, something that belies his vocal, outspoken even, and passionate discussions, whether that focuses on their music, politics or the state of the world we’re in today.
It pains me to say that much of the press has done a bit of a disservice to the Reverend and the Makers over the years, in an age where bands can drift on rambling soliloquies of depth, expansive sounds without substance and the interminable enduring of their musical output, Jon retains a firm grounding in his working class roots, ever aware… and that irrepressible pride in his Yorkshire roots.
Never one to rest on their laurels and a musical collective constantly striving to challenge perceptions of the band, Reverend and the Makers have become one of the enduring and great survivors of the British music scene. From Top 10 hits like 'Heavyweight Champion of the World' to recent singles, 'High', 'Problems' and current single 'A Letter To My 21 Year Old Self', I would posit that this album is their strongest, most soulful and affecting body of work released to date.
In spite of the groundswell of anticipation for their (admittedly rather damn good) latest album, he remains the everyman who cares for one and all… it’s a breath of fresh air. Say summat of note or nowt at all. The way it should be.
“Whatever happens, I always seem to come out smiling. I’m like a cockroach after a nuclear war. I’m one who survives, for whatever reason”
A fitting declaration of endurance, while many would have long packed it in, in Sheffield, we have (yet another) band who continue to graft, strive onwards and inevitably come out the otherside. How very stoic.
Speaking on the band's recently released single, A Letter to my 21 Year Old Self. Jon had this to say:
“When I played the new album to my mates or my nearest and dearest they all picked this out as their favourite. Considering there’s songs like Problems and Heatwave on there is sort of testament to how good the song is really.”
“It’s kind of me looking back at my life and my career and owning some of the mistakes that I’ve made. I have done a lot of silly things and the concept seems to really appeal to people — the idea of writing to your younger self.”
A Letter To My 21 Year Old Self has indeed resonated with many of the fans of The Makers, gaining considerable, and deserved, airplay as well as recognition. It’s a truthful, honest and endearing recalling of Jon’s younger self. Creating a bit of an emotive ripple effect the social media campaign #21yearoldself resulted in a one-off (at least for now) exhibition of letters from fans and celebrity pals of the band, who got involved including letters from the likes of Brian Eno, Mel C, Carl Barat, Helen Chamberlain, Steve Lamacq, Richard Hawley and Jeremy Corbyn to name but a few.
“It’s very therapeutic to look at your life in long-form and to think where you may or may not have gone wrong. It’s an interesting sort of think piece.”
You have to give it to Jon this regard. Sometimes we have to look back on where we were to help us appreciate the person we have become for better or worse, you could say.
I ask whether he feels the innate self-deprecation that Sheffielders are known for is boon or a hindrance.
“I wonder sometimes whether that’s a double-edged sword, when you go to Manchester and the iconography of all their musicians is plastered everywhere you look. I’ve sometimes wondered whether that slight humility that Sheffield people have, where you have to be a bit more earthy and tethered into reality is part of what makes Sheffield such a fertile place musically.”
“I had a big sort of mash up at Fagan’s recently with Richard Hawley, and he said, ‘You can have your head in the clouds, but keep your feet in the dirt’ that really struck a chord with me.”
And you can’t really argue with that… there’s a continual grounding of place. If you get too big for your boots you’ll be brought back down to earth with a bump. We’re a proud city but not so blinkered by the notion of fame that you won’t get taken down a peg (or three) if you get too caught up in your own hype. A point hammered home by one of the city’s revered sons of music himself.
“I look at him (Richard Hawley) and Phil Oakey, Nick Banks and the people who are older than me who still have a career in music, who are still active and busy and stuff. These people are like heroes who’ve become mates as I’ve got older. You look at them and you think, ‘you know what? I can, I can have a career here. I can be informed by this place but equally if you get too big-headed, you’ll get cut down. So you have to temper being a bit of a dreamer with being a realist. Sheffield people are good at that.”
“You only need to look at Bring Me The Horizon’s, The Reytons and Self Esteem’s success in the last few years, and you think there’s definitely something about this city that keeps on doing it. There’s definitely a cultural thing about it, like the saying goes "there's something in the water.”
I do believe this time around we can, and definitely should give, the Reverend and the Makers their flowers, for what is to come from this album is such an honest, profound and soulful endeavour it would just be a great thing to bask in the ambience of that good feeling, at least for a little bit anyway.
Heatwave In The Cold North is out on Friday 28th April, via Distiller Records.
The Reverend and the Makers will be be doing an album launch show at The Leadmill, Sheffield on Saturday 29th April, 2023. You can get tickets by preordering the album here: https://reverendandthemakers.os.fan/
The single, A Letter To My 21 Year Old Self is out now and available to buy in record stores and on all streaming platforms.