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Thursday, March 13 • 11:00pm - 11:30pm
Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit

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Johnny Flynn is a proper, feature-worthy curio, more so than a modern day indie star has any right to be. One minute he’s revealing that his old man was in 'The Avengers', the next that, as a youngster, he used to work on a fishing boat and then that last night he performed with his band at the Royal Albert Hall. A few moments in his company, then, is enough to know that Master Flynn, 24 years old, will be keeping our attention for quite some time. And that's before even hearing his music. Recently signed to Vertigo and managed by those young upstarts at Transgressive Records, Toby and Tim, Johnny Flynn has already made a name for himself as an actor, touring 'Twelfth Night' and 'Taming Of The Shrew' around the world and performing at the Old Vic in front of Kevin Spacey ('You'd be in the dressing room and he'd just walk in. You'd be in your boxer shorts having to reply to him thinking, "It's Keyser Soze!"' recalls Flynn). As a jealousy-making, multifarious talent, Flynn is also, according to The Observer, one of a new breed of British singer-songwriters who are going their own way. New he might be but in the old-timey sounds that course through his music Flynn's Americana-leaning fare is already classic-sounding, the result of a driving-force inspiration that isn't surface-based like those abused by his peers. 'If you get to the point of things and find out where they're coming from that seems more centered and real to me,' explains Flynn. 'I like to hear something that has got roots and a sense of past. I’ve been reading "White Bicycle" [by Joe Boyd] and he says that when Fairport Convention listened to "Big Pink" by The Band it was a real call to arms for them because if a band was making music so unashamedly American and rooted in US history, then Fairport could look just as deeply into English history. That's what I'm attempting, but across a few cultures.' This culture-collecting takes in the music of his birthplace (Johannesburg) and his parent's favourite album, 'Graceland', to the raga-tending folk-blues of John Fahey and the ceilidh bands and sea shanties that he heard as a teen in the pubs of Pembrokeshire. His band's name, The Sussex Wit even comes from a documentary in which it was said that English folk is entwined with a sense of irony that comes from rural counties like Sussex. Going hand-in-hand with this folklorist passion is Flynn’s obsession with storytelling. 'It's a very present activity that renews our sense of the world, but I think it's quite absent in modern Western culture. I had a teacher who impressed on us that stories are bastardizations of sermons from the bible that grow wings and get passed down, so quite modern stories often come from ancient ones.' The Bible, eh? How many of our young British musicians are touching on that? This curiosity of Flynn's, not just in Christian texts but also those of Sufi and Buddhism, point to a wizened grasp on mortality, morality and all things existential, something that was forced down his throat when, as a child, he won a scholarship to sing in the Winchester College choir. 'We had quite heavy religious instruction. They weren't just teaching it because it was on the curriculum, they truly believed in it. It was very strange. We all got the impression, at nine-years-old, that we were being bred for something special, you know? We were called Choristers but the other schoolboys were called Commoners!' Rebelling from this segregation and blinded Godliness, Flynn spent some time traveling in Europe and listening to more recent storytellers like Lou Reed, Dylan, The Pixies and Wire, before discovering and injecting his own roughly hewn sound with the honest, punk-spirited songcraft of antifolk pin-ups Langhorne Slim, Jeffrey Lewis and Diane Cluck. He wasn't alone. His friends before music include fellow 'nu' singer-songwriters Jeremy Warmsley, Emmy The Great and Tom Hatred, and in the spirit of antifolk, they all help each other out when they can. So, with his deep and tender songs about Wayne Rooney, death and the romance of friends getting him signed, Flynn is concentrating on the music for now. Having stirred up interest with two singles released on the hot-as-hell Young & Lost Club label ('The Epic Tale Of Tom And Sue' and 'Ode To A Mare Trod Ditch') and his heartstring-plucking, raucous live shows, his supporters are more numerous and passionate. Flynn's music is inventive, evocative and accessible, touching the heart whilst insisting that you move your feet, as anyone who caught his rowdy performances at London's Underage Festival, Bestival or Latitiude this summer can testify. Next on his itinerary is a UK tour with old friend Jack Peñate, and support dates with Iron and Wine before he and the band head to Seattle to record their debut album with Ryan Hadlock who has previously worked with The Gossip, The Strokes and Regina Spektor. Flynn's mission to rid the singer-songwriter of negative connotations is obviously going well: 'The days of the lonely singer-songwriter wracked with angst and wanking away in his bedroom are dead,' he claims. Thank Flynn for that.

Thursday March 13, 2008 11:00pm - 11:30pm
Latitude 30 512 San Jacinto St

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