Review: Jon and Roy Capture the Moment’s Energy in ‘Here’

Jon and Roy © Sierra Lundy
Jon and Roy capture this moment’s overwhelming energy in their eighth album Here, a driving folk record full of passion and connection.

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Taking a step out of our daily chaos, it’s going to be an extraordinary task to describe life in the 2000s to the next generation. Historians will bicker and argue about the significance today’s modern events – every one of which feels huge in its moment, before disappearing into the hazy swarm known as the #trending graveyard. So much happens, but how much of it matters? What will 2018 be remember for: Roseanne, the “Year of the Woman” American midterm election, the #MeToo Movement, the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize – awarded to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war – or the Supreme Court appointment Brett Kavanaugh?

And that’s barely scratching the surface. Every year feels like it’s worthy of a multi-volume encyclopedia’s worth of entries, and yet we’re just living out our days to the best of our abilities – putting one foot in front of the other, as our ancestors did before us. Jon and Roy capture this moment’s overwhelming energy in their eighth album Here, a driving folk record full of passion and connection.

Here - Jon and Roy

Here – Jon and Roy

all I know is the peak of this life
is loving and living,
giving and connecting right
not gaining money or power
for personal wealth
thinking of just ourselves
tell me where
our minds went wrong
we see the dollar bill signs
but never hear the song
don’t we know that
one day we’ll be gone
then we’ll realize what
we’ve been missing all along
– “Damn,” Jon and Roy

Released March 1, 2019, Here follows Jon and Roy’s 2017 seventh album The Road Ahead Is Golden. In premiring that record’s single “The Better Life” two years agoAtwood Magazine praised Jon Middleton and Roy Vizer for offering “a strong, profoundly poetic and intimately personal take on today’s world.” The Victoria, BC folk band injected hope and warmth into their last record, giving listeners their dream of a new tomorrow.

This time around, Jon and Roy take a more direct aim at the world: Here is a rendering, rife with turbulence and calm, of life’s ups and downs as they are today. Songs like “Here,” “Damn,” and “This Is You” ache with emotional nuance as the band unload a heavy weight.

Make no mistake, future earthlings: 2018 and 2019 have a lot of good things going for them, too. News and media corporations focus too much of their energies on controversial topics and issues – the stuff that garners link clicks and eyeballs – and don’t do enough to present a fuller view of the world as it is today. Perhaps Jon and Roy’s best distillation comes in the form of Here‘s closing track “The Border’s There to Be Crossed,” a song that was never meant to sound political, but rather captures their outlook on the goings-on within both North America and Europe. Walls are build to be brought down, and our differences exist in order for us to overcome them and connect.

A little joyous and a little restless, Here finds Jon and Roy basking in life’s highs and persevering through its lows. Experience the full record below, and peek inside Jon and Roy’s Here with Atwood Magazine as the band go track-by-track through their eighth album! It’s finally Here!

Stream: ‘Here’ – Jon and Roy

:: Inside Here ::

Here - Jon and Roy

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Here

This is a song about appreciating the world we live in and recognizing those moments in which we feel an intimate and fulfilling connection with it.  I think it’s true that some of the time we all feel a little alien to this place we inhabit.  That being said, there are always those times where we are brought back to the reality and beauty of our world.  I think in these moments we feel happy because we are able to experience life as it is; a wondrous thing.

Headstrong

This tune is about stubbornness, and the act of holding on to something when it should probably be let go of.  We all can get this way I think, although some people are more prone to it than others.   But sometimes it is just hard to let go of a feeling or idea, and the longer you hold on to it the harder it is to let go of.  More specifically, this song is about someone who was blindsided by my actions and felt very let down because of them and unfortunately we’ve had a very hard time communicating since.  Musically, this song is definitely inspired by early 60’s and even 50’s rock and roll – no clue as to why, it just felt like the kind of song to write at the time.

My Baby’s Gone

The music of this song was definitely inspired by many of the African artists I’ve listened to over the years, mainly Thomas Mapfumo and The Green Arrows.  As such, it definitely has a bit of a Paul Simon feel to it.  Lyrically it is very simple ; it’s about that feeling of a lover going away, or even leaving you for good. It’s a happy feeling song but really it is sad lyrically.  I’ve always enjoyed that in a song myself – having the juxtaposition of happy music with sad lyrics, or even vice versa.

