‘We were booked for the wrong sort of night. They booked us for an acoustic folk gig and we just weren’t the kind of band that the audience was expecting. We really didn’t… gel.’
So if Jonny and the Baptists aren’t an acoustic folk crowd’s cup of tea, where do they fit? The three band members agree the most accurate description of what they do is ‘comedy blues’. Their primary goal, they say, is never to sacrifice the quality of their music to humorous lyrics, or vice versa.
And they’ve so far been successful in achieving this aim. Frontman Jonny Donahoe, a veteran of the French and British comedy circuits, stuns with powerful vocals and hilarious lyrics, while lead guitarist and backing vocalist Paddy Gervers pushes the group a cut above most comedy bands in terms of musical ability. Finally, Amy Butterworth adds soulful depth to Jonny and the Baptists’ songs with her violin, making the instrument look so cool she’s in serious danger of creating the next big thing for hipsters.
When pushed, however, the group admits there’s more to their music than making people laugh.
What would you say is your mission statement, if you have one?
AB: ‘We want to be the change we want to see.’
JD: ‘Oh piss off, Gandhi.’
AB: ‘No, no, listen. It’s true. We want to make sure we produce quality music that’s funny, but we want to use that platform to actually say something.’
JD: ‘To be fair, our songs are quite political. Our aim, really, is to do funny protest songs. We have one about the privatisation of libraries, one about capital punishment, another about tax loopholes…’
AB: ‘One of the main reasons we all came together is that we wanted to create wares we’re proud to pedal.’
Did any other common goals bring you together?
JD: ‘We all wanted to be in a band to get famous enough to have a Nando’s Black Card. Do you know what a Nando’s Black Card is? It’s incredible.’
PG: ‘Nando’s give these cards to certain celebrities and the card means they can have free Nando’s any time. I think Tinie Tempah has one.’
JD: ‘That’s free chicken! I don’t want to have to pay for chicken.’
AB: ‘Some people get into this business for the rock and roll, we got into it for the lemon and herb.’
JD: ‘If anyone from Nando’s is reading this interview, I want them to know that I would seriously consider changing the name of the band to Jonny and the Peri Peri Baptists if it would help us at all in this area. I’m just saying.’
Speaking of the name, where did that come from?
JD: ‘Well, John was a person who was a Baptist, so it sounded kind of right…’
AB: ‘We’re incredibly religious. No, no! I’m kidding. Was he the bloke who bar mitzvah-ed Jesus?’
JD: ‘Um, probably. But anyway, my name is Jonny, and I’m incredibly egocentric…’
PG: ‘And then the Baptists bit just seemed to fit. I guess. It’s a bit vague, but it works because people remember it.’
If I were to spend a day in London with Jonny and the Baptists, where would they take me?
AB: ‘We’d definitely have to start with bagels in West Hampstead, because that’s where we start everything. All of our meetings start there. And then…’
JD: ‘And then straight to lunch. Probably at Nando’s. Yes, definitely. It’s wholesome, good food and excellent value for money…’
PG: ‘Stop it.’
JD: ‘Then after lunch, you can’t go wrong with an afternoon tea at the Serpentine, immediately followed by dinner.’
AB: ‘Ooh at La Davina on Upper Street!’
PG: ‘Really, all we do is play music and eat.’
JD: ‘Pretty much, yeah.’
See Jonny and the Baptists host a comedy night at The Vandella in Shepherds Bush the first Wednesday of every month.
Catch them at Edinburgh Fringe at Underbelly from 2 to 26 August.
On 18 and 25 July, they will be doing Edinburgh previews at Islington’s The Hope and Anchor.
Book tickets and hear some of their songs at: jonnyandthebaptists.co.uk