FEATURE INTERVIEW with Nick Johns of Gone For Good
Interview by Corrine Jensen
Gone for Good is not just another New London band, they represent New London's spirit. They've endured lost and heartache but have never given up, instead they've continued to grow smarter and stronger through the years and their music has reflected that.
In 2006, Nicholas Johns (guitar and vocals), Ryan Perkins (Bass and back-up vocals), and Josh Lecce (drums), formed Gone for Good, a high energy, edgy, garage pop-rock trio, that soon became a favorite on the local music scene and beyond.
Then, tragedy struck, and the spirited and fun-loving Lecce passed away and Johns and Perkins decided to take a break from the band. A year later, joined by their good friend and skilled drummer Gene Miller, Gone for Good returned to the scene and have been steadily impressing fans with their eclectic rock sound and entertaining live shows.
This Friday, June 29th, at The Oasis Pub, the band is having a record release show for their highly anticipated second full-length album, Marvelous Liar, which will be available digitally on their bandcamp page. Sadly, this show will also mark the band's last performance, as Perkins is set to move out west and Miller and Johns are pursuing other ventures. Practice space roommates and long time friends, Bedroom Rehab Corporation and Recur Occurrence share the stage with Gone for Good one last time, creating a powerful farewell line-up that no one will forget.
Recently, frontman Nick Johns took time to answer a few questions for WailingCity.com.
WC: Nick, so, tell
me your story. When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
NJ: I have several stories, but the first real time I knew that I loved music and wanted to play was when I was a kid. I had just gotten a Dire Straits tape and my mom made me go clean my room and she came in and I was rocking out to "Money for nothing". I mean, like, swinging from my coat hangers at 5 years old. After that, my mom bought me an acoustic guitar and she says I used to jump off the top bunk of my bed and I would slam my acoustic guitars into pieces. I would just smash all my guitars.
WC: Why did she
keep buying you guitars??
NJ: I don’t know. I couldn't even play. I didn't start playing guitar until was 13 or 14 and broke my wrist and I couldn't play basketball anymore. I would sit around and play "Just What I Needed" by The Cars and, of course, Nirvana back in the day. The birthday I received my first electric guitar was also the day after Kurt Cobain killed himself, so that was a big deal.
What other music did you listen to growing up?
NJ: I used to love the hell out of Huey Lewis and the News. I was a really big Beatles fan as a kid. I had Sgt. Pepper’s when I was around 7 and I listened to it over and over and I couldn't get over how amazing it was. I listened to Are You Experienced? By Jimi Hendrix. I have just always loved music. No matter how shitty my day is, or my life is, just like Jim Morrison said, "Music is your only friend". Music really is my friend. It's very comforting and I can always come back to it, no matter what I feel like or what's going on in my life. Jim Morrison knew what he was talking about and he's definitely one of my heroes. I'm devoted to The Doors.
WC: Your band, Gone
for Good, has been steadily rockin’ the music scene since 2006, tell me how you
guys got together all those years ago.
NJ: Ryan (Perkins) and I used to be in a 3-piece almost grungy-punk band together called Ebb with our buddy Matt. Then Ryan moved to the Virgin Islands so we stopped playing. While he was gone, I had been working on a bunch of songs that were a lot different from what we had been doing. I listened to a lot of Queens of the Stone Age and was obsessed with Josh Homme. And old Weezer influenced me heavily, Pinkerton and especially The Blue Album. When Ryan returned, I had him check out the new songs, which were swingy-er, like "Dinner Date". We decided to start playing again and started looking for a drummer.
Originally, I had wanted to find Gene Miller and ask him to play in the band because I knew him in high school and he was always the premier drummer at NFA. He was awesome. But it didn't work out. Then this guy said he had Josh Lecce's phone number and we should give him a call. I called Josh and we met up after hours at a store he was teaching drum lessons at. I brought my amp and Ryan brought his bass and I had written the song "Happy" and we were playing and things started clicking. Josh was really nervous to be in another band because he had just been in a band that had broken up but we were into it and we totally wanted to play. After a few months, we had enough songs to play out and we started playing shows in Norwich but the music scene out there was dead and no one wanted to hear rock music at the time.