Damn

The song “Damn” started off as a beat that Roy was playing while Jon came over to work on new songs. We started off just playing the pattern until we found a groove we liked. When Jon added his lyrics the song really came to life; it’s the perfect song to take a walk and let your thoughts wander while your stress levels dissipate.  Lyrically, it’s a venting of sorts about the present day we live in and a call to take more stock in love and less in material wealth.

In My Arms

Is a dance song of many moods. At first you are slowly creeping to the beat but by the end you’re spinning like a whirling dervish kissing strangers. To me (Roy) it captures the reverie of riding the emotional waves of a relationship or even just a chance encounter and just going with it: not overthinking anything and just living in the moment.   This song took by far the longest to complete on the record.  The initial tune and melody had been created by Jon in 2015 during an improvisational session at home after a long camping trip.   Slowly over the years the song took more shape until the two of us finally ironed it out into it’s present form.  We also had the pleasure of having our Trombonist, Dave St. Jean write some lovely horn parts for it.

Seven Colts

For some reason one day, I (Jon) just sat down on my bed and started singing this song and in some weird way it felt like it came from a female perspective and so I wrote the lyrics as such.  In my head I pictured somewhere in the southern US, in another era, a woman who was finding the strength to escape an abusive relationship.  And I pictured her joy and feeling of freedom in being able to flee from this bad relationship and start anew.  The title also just sprung into my head because it felt like that to me: I could imagine seven colts running as fast as they could.  And this image felt imbued with a deep sense of freedom.

That is You

This is a song about depression, really.  It’s about those feelings of emptiness that a lot of us feel at some point or other in our life.  But more than that, the lyrics in this song are about my personal experiences in feeling this way when I was younger and trying to relate those with the power I have gained in being able to overcome the emptiness.   I think for anyone who deals with depression of any kind, it’s a tremendously hard thing to be able to come out the other side.   But being able to know, deep down, without a doubt that you are able to do so is very powerful and can be all one needs sometimes.   The ending of the song speaks about how ‘there’s something you can do, find the loving that is you‘ and this lyric may sound a bit clichéd or simplified.   But nevertheless, I do believe that ultimately that is the most important thing: being able to feel, even in really dark moments, that we ourselves are full of loving and compassion for ourselves. Musically, this song’s feel was inspired by some of the Andean music we’ve listened to over the years.

Where Has My Love Gone

This song was inspired by that feeling of being lost or not knowing how to quell a hopeless feeling; it’s a kind of cry out to helplessness.  In this tune, it also refers more specifically to a relationship where the future is uncertain.   The bones of the song and chorus were written after a somewhat sleepless night on tour in the town of Bremen, Germany in 2016.  The melody and chords lay dormant for a while and then about a year later more of a song form took shape.  Jon was originally planning to record the song in 2017 for his solo album, Strathcona.  However, once the solo sessions began he quickly realized it would be better suited to the band.  The song structure and style is definitely inspired by the late, great Otis Redding and Sam Cooke.

The Border Is There to Be Crossed

“The song ‘The Border is There To Be Crossed’ is not meant to be a political song.  However, the song title and the lyric ‘the border is there to be crossed, and it will be’ was certainly put in the song on purpose as a reaction to recent events that have taken place in North America and Europe. My personal feeling is just as the lyric says, borders are there to be crossed, that is there purpose.
The broader feeling of the song and lyrical content arose after crossing a border in fact, into the United States.  We played a beautiful festival outside of Boston, MA and it was just such a peaceful, loving and wonderful vibe — a great example of humans getting along and enjoying life.  It was quite a large festival, but one thing we all noticed was the seeming lack of security.  It was present to be sure, but it also was barely noticeable as if festival-goers looked after themselves and others out of respect for the event. The festival was a great example of crossing a border into a country that is often cited as being a certain way, and it proving itself as being just the opposite.”

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📸 © Sierra Lundy

Here

an album by Jon and Roy


Jon and Roy’s “The Better Life” Embraces Today for a Hopeful Tomorrow

:: PREMIERE ::

Mitch Mosk

Mitch is the Editor-in-Chief of Atwood Magazine and a 2014 graduate from Tufts University, where he pursued his passions of music and psychology. He currently works at Universal Music Group in New York City. In his off hours, Mitch may be found songwriting, wandering about one of New York's many neighborhoods, or writing an article on your next favorite artist for Atwood. Mitch's words of wisdom to fellow musicians and music lovers are thus: Keep your eyes open and never stop exploring. No matter where you go, what you do or who you are with, you can always learn something new and inspire something amazing. Say hi here: mitch[at]atwoodmagazine[dot]com