Joanne Joanne are more, much more, than a Duran Duran tribute band. They have been together since 2012, playing mostly album tracks or b-sides from the first three albums.
And they absolutely do not do Rio.
Cherry Lipstick caught up with Charley Stone (Guitar) and Lolo Wood (Keyboards) after Joanne Joanne’s triumphant return to the live stage on 14th July, to learn about their manifesto for the band and their other musical influences.
Interview by Adam Wilson (Editor, Cherry Lipstick)
Picture by Ben Rawson-Jones, 14.7.2022
Adam: Congratulations on your fabulous Joanne Joanne gig at The Lexington last Thursday, did you have a good time?
Charley: Yes, of course!
Lolo: I don’t think it was my best. I came over from Ireland for the gig and I would rather have had another couple of rehearsals before doing the show.
Charley: Lolo, don’t give away your secrets! Don’t say you weren’t at your best – you were!
Lolo: Well, this is the difficulty of living in a different country. We can’t just get together like we used to.
I know how wide and varied your non-Duran music ventures are, and I have been especially enjoying MX Tyrants, which features four fifths of Joanne Joanne. It was fascinating to see the influences you have taken on in that group.
Charley: When we first started doing Joanne Joanne, after a few gigs we were jamming during the rehearsals, and adding extra beginnings to Sound of Thunder, and we decided to get together and just play some music and see what happens.
Lolo: We’d been playing Duran Duran stuff so much that we thought we ought to play our own stuff. MX Tyrants were obviously going to sound a bit like Duran Duran if it was the same people playing Duran songs together.
Charley: Given we were playing that kind of music together, we were coming up with that kind of sound. We never wanted to copy that Duran Duran sound. Even in Joanne Joanne we haven’t wanted to slavishly copy the originals. I always want to mix it up a bit. When you see blokes in traditional tribute bands go, “Oh yeah I’m using the such and such chorus pedal because that’s what they used on the original,” it can get a bit boring, because you can never completely recreate the sound created by someone else – it’s always going to sound like a poor copy. What I think is better to do when you are listening to songs you want to cover, is consider what are the elements that most speak to you, that you personally enjoy, and how would you play them if you were playing them? The way we play those Duran songs, there’s more of a Cure or Cocteau Twins influence as well. It’s filtered through other tastes that we have.
Lolo: A tribute band is more about trying to recreate exactly, and look like, the band whose music you are playing…
Charley: …while we have created ourselves as though we were the original Duran Duran – it’s this fictitious world where we created these songs and there’s these guys out there who have done commercial versions of our stuff!
This completely comes across to your audience – that you are so much more than a looky-likey band, and everything that goes with that.
Lolo: For me it’s the element of ‘what would it be like if I was in Duran Duran?’ (laughs). So ‘what would Duran Duran sound like if I was in them?’ That’s harder for me, obviously, because while they may change guitarists, I don’t think they are going to change Nick Rhodes.
Charley: I loved Duran Duran so much, and I still buy the albums when they come out, and there’s always a nugget on every album. I do still go to see them occasionally, but most of the time I can feel like ‘this isn’t the band I would have been in’. When Lolo and I formed Joanne Joanne, it was the opportunity to be in the version of Duran Duran that we wanted to exist!
Lolo: The very concept of Joanne Joanne came about at a Duran Duran performance. It was the For One Night Only thing for ITV (in March 2011). We didn’t have a name, just that we wanted to form an all-female Duran Duran group. We were going to called something like ‘Girls On Film’. But we had the concept.
Charley: We were in the queue outside. We were saying that we were really into The Man Who Stole A Leopard, and someone, around our age, said, ‘oh no, we’re old school.’ And we were a bit affronted, y’know; just because we’d mentioned a new song, didn’t mean that we were new fans who had just got into them. I felt very out of place in that queue –there were lots of people very different to me and Lolo. We were in a Fall tribute band, we’d been in alternative bands all our lives. I remember going into the show, and Duran came on. We were dressed all in black, with leather jackets, and visually we probably looked more like show runners than audience members. But then Duran Duran came out and they were also all in black with leather jackets! And I remember one little moment when Simon looked over and saw us, and I felt like a little flash of recognition.
