Jonny Couch, believe it or not, was born Jonny Couch.
His father, Mr. Couch, is a trumpet player in the Cleveland Orchestra, and his mother, Mrs. Couch, is a soprano vocalist. The young Couch grew up playing music and surrounded by musical inspirations. As a teenager he rebelled and strayed from the classical route and became a rock’n’roller!
He’s hit the scenes in Ohio, Georgia, and even Pittsburgh, PA—where he played with The Cynics, a staple Pittsburgh punk rock band. He has since left the steel city, though it broke his heart, to take on the Big Apple where he played in The Napalm Stars and explored the underground NYC music world.
His music is very much influenced by the classic punk rock legends, such as The Ramones, The Clash, and Blondie, and he has a knack for writing catchy lyrics that make you want to tap your toes, bang your head and feel the feels.
Currently, he’s scheduled to release his first solo EP, “Animal Instinct” this November, which he recorded in Savannah, GA with producer Peter Mavrogeorgis, who has worked with artists such as The National, Creepoid, and Wild Child. The album release show will be at Berlin Bar in the East Village on Nov 10. Acts for the show include Fletcher C. Johnson, Illegal Drugs (from Atlanta, GA), and Evil Daughter!
BTRtoday caught up with the rocker himself to chat about life, music, and his upcoming record release.
BTRtoday(BTR): So, how did you end up with the name Jonny Couch?
Jonny Couch (JC): [Laughs]. Well, Jonny Couch is actually my real name, believe it or not. My dad is Mr. Couch, so that makes me Jonny Couch. I had another stage name before, it was Jonny Napalm, back when I was in [the band] Napalm Stars, but that band broke up. Everyone called me Jonny Napalm for a while, but I decided to go back to my original stage name, Jonny Couch, which also happens to be my real name.
BTR: Wow! What a wild name. I love it! Did you grow up playing music or did you pick it up later in life?
JC: I’m lucky enough to come from a really musical family. My father is a trumpet player and he played in the Cleveland Orchestra for 30 years as one of the principal trumpet players. My mom was a soprano vocalist. So I come from a very musical family and I was always playing music growing up, all of my life. I kind of did rebel, and I didn’t go the classical route, I’m sure they would’ve liked that. Instead I went into a bit of a rebellion and went the rock’n’roll route. All this music I grew up with though, really influenced my ability to be a songwriter.
BTR: So where are you originally from?
JC: I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio—I’m a Midwest rock dude.
BTR: So you jumped around doing music with a lot of people, and then ended up in Pittsburgh for some time; what was it like doing music in the steel city? (My hometown by the way).
JC: Pittsburgh was great! It’s got a vibrant, amazing rock’n’roll scene—a lot of indie rockers and punk rockers. I was in a garage punk band called Honey Burst in Pittsburgh with Michael from The Cynics, who are somewhat of a Pittsburgh institution. The Cynics run this record label in Pittsburgh called Get Hip, they’re actually distributing my EP, which is nice. So, yeah, I was a big part of the punk rock scene there in Pittsburgh for a while. It was a hell of a lot of fun. We used to play Gooski’s constantly in Polish Hill, I was actually crawling distance from that bar, which was pretty dangerous. [Laughs].
BTR: I literally grew up crawling distance from that bar! That’s wild. So then, what brought you to NYC?
JC: Well, the band that I was in, we actually broke up mainly because The Cynics got back together in the mid-2000’s, so my band, we broke up. I was looking for some other bands to play in and some other things to do, so I was sad to leave Pittsburgh; I really loved Pittsburgh, but I had some friends in NY who were playing music and I wanted to check out the scene. I always loved NY since I was a kid, so I moved to NY. I started playing with Napalm Stars and eventually The Choke, which was a garage punk band that I kind of promo’d all of the material for.
BTR: A lot of the bands and projects you’ve done previously have been more garage/punk, but this new EP is a little bit catchier, what induced your transition in sound?
JC: Well, it’s funny because even when I was doing more punk rock, I was really influenced by more melodic punk, mainly like late ‘70’s like The Ramones, The Clash, Buzzcocks, you know punk bands that were really tune-full. So, I’m still writing stuff that’s really tune-full, it just doesn’t have as aggressive of an attack, if you will. I’m kind of tapping into some influences I’ve always had that are maybe a little bit more ‘80‘s right now—like The Cars and Blondie, some bands that actually have some synth in them. At the same time, I’m tapping into my love for Motown and glam, and definitely power-pop is a big thing, bands like Cheap Trick and song writers like Nick Lowe.
BTR: So this new EP, “Animal Instinct,” what was the creative process in creating it?
JC: Well, it all started off with recording the album, which I recorded the whole thing in Savannah, GA with Peter Mavrogeorgis, who’s a great producer and good friend of mine at this point. I’ve known him for many years. He moved down to Savannah, GA and built this massive recording studio, it’s amazing. He’s a great producer, so I went down there to record one song and it was like magic! We worked so well together that I decided I had to do a whole record with him, so that was kind of why I decided to just go ahead and embark on a solo album, even though I was in-between bands and I was mainly a drummer and I was just really looking to continue being a drummer. But this song I recorded down in Georgia with Peter came out so well that I decided to do a whole album. It’s been a lot of fun!
“Animal Instinct” [the track] is a really cool different kind of tune that has a little bit more of a new-romantic/Roxy Music kind of vibe. Peter really helped us to achieve that kind of vibe and sound, because he’s really into those kinds of bands. My art director, Dave Allen, and I even tried to get the album cover to look a lot like Roxy Music, although a lot of people say it looks a lot more like Flash Dance… [Laughs]. But yeah, it definitely has an ‘80’s thing going for it.
BTR: What were some of the inspirations that went into your lyrics?
JC: Relationships, bitterness, isolation, desperation… “Animal Instinct” [the track] is kind of a song about not having any options left or any choices left or any ideas left of what to do with your life when you feel empty or you don’t have anything left, and so you might have to turn to your animal instincts to figure out what it is that you want to do to move forward.
BTR: Oh word! Yeah, I totally see that in that song. So what should we be looking forward to for the future of Jonny Couch?
JC: Well, let’s see… I definitely have a couple of shows coming up—there’s one later this month at Berlin [bar] with Navy Gangs, and then, of course, on Nov 10 is the big release show, also at Berlin [bar] in the East Village, and that’s going to be with Fletcher C. Johnson, Illegal Drugs from Atlanta, GA, and Evil Daughter. We’re going to be releasing the album at that show and we’ll have the 12’’ EPs available, along with some other knickknacks and merchandise, whatever I can get together, and yeah, we’ll have all sorts of surprises—and maybe even some candy!
BTR: If you were stuck on a deserted island and could listen to one record, what would that record be?
JC: Oh man, that is a tough one! Hmmm… Oh geez, ummm… I might have to say “Transformer” by Lou Reed. I like that album a lot!