John the Conqueror bring the crossroads to Canal Public House
By Zach Rogers
Fresh off of two solid full-length albums in only three years, Philadelphia rockers John the Conqueror have found a sound that combines vintage blues with a harder rock edge. Imagine if Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Leadbelly formed a power-trio in the vein of Cream and made music produced by the Black Keys, and you’ll get an idea of what John the Conqueror has to offer.
The band revolves around guitarist Pierre Moore, who was born and raised in Jackson, Miss. After learning how to play guitar at age 14, Moore played in a number of different bands over the years, most often with his cousin Michael Gardner behind him on bass. In 2011, the two relocated to Philadelphia, and got the idea to start fresh with a new group. After connecting with bassist Ryan Lynn, Gardner bought a drum set and Moore picked up his guitar and John the Conqueror was born.
With their latest album, The Good Life, released last February, the band is set to play Dayton at Canal Public House on Thursday, June 12. Dayton City Paper hooked up with Moore before the show to talk about the band, the new album and, of course, the blues.
First, tell me a little bit about how you guys came together?
Well, basically Mike, our drummer, he’s also my cousin, and we’ve been playing in different bands together for like the last ten years or so, and this is the first time Mike’s played drums and I’ve sang before. About three years ago, we just decided we wanted to start another band, so we met Ryan, who plays bass, and we hit it off so well Mike went out and bought a drum kit, and that was that. – Pierre Moore
How would you describe your music?
It’s based off a lot of the stuff we grew up listening to. Heavy on the blues with a few other influences in there, too. A lot of people hear some funk in our songs, but I’ve never really thought about it too much. But it’s still cool. – PM
Who are some of the band’s biggest influences?
I guess it all goes back to our favorite blues musicians – Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, all those guys. As far as modern rock ‘n’ roll, we grew up listening to bands like Bad Company, Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Skynyrd – stuff like that. – PM
The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 2012. What can you tell me about recording that album?
It was a pretty quick process. We spent three days in the studio doing the basic guitar, drums and bass tracks, and then we took like another five days doing vocals and overdubs. It wasn’t too rigorous or anything like that. It was nice to jam those songs out the way we did. – PM
You followed that up with The Good Life, which was released in February of this year. What can you tell me about the differences between this album and the last?
I think lyrically this album shows a bit of growth and evolution, but other than that it’s more of just a continuation from the first album. I think the new album has a lot more straightforward storytelling going on, and I think there was more thought going into what we wanted to say with the songs on the new album. – PM
How do you and the band come up with new music?
It all starts with the drums. Mike will usually start some kind of drum beat, and if I hear something in my head that sticks, it immediately becomes a song. From there, we just try to write it and get it out as quickly as possible before we lose it. Even on this new album, about half of the songs were written in less than 20 minutes. It always starts with the music first, and then lyrics will usually come later. – PM
Have you guys done a lot of touring between the two records?
We played mostly stateside shows after the first album. I think this will be our third time playing in Dayton coming up. We actually just did a European tour not too long ago, which was technically still in promotion for the first album, even though it came out in 2012. – PM
And what was Europe like?
It was fucking amazing! It was completely different than anything we’ve seen here. People who could barely speak English were singing along with all our songs, which was pretty mind-blowing. A lot of shows got sold out, and just to see all the lines and the people waiting to see us play, it definitely warms the heart, for sure. – PM
What are your thoughts on coming back to Dayton for a third time?
We always have good shows out there. There are always awesome people who come out to the shows which is really cool. We haven’t gotten a chance to see much of the city outside of playing there, but I know Dayton has an amazing musical history with the funk bands in the ’70s and the underground scene in the ’90s, which is pretty cool and inspiring to us. – PM
John the Conqueror will perform on Thursday, June 12 at Canal Public House, 308 E. First St. Also on the bill is Todd the Fox. Doors open at 8 p.m. Admission is $5 for 18 and up. For more information, please visit johntheconqueror.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Zach Rogers at ZachRogers@DaytonCityPaper.com.