Johnny and the Brewsers is the newest pseudonym for Johnny – one half of the Mute Assassins and drummer from Engines of Ruin put on some years of hiatus by injury now returns with unmatched zeal for getting his music out there, with a solo EP project entitled Lizard Lounge Licks. Driven to pursue his journey as an artist despite all the hurdles that seem to appear, Lizard Lounge Licks was written and produced entirely alone – from the multi-instrumental setup to the sound engineering (outside of a little help from Johnny’s brother Adam, the other half of Mute Assassins).
Johnny’s freeform garage rock is frenetic and passionate, reminiscent of a lot of alt/grunge bands I used to listen to growing up, yet his finesse of the craft shines through unlike the manic approach some groups embodied. It makes use of those nostalgic sounds yet is a contemporary production with intricate breaks and diverse styles, an artist’s license that allow it to keep you on your toes the whole time. Lizard Lounge Licks is only four tracks long and a seventeen minute listen, but manifests a multitude of emotions from So Low to Higher.
The opening track, So Low is a blues rock melody that opens with some classic shredding and blues lyricism, along with a tasteful production that culminate to feel like the 80s, thematically and musically. It definitely demonstrates the artist’s skill as a guitarist and a drummer with its intricate flow, and also his ability to be cheesy in his tribute. It’s a great track, but second to the magnificent Day in the Sun – I haven’t enjoyed a song this much in a while, and is without a doubt the showstopper of the album. The tasty electric riffs that guide much of the song are just so fluid and expressive, and the solo in the song’s break also is a finger-work masterpiece. Positively upbeat and infectious, It’s a very relatable track, with Johnny acknowledging his vices and inertia that are a potent force in all of our lives. The third track, Down by the River is definitely the most technically intricate track, perhaps a little too elaborate for my pleb ears. It is forceful and raw, bassy and baritone. The album is melancholy for sure, but that’s only because life is a little melancholy. It still bears its moments of pride and fulfillment, and the last track Higher is dedicated to the ways love inspires us. It feels like a freeform exploration EP, with the songs unified by their perspective of experiences and feelings, but otherwise a broad listening experience.
I don’t work with classic rock often and it shows, because I’m absolutely fawning over the album, but its a phenomenal record and I’ve already listened to it on repeat since its release last week. I was really keen to correspond with the Brewser himself (am I using that correctly?), and he turned out to be a very pragmatic and genuine artist and the passion for his craft just oozed out of him. Following is that interaction!
Lizard Lounge Licks would be your first solo project, following Engines of Ruin and Mute Assassins. What inspired this project, and would you like to share about your journey?
Yes, Lounge Lizard Licks is my debut solo project following Engines Of Ruin/ The Mute Assassins. Back in 2015, I suffered a major back injury, requiring surgery and the removal of five centimetres of my spine and lasting nerve damage, which has left me in constant pain. It appeared that my drumming days were over.
I moved to Spain at the beginning of 2018, primarily for health reasons and immediately set about making contact with other musicians. As I had no equipment with me, I bought a small djembe and found an open jam night for musicians and bands in a local bar. I got to play with a few different people that night and one guy asked me if I’d be interested in playing percussion on some gigs with him and it all went from there.
I travelled a lot throughout Spain, mostly playing djembe, cajon and bongos, with various different musicians and bands, even a travelling Irish troupe at a St. Patrick’s Day Festival. During that time I was asked If I could play bass, as a stand in. I knew a little, so I gave it a go and it worked out. From there, other opportunities to play came my way and with one of them, I started playing guitar on some songs in the set.
I moved back to Ireland in the latter part of 2020 and even though we were in lockdown, I tried to make contact with musicians in my area, but to no avail. In January 2021 , I contracted Covid and required hospitalisation. Once I recovered, I picked up my guitar and started messing around on it. While back in Spain, I had been practising finger picking and I had the opening part of what would eventually become So Low. Back in Ireland, I had developed the piece to the point that I wanted to write a song around it and record it. I invested in some equipment, downloaded a free DAW, Cakewalk (other DAW’s are available 🙂 ) and set about learning the recording process.