WC: You obviously
overcame that. How did you guys eventually break into the music scene?
NJ: It was funny, at one show in Norwich, I won't say any names, but the booker was a real tool and he pushed our set back to midnight because he didn't think we were going to show up. We were upset and the guy started screaming at me and Josh literally jumped over me to defend me, and I had to pull him away from the guy. That night, I had a friend suggest we head out to New London and The Royale Brothers were playing. It was the coolest thing ever, just the close-knit music scene and everyone hanging out. And I’ll never forget I went up to talk to Joey Royale to tell him that he blew my mind, just blew me away. So, I walk up to him and I’m like "Hi Joey. My name is Nick Johns and I'm in a band and we're looking to play up here and I just want to tell you that was one of the best performances." and even before I could finish he's off stage and now I realize it probably wasn't the best time to go talk to him.
WC: Ha! You’re that
NJ: Yeah, exactly but I must have been around 25 at the time. So, I walk over to Sean Murray, I didn't know who he was but my mom had read his articles in the newspaper and she had told me about him so I knew to look for him. I had this really shitty demo with me and I gave it to him. Ryan, Josh and I went back to Norwich and back to the drawing board. We got money to record an actual EP and put the songs we wanted on it and then we had our EP, Drawing Board. We went up to Sean with some real music in our hands and a couple days later I get a phone call from him asking if we wanted to play a show and I was, like, “Hell yeah”. I think we opened up for Recur Occurrence and Sean loved us and thought we were great. Looking back, Sean is probably extremely disappointed in me because I never listened to anything he told me to do. I still don’t even though he has some awesome ideas. He was trying to groom me into a better stage performer but I’m real stubborn.
We started playing more and it felt like all of a sudden there was this huge wave and the sky was the limit. We had real motivation and started booking shows in Boston and New Haven and Sean was helping us a lot. He was boosting our self-esteem but also keeping us in check. I really have to give him credit because he really took me under his wing for a while.
He hooked us up with Andy Stackpole and we headed into the studio and recorded Bright Lights. We had just submitted it into a mastering company and then Josh passed away. It was going to cost us $600 to get it mastered but we didn't have any way to raise the money because we couldn't play any shows. And we didn’t even want to cut the damn thing because of how many memories we had. So, for an entire year we left it at the mastering company. Finally, we got money and decided to release it. We called up Gene and asked if he wanted to play with us for a couple of shows. Then I roped him into sticking around. It was only supposed to be 1 or 2 shows and the guy has played with us for 2 and a half years.
WC: Obviously, he
was committed. How was the whole adjusting to a new band member?
NJ: It was good. We’ve known each other for a long time, like 14 years, and we’ve gone to concerts together. Josh was a really jazzy drummer. He would improvise whole songs from scratch sometimes, which is really cool and he kept it interesting. Gene is the other end of the spectrum, he is very precise and much more calculated. I know exactly what to expect from Gene every time we play. He’s a solid, reliable drummer, and Josh was reliable too, but with Gene, I know he will play the song exactly the same way every single time. We all get along together. We never argue with each other. We have good chemistry.
WC: You’re about to
release your new album, Marvelous Liar. Tell me about it.
NJ: For our last record, I was really depressed and that comes out. It just sounds like a darker album. This one, I’m not so depressed any more. This time it was really about getting back to writing guitar riffs and bumping drums and that nice walking bass line. Also, I yelled a lot on the last record so I really made sure this one is a lot more of me singing. There’s a lot more harmonies and the songs are more edgy, more in your face. I always try to write really catchy riffs with really weird lyrics. My lyrics are not as happy as the music feels; it’s all a bit ironic.
And this record isn’t so real life or personal for me. “Ride to Nowhere”, that was a really personal song. This time, I wrote interpretations from other people’s points of views. I have a song called “Last round in the chamber” and basically it’s about a guy pulling a trigger, and breaking up with a girl over a long period of time and her never thinking he would do it.
