I saw Hokie Joint in Hartlepool a few weeks ago – and I really really enjoyed the gig. I did a brief audio interview with the guys which I played out on The Blues Show too. Here’s an unpublished interview from earlier this year that my friend Jamie Hailstone did with the guys. Thanks for sharing Jamie!
In the early 1970s, an unknown band from Essex by the name of Doctor Feelgood gave the blues a much-needed kick up the backside and took the British music scene by storm.
Now 40 years on, history looks set to repeat itself with the emergence of another band from that self-same county – Hokie Joint – who combine the swagger of the Rolling Stones, the theatricality of Tom Waits and the gothic melodrama of the southern states of America.
If you like your blues safe and cosy, then you’ve probably come to the wrong place, but if you want something with an edge, which takes the blues into new and slightly more dangerous territory, then Hokie Joint might just be the band for you.
The five-piece have just released their second album, THE MUSIC STARTS TO PLAY, which will cement their reputation, both in this country and on the continent – as one of the most gripping and unique bands on the scene.
“We’re five different blokes, of five different ages,” explains lead singer, JoJo Burgess. “We all have our own individual tastes and influences. When they are amalgamated together, it gives us the Hokie Joint sound.”
Burgess and guitarist, Joel Fisk, who had both been part of another group, Jelly Roll, for several years, formed Hokie Joint in late 2007.
“We just had enough and wanted to do something more bluesy and rootsy,” explains Burgess.
After putting the call out for like-minded musicians, the two men were joined by drummer, Stephen Cutmore, who after rehearsing with them in deepest, darkest Colchester, suggested they enlist the services of bass player, Fergie Fulton, and harmonica player, Giles King.
“The way Giles and Joel play together is not like your usual lead guitar or lead harmonica,” says Burgess. “They both play together as lead instruments. It’s the same way the Rolling Stones weave Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards together. It’s not about the guitar solo or the harmonica solo. It’s about how it all sounds together.”
The band also have a very distinctive “Hokie Joint” look, which sets them apart from other groups.
“One of the things that I’ve always tried to do is be an entertainer,” says Burgess. “And go out there and give people a show. On the blues scene, there are so many people, who go out there with a guitar, and can play wonders on the guitar, but in terms of being interesting to look at, they are lacking.”
The band’s unique sound and look brought them to the attention of film director Drew Cullingham, who used their music in his vampire western movie, Umbrage.
“He had Doug Bradley, from Hellraiser, as the big name in the movie,” explains Burgess. “They approached us, asking if they could use a couple of tracks. We did a bit of a deal and said they could use them if they made a music video for us!”
Cullingham duly obliged and shot a video for the title track of the their first album, THE WAY IT GOES…SOMETIMES, which included footage from the film.
“It was a fantastic experience,” says Burgess. “We had a couple of make-up girls, powdering our noses and moping our brows. We’re pretty pleased with the results and it portrays the band really well.”
Since 2008, the band has been signed to Dutch record label Coolbuzz, which has allowed them to build up a following in the Netherlands and on the rest of the continent.
“It’s a thriving scene out there, and to be honest, the money abroad is a lot better than at home,” admits Burgess. “You get fed and watered, which is a rarity in a lot of UK venues!”
While touring the rest of Europe and playing the festival circuit, Hokie Joint have shared the bill with many of the top names in music, including Joe Bonamassa, Steve Winwood and Booker T.
Regarding the British blues scene, which is undergoing something of a renaissance at the moment, Burgess says there are several really good bands out there, including Ian Siegal, Dave Arcari and 24 Pesos.
“Ian Siegal was a big influence on us starting the band,” the singer adds. “He’s a blues musician, doing song-based material. In my opinion, there are far too many people out there for whom it’s all about the guitar solos, and nothing to do with the actual song, lyric or melody.
“If you look at the Dutch blues scene,” he says. “There’s a band called the Rhythm Chiefs on the Coolbuzz label and they have a guitarist called Dusty Ciggarr, who is a mind-bogglingly good guitarist. You can hear influences from Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, but he has his own sound.
“That’s the important thing! It’s about finding your sound and not following every band before you. That was part of our problem, trying to break into the UK scene. It took some time for people to figure us out.
“I think people who see us will either love it or hate it,” says Burgess. “But I’d rather have that, as opposed to being just another mediocre band that has no originality.”