Upon finishing writing and recording it, I felt inspired to keep going and write some more and the idea for the EP was born. I threw myself into the process, spending sixteen hours a day, sometimes more, obsessing over it. Forgetting to eat, sleeping very little. It became all consuming.
Of course Lounge Lizard Licks involved more artists than yourself. Could you introduce me to the ‘team’?
To paraphrase David Walliams’s Denis Waterman character in Little Britain… I wrote the theme tunes, sang the theme tunes, played the lead role. I wrote, played all the instruments, engineered and produced all the songs on the EP, which I then handed over to my brother, Adam, @sonicbrewmedia who did a fantastic job of mixing and mastering it all. I am hoping, now that we are starting to open back up again, to get other musicians involved and go out and gig it and other songs that I am currently working on.
What was the idea behind Lounge Lizard Licks? When I first started out recording the EP, I didn’t have a defined concept. From noodling around on the guitar, I would hit on parts that I would then develop into songs, recording demos as I went, to finally putting down finished takes . This was a very exciting part of the process. Out of nothing, I began to hear songs in my head and then to have them fully realised on tape, so to speak. Each song brought about its own challenges , musically and lyrically. From my inexperience of everything that was not drums onto the lyric writing and singing for the first time. I had done a small amount of vocals with EOR/TMA , but Adam was the main vocalist for the latter stages of both bands.
The lyrics came about after I had recorded the music and I initially found it difficult to get my head around it. I went through stages of coming up with the cheesiest of lines and binning them. So Low was the first song that I wrote the lyrics for and it came about by accident. The WOMAN! line is a running joke between myself and my girlfriend, harking back to the rock god vocalists of the late 60’s, early 70’s. From there I just started writing about the age old story of a love gone bad. After that, lyrically, it all naturally evolved into a “Life ,The Universe and Everything” vibe.
I love the garage rock style that you have, don’t hear too much of that these days. Who would you say influences your musical style the most? Thank you. My musical tastes are wide and varied, but mostly rock, heavy rock based. I would say that the biggest influence on me is Clutch. They are, by far, my favourite band and have been a total inspiration in me writing and recording this EP on my own. So Low is inspired by Neil Fallon’s guitar picking on The Regulator. Clutch stuck two fingers up to the machine that was the industry, way back and set about doing it all themselves. Also, they have to be the hardest working and most dedicated band around. Kyuss, Masters Of Reality, ZZ Top , Monster Magnet, to name but a few. But as I said, the list is vast and varied. The slide lead guitar in So Low is inspired by Link Wray.
The entire project was recorded in your living room. How did you make that work with a project of this magnitude? Is there anything about the process you’d like to share with other indie artists?
I did it all on my laptop, with an audio interface and some microphones. I used a free DAW and just went from there. It was all seat of the pants stuff. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. I was learning and making it up as I went along. Again, my brother , Adam, was a great help. He was able to impart a lot of his knowledge and experience, down the phone, as lockdown guidelines were strictly observed at all times, from all the years that he has been engineering and mastering Engines/Mute Assassins and his own music.
You already have another EP in the works. Anything you’d like to mention about the upcoming release, or shall I wait to hit you up in a minute?
Yeah, I am playing around with a few ideas. I have three songs ,from the LLL sessions, that I held back for the next project. I was looking at the idea of going completely self indulgent and recording an EP of cover songs, also that was to be an exercise in improving my own playing, but I am leaning more towards carrying on writing my own stuff. Myself and Adam have started writing songs together and we’ll see where that brings us. I have a very close friend in the UK and we are working on some tunes as well. so there is quite a bit going on over the coming months.
Lizard Lounge Licks is a very digestible EP that still demonstrates an incredible mastery over instrumental productions, do yourself a favour and check it out!
Part-time writer but full-time music enthusiast, I write some of the features on here. I think appreciating a multitude of genres and styles makes me good at my job, so clicky here to see what I've written!