Interview with Pope Joan

Pope Joan did not give birth while riding a horse although that would certainly be an interesting story to tell the Grandchildren. Pope Joan is in fact a rather lovely band who perform miracles with music, have yet to be seen on horses and are unlikely to be burnt at the stake any time soon. Cat On The Wall’s Jo Whitby caught up with the Brighton based band via email.

Cat on the Wall: I’m listening to ‘Dictator’ and ‘Mattias’ as I write these questions for you. I’m very impressed with the poetry of the lyrics and the song structures really bring the words into the foreground. What is your creative process when writing? Do you write as a band? How do the songs evolve?

Pope Joan: Mark comes up with the starting point for songs and then we arrange and flesh them out together, giving them their own identity. Recently we’ve found ourselves listening more and more to what the idea and concept behind a song calls out for and responding creatively to that.

COTW: You have an album coming out later this year. Can you tell us anything about it? What can the fans expect?

PJ: We’re really excited about it. We’re still in the writing process at the moment; we’d like to get together a batch of 15 or so songs to choose from. We’ve been working with producer Mark Williams recently who’s done stuff for The Cribs and Biffy Clyro – which has been great; it’s been quite a collaborative process so far which we’re learning a lot from.

COTW: A few live dates are approaching fast. Is the live performance important to you? Do you have any pre-show rituals that you could tell us about? How do you know when you’ve had a good gig?

PJ: Playing live is hugely important to us. There’s an energy and unpredictability you get from a gig that you just can’t capture on record. That feeling like anything can happen is exciting, especially when the crowd are really into it. We don’t have any pre-show rituals really – just no seafood beforehand… messy. It’s hard to define when you know you’ve had a good gig… it’s funny, every show is different – you just get that sense of immense satisfaction when everything comes together.

COTW: Why Pope Joan? Is there a story behind the name?

PJ: Essentially, we just liked the way it sounded really. The name itself comes from a myth about a female pope in the 9th century (don’t hold us to that date…) [Ndr: Check this wiki entry for more info: ]. I guess we just liked the idea of being part of a strict set of rules but being totally out of place at the same time.

COTW: Where do you draw you inspiration from in terms of the clothing you wear as you seem to have quite an eclectic yet bold taste? Is image important to you or would you say it’s more about individual expression?

PJ: We tend to all just wear the clothes that we like to be honest! We’ve never made a conscious decision to dress a certain way. I guess when we do promo shots we take into consideration how our clothes work together, even if it’s basic things like colour combinations etc, but that’s more to do with the overall aesthetic of an image. I think we’re quite visually aware as a band, but there’s not a contrived element to it.

COTW: What are you listening to or reading at the moment?

PJ: We’ve all into a range of different stuff.

Tom’s been listening to the new Liars record, Heath – Get Color and has been revisiting some of the Beck albums (desperately trying to forget that he’s a scientologist…why? Beck, why?) Oh yeah, and listening to Why?

Mark’s been reading ‘The Master and Margarita’ by Mikhail Bulgakov, ‘A passage to Africa’ by George Alagiah and listening to Ray Charles and Unwound.

David’s been listening to Wild Beasts – Two Dancers, Hot Chip’s new record and Jay -Z.

Andre’s been vibing to Grace Jones and Yacht.

COTW: Finally, what are your plans for the near future?

PJ: Simply to write and release interesting new songs that we’re happy with, and to play as many great gigs as possible.

The Ground is Shakey by Pope Joan by popejoan


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