The internet is full of bands. Some days it feels like that’s all it is. Bands. Bands. Bands. And porn. Or maybe that’s just an insight into my own closeted life. If it wasn’t for the internet, what would musicians do with themselves? How would they get their music across? How did they do it in the old days? I kinda long for the days where it wasn’t as simple as digitising a recording and attaching it to an email. This is how Webcuts first encountered Janus 4-14. Their tag is ‘indie pop that won’t make you cringe’, but they fail to recognise that statement itself is cringeworthy. Putting it out in the open like that… well, that just makes me a little suspicious. Let the music do the talking.
Despite being presumptuous of their own sound, Janus 4-14 do make for great music. Their sound comes from a time that some would regard as the golden age of song, that mid-90’s alternative scene when American bands owned their airwaves and captured the imagination of kids who really didn’t fancy throwing money at another light-weight Cure or Depeche Mode album. These bands took their influences from the UK, as well as their own country, and put together something that sounded like The Ramones meets The Buzzcocks, that in itself was almost a new breed of rock n’ roll — fast or slow, these were raging guitar-driven, melody-led slices of imperfect perfection that made your ears want to do an inner high five.
“Unsure Hands” , the lead track from Janus 4-14 debut EP does just that. A roaring waltz-time all-in singalong, the song tells you exactly where they’re coming from and who their influences are. It’s like sitting down to watch Reality Bites with a cup of coffee in a ‘Central Perk’ mug in your hand. You want to be like R.E.M. when they were good. You want to write songs that will sound good on the radio. It’s not ‘indie pop that doesn’t make you cringe’, it’s indie pop that makes you pay attention. The songs are well-crafted, harmony-rich treats, almost as if years were spent studying the classics (nailed in their five favourite albums below) to a fine art, and that’s what made Janus 4-14 shine in those first few seconds. They listened, they paid attention and now they’re doing it themselves.
01. Who are you?
Janus 4-14 – Chad Barnard (Vox, Rhythm Guitar); Shane Mauck (Lead Guitar, Keys, Banjo, Slide Guitar, Vox); Ben Swanson (Bass); Derick Mauck (Drums) from Mount Airy, NC (USA).
In the world we live in, where everything is answered with a quick internet search, the origin of Janus 4-14 is one of the few things that doesn’t come up in a Google search. We know it’s silly, but we want to hold on to the “mystery” a little longer. Like everything, the mystery is cooler than the reality of it. It is an actual reference, albeit an obscure one, that is a part of popular culture.
We’ve been playing together for a little over a year.
02. What do you sound like?
There are a lot of references burrowing around in our music. Sonically, there are elements of the Pernice Brothers, Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco and Bright Eyes in there. We’re fond of saying, “Indie-Pop that won’t make you cringe.”
03. What do friends say you sound like?
We’re from a very small town in the Southern US. Our friends get their music from commercial radio, so their reference points are usually bands we don’t like. We usually flinch when they tell us what we sound like.
04. Full-time musicians or wage slaves?
Chad: Sign Salesman
Shane: Sock Analyst (Yes, I said sock, not stock.)
Derick: Polysomnographic Technician
05. Current band highlight?
Recording our debut EP. The response it has gotten so far is pretty amazing.
06. Favourite decade for music?
For me, it’s the ‘90s, especially the indie scene.
07. Should music be free?
Music should be affordable. The early 2000s were the worst for over-priced pieces of plastic. I think the new digital price scheme of roughly $10 per CD is reasonable.
We are a pro-blog/torrent band though. Being the insane music fan that I am, I believe that getting the music heard is the most important thing and far outweighs the few that download it and never pay for it.
08. Which 3 musicians would you invite round for dinner?
John Lennon, Dan Bejar (Destroyer), Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices)
09. Preferred tour reading?
I prefer novels or books on bands/eras of music that I like. Right now, I’m on the last book of the Stieg Larsson The Girl… trilogy. Next up is Joe Pernice’s It Feels So Good When I Stop.
10. Best mood for songwriting?
There’s not really a specific mood that I need to be in. I record all ideas, as they come, into a small cassette recorder. If something really sticks with me, I finish it within a couple of days. A lot of times songs happen by me listening back to the tapes, months later, and being surprised/inspired by ideas I’d forgotten.
11. Last record you bought?
The National – High Violet
12. Five favourite albums?
Beatles – Revolver
Destroyer – Streethawk: A Seduction
Pavement – Crooked Rain Crooked Rain
Guided By Voices – Alien Lanes
Elliott Smith – Either/Or
13. Your biggest rock and roll fantasy?
Our biggest rock and roll fantasy would be to be able to do this for a living.
14. Goals for the next 12 months?
We plan to play as much as we can and get our music heard by as many people as possible. We also want to release another EP in about 6 to 8 months.
15. First time listeners, where should they start?
The first song off of our new EP, “Unsure Hands”, is a pretty good place to start.