Charley: When we formed the band, originally it was only going to be album tracks and b-sides from the first three albums! We thought it would be really hard to get someone to play like John Taylor. But I’d been in a band with Jo Gate-Eastley. And I remember saying to Lolo, “Actually, I do know someone who plays exactly like John Taylor.” When Jo had joined my punky band back in 1994, I remember thinking she played like John, but we’d never discussed Duran Duran ever. So I got in touch with her and went, ‘Jo, were you ever into Duran Duran?’ and she went ‘Oh, yeah, totally, that’s how I learnt to play the bass!’ So of course, she was in.
Lolo: And she had the perfect name!
Charley: We had the name first, and then when Jo Bevan [singer] joined, it made even more sense. We'd known Mel for many years and she completed the line up on drums.
So you had the vision and USP of playing only the first 3 albums, which makes such sense. Other Duran tribute bands have tended to come unstuck when playing the later songs, like Come Undone, Wild Boys or Notorious.
Lolo: We did do Notorious for a while.
Charley: Well, it was forced into the set by one of the band, who shall remain nameless. We played it twice and I said this doesn’t fit the brief.
By going back to those songs that you knew so well, did you appreciate or learn anything new by deconstructing and then playing them?
Lolo: Oh absolutely, yes. You listen to things in a completely different way when you are learning to play them.
Charley: Sound of Thunder was always my favourite. In deconstructing it, I’d never noticed this key change [Lolo: me neither!]. it’s a really cool key change, and it doesn’t do it obviously, not like in the chorus or the outro, it goes into the instrumental, and then stays there ‘til the end.
Lolo: I’d always noticed there was an upping of excitement in that bit, but not because there was a key change. I’ve stuck something similar in a new song I’ve written for my new band! It wasn’t intentional and then I noticed I’d kinda ripped off Sound of Thunder! I also found it interesting trying to recreate the keyboard sounds on two small keyboards. That was frustrating at times, but also fascinating and nerdy process as well.
Charley: You had the hardest job in terms of that.
Lolo: That is a reason there are certain songs we don’t do, because they would be impossible to replicate. Unless we had this huge bank of keyboards.
It seems the right time to ask you about the famous song you don’t play! What is the official reason for not playing Rio?
Charley: There’s lots of reasons that are all the same: There is enough Rio in the world. Duran Duran always play it. Every karaoke machine has Rio. Every wedding band, covers band…
Lolo: …and it’s the Duran song you will hear in a bar or shop.
Charley: It would be a great song to play, it’s a fun one to play, certainly for guitar or bass. But it’s pointless for us. We wanted to give something to the audience by doing this, which I wrote down in a manifesto that Lolo later gave to John Taylor, and one of the things was that we would play the forgotten classics that fans don’t usually get to hear - though these days Duran have been sneaking more of them into their set lists. But also it’s for those people who didn’t think that they liked Duran Duran because they’d only heard the hits. Lots of people when we started were there to hear other bands on the bill, and they were like ‘oh my God I had no idea Duran Duran were so cool.’ The manifesto said our aim was “To persuade fans of The Fall and Factory Floor of your genius,” and John really liked that (laughs).
Lolo: If we were going to do Rio justice, we’d have to either really change it, or would have to have a saxophone player, or another keyboard. It would either change so it didn’t sound like Duran Duran anymore, or do a big production number.
That’s why I find it hard to imagine you doing Notorious.
Lolo: It sounded alright, but it didn’t sound really amazing, like the other stuff.
Charley: It doesn’t always sound amazing when Duran Duran play it. Because it’s so much Nile’s style of playing, and a rhythm section that can work with him. That kind of funk is hard to get in a way that bounces in a very consistent and brilliant way, that means you don’t know what’s happening. You can play it competently, but there’s got to be that extra X factor that comes from a particular level of ability plus chemistry that comes between different band members. When I’ve seen Duran live, and they’ve had Nile playing with them, it’s been a very different experience from when he’s not there.
Just to pull back from what you don’t play, it’s time to talk about my favourite moment of your set – New Religion.
Lolo: Oh, probably, yeah.
It just bursts, and is wonderful to hear.
Lolo: I love that as I get to do the backing vocals – am I the ego or the alter ego? I forget. When we first formed Joanne Joanne, I had to make a decision as to whether I was going to be ‘Simon’ or ‘Nick’. I decided I was too short to be Simon le Bon, and I’d be too jealous of whoever got to be Nick Rhodes.
There was a lovely line in Cherry Lipstick which said that New Religion perfectly captured the tension within Duran Duran as to whether they were a guitar band with synths, or a synth band with guitars.
