Meet Johnny Mafia, the menace to the quaint city of Sens in north-central France. They may have grown up in a city with less than a 26k population, but their sound will get the whole world jumping.
Though the name was born out of necessity, the French four-piece (Fabio Amico [guitar], Théo Courtet [vocals/guitar], Enzo Boulanger [drums] and William Aguedach [bass]) can easily imagine the monster they created. He’s a tough guy with the personality and musicianship of Elvis Presley and Johnny Thunders
Johnny Mafia, “Big Brawl”
Though their first language is French, they usually write music in English. “It was just much easier to handle sonically speaking,” he says. “At the beginning we didn’t ask what language we should sing in—we mostly listen to English-speaking music though.”
Johnny Mafia released their sophomore album this year, Princes de l’Amour (Princes of love), named after a French reality show.
Princes de l’Amour bursts with gritty punk rock party anthems. The album name may imply loves songs, but their songs are hard-hitting fast punk tracks that’ll vibrate your brain. Tracks like “Ride” and “Each Side” set the tone with angsty chanting, along to heavily fuzzed out and distorted guitar.
“We create songs we like and hope we’re not the only ones who love them,” Amico says.
Read the full interview with Johnny Mafia’s Fabio Amico below.
BTRtoday (BTR): I had no idea you guys were French until I did some research. Why do you sing in English?
Fabio Amico (FA): It was just much easier to handle sonically speaking. At the beginning, we didn’t ask what language we should sing in. We mostly listen to English-speaking music though. Theo usually finds the melody before the lyrics, and he tries to juggle the meaning and the rhythm of the words so that it sounds good and means something.
BTR: I’d love to hear more about this post-punk/garage scene growing in France. I lived in Paris for a summer in 2011 and really struggled to find a music scene—did it recently start to blossom/ how has coming up in it been like for you guys?
FA: In 2011, we were in Sens—our small hometown with its own really cool rock scene. I can’t say much about what was happening musically in all of France in 2011. I was only 15. There were already bands like Cheveu, J.C. Satàn and Frustration. Plus, many things were just being created at that time like some cool French labels, festivals, music programs and I’m sure that helped welcome some cool bands in. There’s something for everyone
BTR: Tell me about Prince de l’Amour—what kind of emotions are you trying to convey with this album?
FA: It’s a bit difficult to answer this question—we’ve never really asked ourselves this. We create songs we like and hope we’re not the only ones who love them. But there are several types of songs in this album. Some are more to dance to like “Ride,” others are more emotional, like “Justify,” but I’d say it’s mostly a little bit of both like with “Crystal Clear” and “That Shelf.” In any case, we put all our hearts into making Prince de l’Amour.
Johnny Mafia, “Sleeping”
BTR: What’s the writing process like for you guys then?
FA: There are no rules. The lyrics are influenced by life, people, reality TV (Les Princes de l’Amour and Secret Story are names of reality TV shows in France), and by Google translation.
BTR: Who is Johnny Mafia?
FA: He’s not real, but he is based off some characters. In France the name Johnny will be eternally associated with rock ‘n’ roll thanks to our good ol’ fashion French Elvis, Johnny Hallyday, who died a few months ago (R.I.P.). His other models would probably be Johnny Ramone, Johnny Thunders, Johnny Rotten and Johnny Cadillac (an excellent Belgian look-alike to Johnny Hallyday)—a great team, if you ask me. In reality, we just had to find a name super-fast to register it. But we think that it’s cool and it’s held up. We can easily imagine a guy or a cartoon character with that actual name.
BTR: What does the future hold for Johnny Mafia?
FA: Everything. You gotta follow us 24-hours a day. We really want to eventually recreate [the reality show] Big Brother (Secret Story in France) with us and all the bands in Sens.