Johnny de Courcy
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Johnny de Courcy


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"Johnny de Courcy can't not play music"

Singer-songwriter Johnny De Courcy reminds me of a hippy moonchild. The kind of guy who would date a woman named Belly Button or go on a ritualistic cleanse that required him to eat only garlic for three weeks. Even when Johnny was playing in metal bands like Skull Fist and Black Wizard, he still had this dreamy, mysterious quality about him. He was theatrical. He never took anything too seriously, yet he was always very serious. He was big into performance. Between manning an artist live/work space on the Downtown East side of Vancouver and working at his screen-printing company Pin Hole Printing, Johnny is always creating something.

Last year, Mr. Moonchild decided to ditch the metal scene and do what he really loved to do: pop music. He released a solo EP, Bad Teeth (Green Burrito Records), and since then, has formed a new band called Johnny and the Death Rangers. Their debut LP drops in the fall and, naturally, Johnny is releasing it himself. I decided to talk to him about his artistic upbringing, Sunset Strip fantasies, and his occasional cross-dressing.

Noisey: You come from a big family that is very artistic. Your father is an artist, your sister designs jewelry, your older brother is a photographer, your younger brother is a musical instructor as well as model. Did this play a part in your interest in music?
Johnny De Courcy: Yes, my parents are both artists and we all grew up very liberal. They put us in piano lessons when we were very young so that helped a lot, I think. They are really supportive of whatever we choose to do.

How many kids in your family again?
Seven, including me.

You guys should have done a Jackson 5 or Partridge Family thing.
Or Michael De Courcy’s Family Jewels.

Do you ever write songs about your family?
Yes, there is a song on my new album called "The Artist," which is about my dad.

What as the first song you ever wrote by yourself? Do you remember it?
It was way back when I was 15 and really into hair metal. I don’t remember the title, but it was about going into the club with a full wallet and talking to girls on the Sunset Strip. I think my dad has the original lyric sheet somewhere.

Had you ever actually been to the Sunset Strip at this point in time?
No, but I did play the Whisky-A-Go-Go when I was 19 and playing in a metal band.

I moved to Toronto when I was 19 to play in a band called Skull Fist and we were going to take over the world—you know, long hair, shredding, and beer drinking-style. We booked some shows in Los Angeles and flew down there and played and walked around for about five days. That was the time I smoked my first menthol cigarette too. I was in love.

After seeing you in Black Wizard, then hearing your solo stuff, I feel like your new band, Johnny and the Death Rangers, has really let you come into your own. It's pure pop and has a 90s-Built-to-Spill-meets-Oasis-heroic-melody kind of thing to it.
Well, it is my own now. The guys in my band now are cool with just playing my songs, which is what I struggled with in [my previous band] Black Wizard. I wanted to go in one direction and they wanted to go in another. But now, it’s nice to have complete control over everything. It’s a lot of work, but essential to me right now.

I want to ask about the cover of your solo album Bad Teeth because it totally reminds me of John Frusciante's first solo album cover. Do you know that cover? You both are cross-dressing.
[John Frusciante’s cover] is a cool one. People used to mistake me for a girl a lot when I was younger. I had really long hair and a baby face. I looked exactly like my little sister.

So, why the cross-dressing? Is it statement thing, or are you just doing your take on bell hooks, like, “Heels are for everybody?"
It was more of a performance thing. I enjoy dressing up and it was a way to stand out, I think. Sometimes, it would bring bad attention.

How so?
I would get yelled at walking down the street to a show or at the show other people would yell me at. That or people wouldn’t even talk to me because I was wearing makeup and a wig. One time at a Black Wizard show, after we played, a guy came up to buy merch and he ask our drummer’s girlfriend to sell it to him instead of me. He wouldn’t even look at me, but he wanted to buy my band’s merch. I could tell that it was because I was dressed in drag. And I’m like, “Come on man are you serious?”

He was probably threatened by how hot he thought you were.
He should have given me his number, then.

Why do you play music?
Because I can't not play music.

Do you think you could still play music if you never did it for an audience ever again?
That’s tough, because a big part of the joy I get from music is sharing it with people. I love performing. I don't think there would be much of a point if I couldn’t share it. I think that music is such an important part of this world. - Vice

"Johnny de Courcy can't play music"

Think back to the years that filled this early century and the music that grazed the glossy pages of SPIN and Q Magazine. Contemporary British bands with matching haircuts and men with the voices of lovely ladies, that somehow made teenage girls swoon. On Johnny De Courcy’s self-released Johnny de Courcy and the Death Rangers, my instinct is to remember the days when I listened to an identical sound by the Kooks on repeat, five years ago.
I haven’t heard a band like this since, and with good reason. De Courcy’s voice looms like a bored, gloomier version of Luke Pritchard’s, with an almost parallel accent. The tracks, mastered by Paul Gold at Salt Mastering and recorded at Bully’s Studios, are flooded with depressing lyrics, heavy pop-guitar, and theatrical drumbeats, all flawlessly crisp and perfectly mastered.

