Jon and Roy


blacksheep proudly presented Jon and Roy on Saturday, 15th May, at our blacksheep Facebook channel. Jon Middelton and Roy Vizers plaid Songs from their new album “Know your Mind”.

Go to Know your Mind, if you click on the picture

It’s easy to fall for the effortless, amiable charm of Jon Middleton and Roy Vizer. Seasoned musicians and long time friends, their brand of indie folk rock is a genre in itself; one that evokes freewheeling summer days, winding stretches of road, the pull of the journey. With over 50 million streams worldwide, it’s clear many others have been captivated by Jon and Roy and the stories they tell.

Jon and Roy’s 9th studio album Know Your Mind is a composed collection of 7 brand new songs that touch upon the classic Jon and Roy themes of love, presence, hardship and joy, while also pausing to reflect upon the tumultuous nature of this past year.

Once restrictions had eased and ideas had percolated, the duo headed into the quiet forests of Vancouver Island in late summer to record. Building upon the creative energy of 2019’s Here, “Know your Mind” is a declaration of knowing your heart and mind, of returning to beginnings, of the importance of roots. There is a confidence to this new collection of songs, one that expresses their maturity as artists, songwriters and music makers.
In fact, it’s the first Jon and Roy album since 2008’s ‘Another Noon’ to feature just that: Jon Middleton and Roy Vizer, with no guest artist or session musician in sight. This lent a greater fluidity to their creative process, allowing for playfulness and late additions.

“Six tunes came out of these sessions. A seventh tune was born right after the New Year and we quickly worked on it for a month and then recorded it to add to the album.” John Middelton

The title track “Know your Mind” was released toward the end of November 2020, a sliver of light as those dark winter nights closed in; a quiet call for compassion and understanding among so much uncertainty. Second single “Rising Sun”, released in January 2021, is vintage Jon and Roy, with Middleton’s beguiling vocals weaving a sanguine tale of hope atop of Vizer’s subtle driving percussion. New single ‘Here’s Where You’re Wrong’ is a stoical rebuff of the current wave of populist ideology.

“This wave of new right wing intellectuals, who have incredibly strong and decisive views on the world and yet at the base of their viewpoints is a lack of empathy, open-mindedness and essentially, love.” John Middleton

A compelling lyricist, Middleton is renowned for not always sharing the meaning behind the songs; instead encouraging the listener to draw upon their own personal experiences to find connection. With “Know your Mind”, he’s shied away from this ambiguity, instead weaving together themes of connection (or lack thereof), nostalgia, change, and hope.

Jon and Roy’s live shows are well known for Middleton’s stirring performances coupled with Vizer’s instinctive rhythm and impeccable time keeping. In recent tours, the inclusion of a horn section have lifted these performances to even greater heights; it’s not uncommon to see packed venues turn into sweaty, joy-filled dance parties. As restrictions gradually lift, it will be to more of these sell out crowds that Jon and Roy return to. With their eyes on new audiences and bigger venues, both in Canada and Europe, their return to live performance will be all the sweeter after this enforced long absence.

Of course, these west coast troubadours are no stranger to big crowds and life on the road. They’ve toured with Xavier Rudd, the Cat Empire, Trevor Hall, and Toots and the Maytals, headlined sell-out shows at iconic Vancouver venue The Commodore Ballroom, and have played festivals across Canada (Edmonton Folk Festival, Winnipeg Folk Festival, Ottawa Bluesfest), the USA (BottleRock, CA, Levitate Music Festival, MA) Europe (Bulli Summer Festival, Germany, Sziget Festival, Hungary, Rock Les Bains, France) and the UK (Boardmasters). The band shines in front of a live audience, but it’s not the only avenue in which Jon and Roy have garnered new fans. Canny song placements in TV shows on HBO, NBC, MTV and OLN, combined with long running TV ad campaigns for Lululemon, Volkswagen and Scotiabank, have further cemented their global reputation.

Know Your Mind is released 7 May 2021.

