Monday, 3 June 2013

Introducing: Jonny Cola and The A-Grades

Jonny Cola and The A-Grades - Photo by Caz Hellbent
It's time to welcome Jonny Cola and The A-Grades to the Blog, a band I first saw at the The Buffalo Bar back in March when they played on the same bill as The Fallen Leaves. The next time I caught them, they were playing a big part in what must be the best gig of the year so far - when, at the same venue, their blend of smudged eye-liner flashy trashy Glam Rock was the perfect mood setter for the headlining act, Giuda. It was an impressive show, their evocative tales of London life are weaved into some perfectly crafted anthemic Rock 'n' Roll. The excellent "Marlborough Road" with it's great chorus, is book-ended by two new songs, "In The Woods" and "Blow Up", from their forthcoming album and both promise that the new record will be well worth getting hold of.

Jonny Cola and The A-Grades - Photo by Steve Worrall
"Straight To Video" is based around a neat piano intro and slowly builds and swells into a bit of a masterpiece, with so much going on the band are almost bringing classical arrangements into their songs. But having said that, it's the Punky "Rain Stopped Play" that's one of my highlights, as the band let loose from their tightly arranged sound and you feel like the roof will come off the Buffalo Bar. The shuddering bass intro to the epic "Halo" is something special, this track could almost be their calling card as it distills pretty much the essence of the band into an absolute masterpiece. The too-short set is brought crashing to an end with the raucous "The Party's Over", with it's crunching guitar and shades of "Aladdin Sane" Bowie, it's a perfect finale to a great performance. So if you like "Watch That Man", the Manic Street Preachers (with Richey of course), Super Furry Animals, "Personality Crisis", Pulp, "Queen Bitch", Suede, "Virginia Plain", Mott The Hoople...then I am sure you are going to love Jonny Cola and The A-Grades...!

Photo by Caz Hellbent
Jonny Cola and The A-Grades were originally formed by singer Jonny and guitarist Mauro Venegas, who helps to run the excellent Some Weird Sin club nights, and they released the download only album "In Debt" in 2010. Following a line-up change Jonny and Mauro were then joined by bassist Simon Drowner, drummer Marco Testa-Ryan and Jez Leather on guitars and they went on to put out the superb "Postcode Wars" E.P. on Scratchy Records, with the brilliant accompanying video to the title track. A Christmas single and then the classic "Halo" E.P. followed in March 2012 and it all seemed to point to big things for the band. But everything was to come to an abrupt halt when, out of the blue, Jonny was diagnosed with advanced kidney failure. Tour dates were cancelled, album plans put on hold and, for the next eight months, the band retreated to playing just a handful of dates. While the gigs had a particular intensity as every one felt like it could be the last - it was only after November, when Jonny received a kidney transplant (from his own fiancée, no less), that things could begin to move forward again. At the start of April 2013, Jonny Cola & The A-Grades returned with "Straight To Video"/"Marlborough Road", which was released on orange 7” vinyl, with two ambitious, interlocking videos and now with a series of gigs lined up in the capital - many of them self-promoted - alongside leading lights of the Punk and Rock scenes, and the second album well under way, the band are eagerly anticipating a year which is eventful for all the right reasons.

Photo by Steve Worrall
The band set up a Pledgemusic campaign to help fund their new album and they hit their target in just four hours, meaning that they will be pressing the album on 180g vinyl and will have enough to produce another one of their fantastic trademark videos. However the various Pledgemusic options will still be available right up until August 01st, the scheduled release date of the MP3 version of the album exclusively for pledgers. This means that anyone who pledges will get access to the album a full month ahead of the general public.

On top of that, pledgers will get updates from the band with extra exclusive stuff such as access to videos of an acoustic session, first sight of the album artwork and tracklisting once that's ready. To get involved, just head over to Pledgemusic and, if you've got a little spare cash, choose from an array of extras to suit every taste, from the vinyl edition to the harder stuff - a song written and recorded especially for you, the original demos of the whole album, a naked calendar, one year gig "season tickets", test pressings, poster and T-Shirt packages, Cola's JC top (as featured in the "Straight To Video" promo) and loads more, including the enticing Number One Fan package.

Jonny Cola and The A-Grades have a couple of dates in London lined up, first of all Saturday June 08th at The New Cross Inn with Duncan Reid and The Big Heads and then at The Buffalo Bar with The Priscillas on July 11th. Here's the great video to "The Party's Over"...enjoy!

With many thanks to Caz Hellbent for the photos. Check out Jonny Cola and The A-Grades and the Some Weird Sin club night at their Facebook pages for updates and info.

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