Credit: Daniel Quesada
“I suppose I am a romantic. When I think about life, the purest reason behind what I am trying to achieve is love."
It's been all the way up for Swansea's Trampolene (Jack Jones - vocals, guitar, spoken word; Wayne Thomas - bass, vocals; Rob Steele - drums, vocals) - over the last six months: supporting Liam Gallagher on his sold out arena tour last December, releasing debut album ‘Swansea To Hornsey’, and now they are about to head out on a 12-date UK tour for This Feeling - which includes their biggest London show to date at Scala on May 9.
Little Indie sent writer Jane Davies out to catch up with Trampolene's charismatic lead singer Jack Jones to talk about poetry, relationships, being Welsh, supporting Gallagher (and Peter Doherty) on tour - and insomnia.
"Can he do 11am?" was the first inquiry when Little Indie was trying to set up a telephone chat with Jack. The response was that due to being one of the nation's bad sleepers, a later time might have him refreshed and fully alert. Rescheduled to the more acceptable time of 7pm on a Saturday night, I kick off on the subject of insomnia and asking how it began.
"I have always had a fear of the unconscious, a sense of dread and panic about going asleep and not waking," he reveals. "I sleep about three or four hours per day. If I don’t manage to sleep for a couple of nights, I will then do a 10-hour stretch. It does impact on the quality of life, but I can’t find another way. You have to accept who you are."
As many creative insomniacs use the night hours to work, did he do likewise? “Yes, I work and find that I often fall asleep at my desk. I get the most of my writing done between 2 am and 6 am: the quietest time of the day before sunrise is when my mind is at its best."
I suppose when you are performing and on tour, the insomnia is less of an issue? “Absolutely. I was made for the road, no other profession would support my insomnia.” But even seasoned professionals can find it all catching up with them at awkward times, as he goes on to relate.
"I was booked into an 11am slot at a literary festival to read my poetry and I just couldn’t keep my eyes open and yawned my way through it! And having a coffee won’t help me keep awake as I have problems with caffeine.”
As we change topic from sleep to Trampolene's latest single ‘Hard Times For Lovers’, a song which he has described being inspired from memories of his younger years, but also alluding to it being for/about the wife he hadn't met yet. Would he describe himself as a romantic?
“I suppose I am a romantic. When I think about life, the purest reason behind what I am trying to achieve is love. I am searching for my love. My best songs are about the part of me that wants to fall in love. The purest success you can achieve in life is to fall in love and be loved."
Do you see yourself settling down, becoming a father one day? "Maybe. Why not? I’m sure I would love the security. To settle down with someone I love would be totally fulfilling, a holy place, an untouchable zone, a beautiful space. As for being a father, crikey, I have never given it any thought! I’m only just getting to know my own father now since the last five years. My sister has told me she can imagine me with one child."
I tell him how I was at a gig the previous night and the lead singer’s mum was on the front row, loving it. Does his mother come along to shows?
“No, she can’t watch, she gets emotional and starts crying. She did manage to come to Cardiff to see us support Liam Gallagher and she was at the front moshing harder than anyone else!”
Mums, eh! Having played around the world, on big and small stages, and seen Trampolene and his work as a lyricist recognised, were there still goals in life to achieve?
“Performance-wise, I have achieved so much going from small venues to festival stages playing guitar with my bands, supporting Libertines, Liam Gallagher, my writing... The only goals that I haven’t yet are the financial ones. I would love to help my mum out, pay off her mortgage. I shall keep going and see how far I get."
He pauses, before adding another, slightly off the wall one, that springs to mind. "One of my other goals would be to become a qualified scuba diver!" Really? "Yeah, I enjoyed the two test dives I had when I visited Australia, and although initially it terrified me, it was amazing.”
As well as poetry and the band, Jack is also a full paid-up guitar-playing member of Peter Doherty’s band Puta Madres. I wonder how his now fairly long association with Mr D came about, and he managed to split his time between both bands?