For “Marvelous Liar”, I had been watching a lot of Mad Men and thought it would be interesting to write about how if a guy sleeps around it’s accepted but if a woman does it she’s a slut. I wanted to make sure it would be classy from a woman’s point of view.
This was also the last song Josh and I collaborated on together. I wrote the music and worked out the rest of the parts, like where the chorus will be, with him before he passed away.
I figure this is my ‘last bang’ so I produced this record because, besides Ryan and Gene, I didn’t want anyone else’s ideas or outside help. I didn’t want “you should do this” or “this would be cool”. But I do have to give credit to Jason Banta (Recur Occurrence, Burnouts From Outer Space) for all his help. I used a few of his ideas and he did all the mixing and mastering for the album and it came out great.
I want to listen to it 10 years down the road with my children and be proud of it. I just have a good feeling about this record. It’s not so gloomy. There is a tighter drum sound. The guitars are much cleaner. This record sounds really good. We put our all into this.
WC: Tell me about
the show coming up at The Oasis Pub in New London on June 29th.
NJ: Yeah, our last show and also our record release. What I’m going to do is have a combination promo code for bandcamp printed on a card and people can download the record when they get home. We figured that was the best way to do it because we’re all realist here and we’re not going to put $1000 into a record to have them sitting around because with no opportunity to play, how is anyone going to get them?
WC: Smart. Ok, what has being a part of Gone for Good
meant to you?
NJ: It has been extremely important to me; it’s given me an identity and a purpose to be creative. The band represents me and I represent the band. It took me a long time to come to grips with being a frontman and I was a lousy one.
WC: Ha! I don’t
know about that. So, what does the future hold for Nick Johns?
NJ: Now I have my adult life coming up. I’m moving into a house with my lady, my fiancé is great, and she is letting me take one of the rooms and turn it into a recording studio. I’m recording my own record. I play drums, and bass and dabble in piano too. I’m going to record a full-length rock record of just myself, much like Matt Mahaffey of Self.
And another thing I’m going to do is hopefully talk Meghan Killimade into joining a rockabilly band with me. And possibly ask Corina Malbaurn if she is down to play some upright bass. That’s one of my ultimate dreams, an all 50’s rockabilly band. I need to find a piano player who can play like Jerry Lee Lewis, that’s one of the big things.
WC: I vote Eric
Stevenson from Pocket Vinyl! I’ll give you his email.
NJ: I wonder if he could play the piano like that? Yeah, that would be so awesome! I don’t know how feasible it’s all going to be but I gotta keep something going on in my mind. If I don’t have something coming up I’m going to get really depressed. I’m not ready for the reality to set in.
WC: So, can we ever
expect a Gone for Good reunion?
NJ: I don’t know. Ryan is moving to Hawaii and Gene is really busy at work and wants to take a break from music. Who knows? Maybe with some of my savvy I can convince Gene to play one more show with me and then maybe we can make that turn into a two-year stint again?
WC: That would be
awesome! Last question: What’s your advice for those kids at home, smashing
their guitars and listening to Marvelous Liar, to those singers, bands,
musicians just emerging onto the scene?
NJ: Just be true to your form and don’t let other people sway you into things you don’t want to do. Stick to your guns and create some art. I’ve always been into the art form of it. If you can’t draw or paint, go write a song. And remember to have fun and enjoy everything that you do because it’s a great experience to play with other people. It’s a bonding experience. Music is a part of life.
WC: Nick, anything
you want to say to everyone reading?
NJ: I have nothing but admiration for the real backbone of the music scene: the people going to the shows every night. I’m guilty. I don’t do that. I have a lot of stuff going on. But some people have so much devotion to the music scene and it’s very inspiring and nice to see people that committed to creating and cultivating that culture in town. And I want to thank everyone who has ever given us a chance or a listen and have enjoyed the music we have played.
Also see Adam Wujtewicz's CD review of Marvelous Liar:
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