I’m heading for the other side
Where the light is always right
Where we don’t have all these heavy plights
And the loving overrides
And tho’ I’m told this time will never come
I want it anyhow
I’m going towards the better life
And I’m ready for it now

“The Better Life” – Jon & Roy

The pair from Victoria, BC turned to the studio shortly after the first series of rehearsals got underway, pushing aside a long-term plan that would have put them in the studio many months down the road. The songs that make up The Road Ahead is Golden — a record with subtle tones but a purposeful message — took shape with relative ease, and once Jon and Roy got in the studio with bassist Louis Sadava early sessions appeared to bring out the very best in the group.

“Doing it right then and there can often have a better result than if you think about it too much,” Middleton said. Middleton and Vizer have made a career out of embracing the unexpected, rather than running from it. That approach worked wonders on The Road Ahead is Golden.

The band’s latest record was recorded at a small, rural West Coast studio, a setting which stands in contrast to Greenhouse Studios in Vancouver, where 2015’s Riverside was recorded.

Riverside pushed the musicians outside of their comfort zones, but The Road Ahead is Golden marks a return to organic operations for the group. “On Riverside, we were pushing to get a little bit more of an edge, and we had never consciously decided to do that before,” Vizer said. “Maybe we had something to prove.”

Coming quickly on the heels of 2014’s By My Side, the upbeat tone of Riverside served a key purpose for Jon and Roy, and positioned the band for success on a worldwide scale. A recent tour of Europe was brought about by a booking agent for Filter Group (Milky Chance) whose eagerness to see them overseas presented Jon and Roy with a long- awaited opportunity. The bandmates had no choice but to trust his enthusiasm, and their maiden tour of Europe wound up being an amazing success, Vizer said.

“It was a real trip to see people in Amsterdam singing along to [2008 single] ‘Little Bit of Love.’ And seeing sell out shows on our first European tour was the coolest experience. That gave new life to the band. We were booking a follow-up tour, all while doing this one.” Jon and Roy will return to Europe on two separate occasions in 2017, with great expectations. “Europe had some of the best shows of our career,” Middleton said. “There is an opportunity to grow there.”

The two bandmates never directly spoke about it, but the motivation to make an impact on new audiences fuelled them at every turn during their European trek. Previous tours with Xavier Rudd and The Cat Empire had put Jon and Roy before fans across North America, who continue to support the group in key markets on both coasts. Exposure in TV ad campaigns for Volkswagen, Scotiabank, and Lululemon, in addition to song placements in TV shows on HBO, MTV, NBC and OLN among dozens of others, broadened their reputation further. But it is their reputation as a must-see live act which continues to serve them well.

The trademarks of previous Jon and Roy releases — sly runs on Middleton’s acoustic guitar, Vizer’s guardrail groove — are in abundance on The Road Ahead is Golden, but changes are evident. Vizer, a trained percussionist, put congas back on the equipment list for two songs after he decided against using them on Riverside. And Middleton is joined by other voices — a rarity — on several songs, including members of Current Swell on ‘Better Life.’

Middleton doesn’t like to discuss the meaning behind his music, but there is a sense of import to his new batch of material. “There are some lyrical themes that are explored on the new record that I haven’t particularly touched on in the past, the difficult side of relationships. It’s not just the lovey side. There’s a little more reality.”

When pressed for more details, Middleton would only offer album opener ‘Running’ as an example of his mindset on The Road Ahead is Golden. The tune’s meaning has morphed over time, Middleton said, which appears to mesh with his “take-it-as-you-will” approach when it comes to divulging details about his songwriting process.

“It went from a song about past girlfriends staying with guys they shouldn’t into one about deadbeat dads,” he said with a laugh. ”But I love that our songs have an ambiguity to them. Certain lines will stick out, and it may have some meaning for you, even though the song is not actually about that topic. Some Bob Dylan lyrics don’t make any sense whatsoever, but you make your own meaning out of them.”

There’s a simplicity to the music of Jon and Roy that makes what they do sound effortless. But nothing could be further from the truth.

“We worked really hard on this album, even though it came together quite quickly.” Middleton said. “At this point in our career, it’s the album it seemed we were destined to make.”

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