"Pete met me after one of my poetry recitations, then the following day I got a call from his manager asking me to play guitar for Puta Madres - and to pack my bags 'cause I was due to get on a plane to Argentina the next day! I was sat on the plane trying to learn 20 songs in one go and then at the gig I spent most of the time crowd surfing, as opposed to guitar playing. It works out okay: I tour with tour with Peter, on days off I then tour with Trampolene. I have been on constant tour for the past 18 months. I never thought I’d travel this much with music.
You mentioned supporting Liam Gallagher, what was that experience like?
“The Cardiff gig was mind-blowing, as big a gig you could get. Liam was unable to see us play and said he was sorry he missed the set, but that he would be watching the next time. The next gig at Brighton didn’t take off as well as we had hoped, and I looked over to the left and saw Liam watching us. I just wish he had seen any of other shows. In my head I thought he had thought we had played badly, however, after the Manchester show we had a nice chat and he told us he loved our set.”
At this point, I tell Jack that Little Indie will be reviewing their Liverpool show at EBGBs and that the venue they previously used has been closed and turned into a comedy club. We both lament the passing of another live venue, but agree that it is preferable to it turning into a bank or flats. It is at this Liverpool venue that I first spotted complimentary comments about Trampolene on a toilet wall, which delights Jack, although he tells me the true sign of having made it is when you pass a worker picking up leaves in the park and they are singing your songs. Alas, this hasn’t happened as yet in his local park.
Being known as much for being a poet and songwriter as a vocalist, how do the processes differ? Do you ever write a poem that turns into a song or vice versa?
“I can compartmentalise my work," he responds. "If I’m writing a song, I will have a melody in my mind. Then if I'm writing a poem, I keep to strict structures, I won’t be listening to any music in my mind, just listening to sounds of words and the syllables involved.” Many writers derive inspiration from difficult times in their life, did he?
"I write when I feel anxious or angry," he agrees, "It makes me feel better writing. I can do half a page or sometimes 40 pages without thinking.” Although a prolofic writer, he still has yet to have any works published in book format.
“No, I’ve never tried that. When I was 18 or 19, I was obsessed with getting published, but ever since I stopped caring and just got on with life, things happened. No knocking on doors, live my life as I wanted to. I know that I will leave behind a few good songs and poems. There is too much energy wasted by people trying to land big contracts. You have to follow your heart’s desire.'
As a Welshman it is naturally assumed that literature and music will flowing through the veins as much as water through the valleys: Dylan Thomas et. al have a lot to answer for.
“I had a weird obsession with Dylan Thomas when I was younger," he says. "I loved him but thought I could write better than him. I went to the same school as him in Swansea. It influenced me a lot. I loved listening to the way he delivers his work.
(At this point Jack breaks into a beautiful recital of one of the poet's most celebrated verses: ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’)
He words were colourful, full of life in a time when there was no television. There’s a greyness and mystique about Wales. A mist, a greyness, a sadness, it affects you.”
As we chat a bit more, I finish by asking him what he and the band have lined up for the coming tour, and post-tour. “Expect to hear great rock 'n' roll, spoken words, lots of interaction, celebration; an escape from the monotony of life.
"After? To survive the tour. To enjoy it, and the travelling. To meet lots of amazing new people. I end up ruined after Trampolene shows. Shows can last an hour, and then I can't get my acoustic guitar out on the bus outside for an hour!
"The shows never seem to end sometimes.” As I leave Jack to get back to his Saturday evening, I think how most fans would no doubt probably wish the shows could go on all night.
Catch Trampolene on the rest of their tour at:
13 Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach
14 Birmingham Actress & Bishop
18 Liverpool EBGBs
19 Leeds Brudenell Social Club
20 Glasgow Broadcast
21 Edinburgh Sneaky Pete's
26 Manchester Night & Day
27 Blackpool Bootleg Social
28 Sheffield The Harley
09 London Scala