Lolo: Oh, I agree.
Charley: I don’t feel that I’m inhabiting any particular guitarist’s role from Duran Duran within Joanne Joanne. I play the guitar as I would play it. It just happens to be Andy Taylor’s part that I’m playing and doing my own version of.
Lolo: Quite a few people who have heard us, have said that Charley’s playing reminds them how much Andy Taylor brought to Duran Duran and the sound, and made them sound different from other bands.
Charley: I do love Andy’s guitar playing more than any other guitarist who’s been in Duran Duran, but he doesn’t have the same aesthetic as Nick and John, in the way he thinks about music, and I tend to think about music like them, but I also like to rock the fuck out!
Lolo: I think that’s what made them so unique at that stage. I always thought Andy and Nick complemented each other very well.
Charley: You can see how Seven and Ragged Tiger is much more synth based, and Andy’s seems to have been used more judiciously.
Lolo: There are some fantastic guitar solos on that album.
Charley: I can see how Andy would have found that album frustrating, but that didn’t particularly come from us revisiting those songs, it was something we always knew. On Sound of Thunder we couldn’t determine if it was guitar blended with keyboards, but whether it was or not, we decided we really liked it, and so we played the parts together. Sometimes I’ve chosen not to play a lead line, and let the bass and the drums and the keys make a framework for the vocals.
As I have your exclusive attention, please can I request Of Crime And Passion at your next show?
Lolo: Oh yeah!
Charley: I’d love to do the whole album. But anything we do now will be few and far between with Lolo in Ireland. And we are all busy with different things. There will only be the very occasional gig that we do now – hopefully there will be one next year.
Lolo: Jo Bevan is too busy being a proper pop star with Desperate Journalist as well! We did more Seven and the Ragged Tiger when Val was on vocals. She was true ‘stadium le Bon’!
It is also great you include some of the hits.
Lolo: I think it was when we got Jo Bevan, and she suggested that we do some hits as well as the album tracks, and they gradually crept in. It seemed a pity not to do Planet Earth or Girls On Film.
Charley: We also wanted to do Girls On Film because we loved the Night Version. I wanted to do that bit at the end where they go into the extra section.
Have you considered anything newer joining your set list, like Runway Runaway or Being Followed from All You Need Is Now –– to give them the Joanne Joanne seal of approval?
Lolo: We both love that album, it’s the last one I really loved. I can’t see us doing anything new. There’s enough early stuff we haven’t done as well if we wanted to add to the repertoire. As a concept, just doing the earlier stuff works.
Charley: I can’t see it, though I really like Starting To Remember from Pop Trash. I’ve also covered Box Full o’ Honey.
What is your view of Future Past?
Lolo: I like it, but don’t love it. I got annoyed as I don’t buy CDs, I got the vinyl. It didn’t come with a free download, and there were too many songs left off the LP. Any edited version for vinyl should have different versions for their different fans, like those who were goths or indie kids, or ravers, or the ones who stayed pop princesses! It was good to hear the songs live, but I do keep going back to All You Need Is Now. I was a little bit underwhelmed, but I’ll put in on again now and see if I still agree with myself.
Charley: I’ve only heard it once, and I can’t remember what my view was! Everyone seemed to get very excited about Invisible, and I thought I didn’t have time for that. I wanted Simon le Bon to sing surrealist poetry, with minor key harmonics going on, and Nick to be playing like he’s in Arcadia. In terms of melody and lyrics, Invisible just did not interest me although I’d been looking forward it. This may not be endearing me to the fans! I’ll have another listen*.
Lolo: Invisible grew on me, and got quite ear-wormy. I liked the Anniversary video, apart from the fact that Joanne Joanne should have been in it!
That would have been so good!
Lolo: Yeah, they missed a trick there!
*Later: Charley messaged me to say Velvet Newton was her stand-out track from the album. She said, “Thank you for prompting me to reinvestigate! I feel like I unfairly judged this album. It's much better and more consistent than a lot of their later ones.”
It is a real fan celebration when Joanne Joanne play.
Lolo: We feel that from the fans when we play, and afterwards when we meet people. We do prefer to refer to ourselves as a concept band rather than a tribute band
Charley: Yes! And that is exactly the kind of thing Nick or Simon would say.
Joanne Joanne are:
Jo Bevan, vocals
Charley Stone, guitar
Lolo Wood, keyboard