“At the start we were a classic school band. We just wanted to be up on stage so we could up our street cred and potentially get girlfriends. The music was very much secondary,” Dougal Gray, guitarist of five-piece Junodream, explains as we meet over Zoom from opposite ends of London. With the end of another lockdown finally in sight and tour dates booked for later this year, he looks back on the early beginnings of the band and their steady rise over the last three years.
Having been friends for many years, Junodream started out like many other bands across the UK: in school, hoping to become the next household name in British music: “We had this youthful naïve energy,” Gray says. “We thought we could put something together and get on the radio and skip this whole life thing everyone was doing. Now, I think that’s been replaced with a more realistic idea that in order to make something really great, it takes a long time.” It comes as no surprise then, that the music they’ve put out over the past three years has been consistently great, growing into their sound and confidence which each track they release.
While a pandemic and nationwide lockdown might have thrown any band of their game, Junodream saw it as an opportunity to work on their sound with no distractions. Even though Gray stresses the pandemic was “obviously a huge tragedy”, he does admit for the band it was “kind of a dream”. With three songwriters in the band “the idea of being locked at home and focussing on music has been great. It’s more focussed and accelerated, there are no distractions. You can’t just sneak away to the pub when you’re bored,” Gray explains.
That’s not to say the pandemic didn’t affect the band at all: their tour was cancelled and postponed twice and they were no longer able to go into the studio. Their latest single Travel Guide, is the result of at-home producing, something the band has done before. “When we first started, we soundproofed some spaces and basically anywhere we could make some noise, we turned into a studio,” Gray reflects. The restrictions made the band revert back to older material, realising some of it had potential. “I wrote Travel Guide at university, when we were getting into triphop and more chilled music. It had been sitting there for three years and when lockdown happened, we just thought ‘this would be awesome’. And by going for the triphop-vibe we could do more of it at home, ” Gray explains.
The band has had a preference for producing their own music for most of their career. “We’ve always been interested in the production part,” Gray mentions. “We’ve had the experience before of going into the studio and spending quite a lot of money up front, but there are a thousand different ways to produce a song. And you might not have the time or the money to get to know the producer and show them your idea, so the chances of getting it right are slim.” It is apparent Junodream are a band who know what they want and how to get there, while simultaneously challenging themself through constant trial-and-error, with Gray admitting: “Even if we don’t know what we’re doing, we do it a thousand times until we get it right.”
This control over their band-identity stretches much further than just their music. From the artwork and music videos, the band have a very clear vision for each track they put out. The results are striking visuals in their videos, not often seen in a band of their size, and artwork that is immediately recognisable. “We want to do everything that forms around the song, because we see it as an extension of it,” Gray explains. “Colours are a huge thing for example and every song has a colour, so we think of ‘how is that going to impact the listeners experience?’.” For Travel Guide they even went as far as creating a video game, adding new ways to enhance the listening experience.
Even though they have been steadily gaining more and more fans over the past three years (with almost a 100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify), Gray admits it can sometimes feel that “it’s not going as well as it should.” Adding however that, “occasionally it’s quite nice to think ‘you know what, there are 40,000 songs being released today and this one is being picked up by people.” With a growing number of listeners, the band still tries to respond to as many comments and messages they can. “I think it’s so important to constantly keep communicating. I’m constantly baffled that there is someone out there who thinks ‘this is really cool’ and you don’t know who they are,” Gray says.
With their growing success come the inevitable comparisons to more famous bands, with Junodream being referred to as ‘early-Radiohead’ and Blur-like. When asked about this, Gray says “it’s obviously nice to hear, but it’s also the kiss of death. Because you probably piss off Radiohead fans and undo everything they did.” Not letting anything get to their heads, Gray adds “we put the music first and foremost. It’s the project that keeps us going. We want to create stuff we absolutely love and if people start shouting about it then, great.”
Listening to Junodream, it can sometimes feel like a journey back in time, with their songs shrouded in a certain nostalgia for the nineties and early-noughties. When asked about their love for this period, a whole range of different aspects of pop culture comes across (from Madonna to Pixar films), admitting they “can be quite nostalgic for this time”. Further explaining that, “it felt like everyone was being quite ambitious in terms of songwriting and it was very melodic. No comment on experimental pop music nowadays, but we are melody-junkies and we love songs that really capture a feeling.” However, they try not to get too caught up in the past: “When we first started, we wore it a bit more on our sleeve that we were somewhat of a nostalgic throwback, but I think now, it definitely influences stuff and how we create stuff but we really want to create a fresh perspective on it.”
For the coming few years, Gray says they “would love to have an album.” Revealing that they have been slowly starting working on one. However, just as with their previous releases, they are carefully crafting the music, making sure they make it the very best it can be. “There’s no point in doing an album for the sake of it. You can really tell an album that’s just been put out there because they feel it’s the right time for it,” Gray elaborates. “I hope by May or June this year we’re gonna have fifty amazing songs to pick to curate a really great body of music from, whether that be an album or something else.” As for post-pandemic life, Gray says “we would love to graduate to a slightly bigger venue. We love the venues we’re playing now, but we have loads of ideas of how the live shows can be an extension of the songs and we’re kind of at a limited capacity now.”
Over the past three years, Junodream have proven themself to be a band that deliver on every aspect of their music. Consistently releasing great songs, their success sees no chance of wavering any time soon. They clearly love their art and seem to relentlessly work to perfect it (even in the midst of a global pandemic), with exciting results. There’s no doubt this next year will be an exciting one for the band, and as for after that? Gray muses: “In five years, who knows, two really great albums that are cemented in the zeitgeist of British culture? And panned by critics. That’s it, that’s the dream.”
Watch the video for Travel Guide here.
Get tickets to see Junodream live here.