2014 has been the best year yet for the Justice Crew boys. Thanks to ‘Que Sera’ they have spent nine weeks at number one and started generating significant interest overseas.
Creatively, it has also provided the demand for a proper Justice Crew studio album (even the band don’t count the ‘Party Mix’ as an album). It’s called ‘Live By The Words’ and it contains all of the group’s hit singles following their first number one ‘Boom Boom’, including their newest single ‘Rise & Fall’.
Brad recently got to chat to the boys about their long-awaited debut album, their misadventures in America and Solo’s journey towards accepting his love of Ariana Grande.
‘Rise & Fall’ is a bit of a change of direction for the boys; it’s their first love song.
“We heard the demo when we were in the States four months ago and we tracked it two months ago,” Lenny tells us. “The vibe of it suited what we were looking for to put out after ‘Que Sera’”.
Whilst they are obviously hoping that ‘Rise & Fall’ has a similar lasting effect, they aren’t concerned that it hasn’t been as successful as its predecessor.
“Every song has its own time and its own life,” Solo tells us. “It’s like having kids; you don’t have a favourite kid… you can’t keep comparing your kids to each other.”
Lenny had a better example. “You can’t pick up a girl every night,” he says, resulting in both the group and us cracking up. “Sometimes you just hook up!”
Given that it’s taken them four years to put out a love song, we were interested as to what in particular stood out about ‘Rise & Fall’.
“It’s not really your typical love song,” Lenny says. “It’s not like ‘I’ll take you out to dinner and make love to you’. It’s deeper than that. It’s about feeling at home with that person”. Or, as Solo puts it, how “home is where the heart is”.
The song also provides a needed break during the band’s energetic concert set list. “It gives us a breather during our shows,” Paulie admits. “We’re still doing choreography but it’s a lot more chilled. We get a bit of downtime to regroup and then come back again and smash it out.”
Reading into the song’s lyrics, such as ‘Lost in the water, save me before I drown’, we told the boys that we interpreted the song as about feeling out of control. “Yeah like that’s exactly what we go through,” John agrees.
“We’re definitely not in our comfort zone, especially with the music and having to sing now rather than just dance.” Lukas adds.
That discomfort is part of the reason it’s taken so long to get an album from the boys.
“In the beginning we weren’t singers,” Samson admits. “We literally started singing when we recorded the first single. Over time we’ve gotten better.”
“Even the market these days, it’s a singles-based market,” John points out. “No one really buys albums on iTunes. That’s why Sony didn’t support putting out an album.”
It turns out that the boy’s trip to America unveiled a commercial necessity for the album.
“When we went to America doing ‘Que Sera’ as a single, they were like ‘what else is there’?” Paulie reveals. “They wanted a body of work. We had the single but they wanted more.”
Consequently we now have ‘Live By The Words’, named for both the ‘Que Sera’ lyric and the Crew’s determination to be as honest as they can.
“If you listen to all our songs, it’s all about partying and having fun which is what we like to do,” John points out. “We have one love song so we have one emotion there,” he jokes. “We are men at the end of the day!” Solo laughs.
In regards to what the music sounds like, fans should rest assured that it’s the Justice Crew they know and love, just with a few twists.
“There’s more of an acoustic vibe going through some of the songs and the other songs are more ‘feel good poppy,’” John tells us. “’Rise & Fall’ is definitely the slowest on there. It don’t get any slower than 98 BPM.” He laughs.
We couldn’t help but ask the group, which has shrunk from nine to six members over the years, how the dynamic has shifted in that time.
“At the start it was a bit like ‘What do we do, what’s going on?’” Lukas tells us. “But as time went on, we went through a lot of experiences and came out on the other side a lot wiser.”
“I think too that people have found their strengths with the music stuff,” Solo explains. “People know how to do the riffs and we know who to give the raps or the verses to.”
Surprisingly, the group claim to be relatively drama-free when it comes to splitting vocals.
“It’s like having a family and going ‘Who has the milk bottle… the dad? No the baby!’” John demonstrates. “We know who fits where already.”
“That’s the coolest thing about our group,” Solo adds. “Our personalities don’t clash. If there is ego, someone might say ‘You shouldn’t do this’… and it’s not a stab! If I’m trying to say something, I’m just saying it out of good intentions.”
It’s lucky that the boys get along so well as they have spent plenty of 2014 travelling around America promoting ‘Que Sera’. The boys went from being established performers in Australia to saying yes to everything just to get attention Stateside.
“There was a lot of milking,” John confirms. “Even if we had to drive five hours to meet one person in a parking lot and it was 50 degrees.”
That sounded like a story to us, and indeed it was.
“We were supposed to do a radio station outdoor festival thing,” Lenny elaborates. “We were like ‘Cool.’ We had to drive five hours out of the way to get to the airport the next day. We get up there and there was one person, who didn’t even know we were coming. I don’t know if we were going to perform or just say hello. We kind of just had a jump on the jumping castle and then we finished. That’s all we did!”
The boys hadn’t had to do anything like that since they first brought on ‘And Then We Dance’ back in 2010.
“At first we kissed ass hard,” Samson admits, causing more laughter amongst the group.
“But everyone’s got to do that stuff,” Lenny retorts.
“I think we’re a bit more established now’ John tells us.
That doesn’t mean they weren’t up for a good sliming at this year’s Nickelodeon Slimefest.
“We had to sing ‘Que Sera’ to finish the whole thing whilst getting slimed,” John tells us. “I got it in my mouth!”
“John swore on the mic,” Paulie tells us. “Oh yeah, (starts to sing) ‘At the end…oh fuck’” John recalls. “It wasn’t like a subtle cool ‘fuck’, it was a proper ‘fuck’.”
At least one member can think of the educational value of the incident. “The audience got to learn a new word!” Lukas says cheekily.
Since auspOp is known for its love of pop in all forms, we wanted to push Justice Crew’s cool image by finding out their pop guilty pleasure.
“One song I’m really digging at the moment is that Ariana Grande and the Weekend song (‘Love Me Harder),” Solo tells us, to which we heartily agree. “Some of my friends are like ‘Nah man that’s wack’ because they’re full on hip-hop heads, but I like it. I’m not really a fan of hers though.”
Finally, we wanted to know where the boys think they’ll be in the next five years.
“We’ve got lots of plans!” John tells us enthusiastically. “Five years ago we didn’t think we’d be here so hopefully we’ll still be alive!” he jokes (we think!).
“We’ve come this far in five years so I guess in another five years we could get even higher,” Samson adds. “Or back the other way,” John laughs.
“We’d like to break internationally so that’s definitely that’s on the cards,” Lukas enthuses.
“We’re having a meeting about it tomorrow,” Lenny reveals. “Call us back after 11 and we’ll give you a bit of a rundown.”
Justice Crew’s single ‘Rise & Fall’ and their new album ‘Live By The Words’ are available now.