“Fade Away” gives the album a sentimental, coastal, and almost Celtic texture with wallowing lyrics and ‘70s inspired, lingering guitar notes. The next track, “Hello Goodbye,” coincidentally enough begins with a riff akin to “Blackbird” by the Beatles. I actually thought it was a bad cover with the wrong name for the first few seconds. Instead, it rolls into an irritatingly bouncy and marginally tacky jumble of a ditty.
However, when the redeeming “Andreas Song” comes in, I can imagine this track would take the reins at a show and snap a drowsy-eyed crowd into some ecstatic bobbing. But next, De Courcy’s winsome vocals meander back in “Old Glass” with naked lyrics and ‘90s pop-rock drums.
Each track mimics its predecessor, following the same pattern with a sluggish beginning while pushing its way into either a psychedelic trance or a teen-angst rock out. It’s difficult to determine what sound the quartet were aiming for. ‘90s MTV pop-rock? Washed-up nu-metal? Pretty much anything but solid, rooted, or good.
Overall, Johnny de Courcy and the Death Rangers is like a 12-tracked mosaic of self-indulgent boy-next-door pop, impeccably performed instruments, catchy melodies, and Brit-band influenced heartache. If you’re into the Kooks, give the album a listen and you may just thoroughly enjoy it. If not, save your ears the trouble. - Discorder Magazine

"Death on the Range"

It’s midday in the East Vancouver warehouse he calls home, and Johnny de Courcy just woke up. The night prior, he played host to a house show that included Suicide Squeeze-signed post-punk locals Peace, among others. Now, sitting in his bedroom, he’s trying to piece everything together. “There’s a cheeseburger on the floor!” he says, interrupting himself. “Oh man I wish I could eat that.”

The building plays triple duty as his living area, an occasional venue and the home of his silkscreen business, Pinhole Printing, which has paid all of his bills for the better part of four years. Now, however, de Courcy is saying goodbye to it all in an effort to focus more on the classic rock-indebted pop of his new act, Johnny de Courcy and The Death Rangers. “I manage the building and run the business and do all this other stuff, and I can’t do all of that and do music,” he says. “Music is the passion that’s burning in my heart.”

That’s not to say a love of shredding the six-string and hitting the road is anything new. In fact, de Courcy is most likely a familiar name to most thanks to his tenure in the Vancouver group Black Wizard. An extension of his adolescent obsession with heavy metal, de Courcy’s time in the band coincided with a transition in taste.

“From age 15 to 20, I was just steeped in metal,” he says. “A lot of ’80s metal, hair and guitar solos. Then, when I was 20, I bought Harvest by Neil Young and it all changed. That was the album that opened the floodgates.”

It was after expanding his own palette that de Courcy joined the Wiz, trying to shoehorn his taste for classic rock songwriting and experimentation into the band’s weeded-out metal. Eventually, however, he outgrew the band, and more specifically the genre. “That’s where the frustration came with Black Wizard — we were all growing but not together. I also didn’t want to just play guitar anymore, I wanted to sing the songs that I wrote. I was also really into playing music that wasn’t loud and aggressive.”

Without any real plan, de Courcy quit Black Wizard amicably and immersed himself in new ideas. “When I quit, I just started playing solo because that was the only way I could do whatever the fuck I wanted to — which was singing and playing and dressing in drag and going off the deep end into this new thing.”

The recording side of Johnny de Courcy’s career started with “Andrea’s Song,” a memorial elegy for the mother of Black Wizard bassist Kyle Fee. Recording with Michael Kraushaar, the collaboration quickly expanded into the Bad Teeth cassette. Soon thereafter, de Courcy recruited The Death Rangers, with Kraushaar on rhythm guitar, Mat Vass on bass and Phi Van on drums.

With a lineup in tow and songs written for their debut full-length, Johnny de Courcy and The Death Rangers headed where any self-respecting rockers would: to a drug dealer’s recording studio in Surrey, B.C. “I think it got shut down,” de Courcy says of the space. “This guy, he lives in Mexico, and he has business partners that know Mike. He had access to this million-dollar studio. It had so much gear, dude. Millions of dollars worth of gear in it, and $10,000 microphones. It was insane. There was a kitchen, and it was all really sleek looking. We just lived there and recorded all day and all night for 10 days straight.”

The resulting album offers 12 tracks of well-crafted, highly addictive rock ’n’ roll that sounds at once classic and without era. While de Courcy’s aforementioned Neil Young obsession is clearly on display, there’s also an Elliott Smith-indebted songcraft as the singer-songwriter flirts with pop structures. That’s not to say he’s toned down the shredding, as there are riffs aplenty, and even brief moments of heavy guitar. To put it simply, Johnny de Courcy has arrived. - Fast Forward Weekly


Bad Teeth EP - Green Burrito Records 2011
Johnny de Courcy and the Death Rangers LP - Self 2012



Used to play in black wiz. now play under own name with backing band called the Death Rangers. like to tour, like to record. like friends, beer, family. going to the dentist tomorrow.