I had the chance to sit down with Josh Weller, the lead vocalist for London punk rock band The Kenneths at the West Palm Beach date of the Vans Warped Tour. We talked about being English on the 4th of July, punk rock roots, and favorite Warped Tour moments.
Hali Neal: So how’s the day been for you so far?
Josh Weller: Sweat. Hot. Hot. Very hot. And it’s 4th of July as well, so everyone’s in a – it’s not something we’re really taught in school in England.
HN: Well yeah, it’s an American holiday so I wouldn’t expect them to.
JW: Yeah, I went on stage and said something along the lines of “we gave this country to you and you’re welcome”.
HN: [laughs]. Amazing.
JW: Yeah, did not go down too well. No, no, no it got a lot of laughs, it was fine. Yeah, everyone’s in the party mood so it’s good. Everyone’s in high spirits today.
HN: That’s always good.
HN: If there was one thing you would want people to take away from your music, what would it be?
JW: It’s just punk music. We just try to write good songs. That’s the one thing we want people to take away from it. Energetic, fast, punch in the face songwriting.
HN: I know a lot of punk bands they usually have a message behind their stuff. Is that something you try to do? Or is that something you believe in?
JW: Nah. To be honest, politically, firstly, I don’t know where I stand yet. Punk rock’s always had its roots in politics but, for me personally, I’m not going to write a song as good as The Clash or Rage Against the Machine. So I don’t know where I’m coming from yet with it. For me, I just write about what I know about, which tends to be very non-political topics. You know, punk rock is about being true to yourself so that’s what I know about. It would be very un-punk of me to try to write a political punk song.
HN: Very true. What can people expect from your live show?
JW: It’s very energetic. Lewis, the bassist and I, often end up in some sort of physical fight. We just try and put everything that we have into it and I think it’s kind of working. It’s paying off. You know, it’s just fun and we try to enjoy ourselves.
HN: Favorite Warped Tour moment so far?
JW: Wow. It’s all meshing into one. In a way, the first show in Pomona, which was so hot and so dusty, it was like a shock to the system. That was a really good moment. And then yesterday [in St. Petersburg], I saw a dolphin. I’d never seen a dolphin before so that was pretty interesting. And what else… and I don’t know. I mean, the fact that anyone in America – we’ve only been a band seven months.
JW: So the fact that anyone in America knows the words to our songs is blowing my mind, you know? That’s easily the best thing.
HN: Do you guys have ‘em online? Is that— that’s probably why.
JW: Yeah, we put ‘em on iTunes and Spotify. Just the fact that there are so many bands on Warped Tour and the fact that people rooted us out and found us and then chose to enjoy it, is really moving I guess.
HN: What’s one song people would surprised to find you have on your iPod?
JW: Well, to be honest, when we got to America, I put an American SIM [card] in my phone which wiped my iTunes so there’s nothing on my phone at the moment.
HN: Oh no.
JW: Most surprising thing is, I listen to a lot of jazz. Huge Jeb Baker fan. He’s a jazz/trumpet player/singer. Guess he started in the 50s. He played with Charlie Parker and then he became his own person and that would probably be the biggest surprise. He’s my favorite. Jeb Baker was the master of singing other people’s songs and making them his own.
HN: Favorite song to play live?
JW: “What Happened to the Radio?”, everyone always sings that one. I really enjoy playing “Bad in Bed” [track two off their newest EP “E”] because it’s so fast.
HN: Favorite band that you’ve seen on this tour?
JW: Well, I love Baby Baby. I really enjoyed Trophy Eyes yesterday [July 3 in St. Petersburg]. Emarosa. Amazing. I haven’t had a chance to see any of the big bands yet. I host the Vans Warped Tour official podcast so I got to interview Lynn from PVRIS. She was an absolute sweetheart so I want to catch them at some point.
HN: They’re playing soon, I think. You said you do the Warped podcast? Can you tell me a little more about that?
JW: Yeah, in the U.K. for the last year I hosted a comedy podcast with my friend Tim and when we got picked for Warped Tour, I kinda realized we had to the podcast in America anyway ‘cause I’d be here. And just I e-mailed Vans and was just like “you don’t have a podcast. Can I host your podcast and they – Vans and Warped Tour and [Warped Tour founder] Kevin Lyman and his production crew, especially Kate and Julie were so giving. They just let me do whatever I wanted and there was no point where they were like “don’t swear” or “don’t be rude” or anything, they just let me do exactly what I want, so it’s been pretty great so far. And I’ve got to meet a lot of bands, so it’s been great.
HN: Is there anything else you want to add?
JW: Buy our EP’s [extended plays], they’re called “K” and “E” and they’re both on iTunes and Spotify. You can download them on thekenneths.com, we make a bit more money from that, which as an unsigned punk band is kind of important but, you know, give it a listen and then buy it if you like it.
HN: How did you get on Warped Tour with no label?
JW: I don’t really know what happened. We’re such a new band, we only played one show in London and then we got an e-mail from Kevin Lyman. It was one of those things like you read about it in a book and be like “Wow, that’s interesting, but it’s totally not how it works” and it really is. We just got very lucky I think.
HN: Warped Tour’s always had its roots in punk music so.
JW: Yeah, it’s always nice to play straight up London punk here. I think people appreciate it.
HN: Well, thank you, it was nice to meet you.
JW: Thank you, Hali. Thank you so much.