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Interview: Johnny Rock of Jumbo Rollers talks about the hubbub

Three years ago, Johnny “Rock” Rochford and Richard “Black” Powell got together in Virginia Beach, Virginia and began to lay the ground work for the band, Jumbo Rollers. Several line up changes and a few years later, change has come once again.
With long time members, Johnny, Richard and Antoine “Twan” Coston holding it down, the current line up is now a three piece.

Jumbo Rollers, Johnny Rochford- Guitar/Vocals
Jumbo Rollers, Johnny Rochford- Guitar/VocalsBeth Austin
Johnny "Rock" Rochford of Jumbo Rollers.
Johnny "Rock" Rochford of Jumbo Rollers.Beth Austin

I caught up with Johnny to talk about the change, gigging around the 757, and their upcoming New York trip.

Beth Austin: Okay Johnny, let’s get right to it. You went from a four piece to a three piece. How’s the transition been?

Johnny Rochford: We’ve been through a few transitions over the years. This last one has been very smooth, as our core was already established. There’s a certain dynamic when you’re a three piece, and you learn to establish an ebb and flow. Plus having some talent around you helps. Twan and Richard do the do!

BA: And where did the band name, Jumbo Rollers, come from?

JR: Ah, I’m gonna lie here. I was sitting with a couple of drunken paddy whackers doing the ganja boot up in Boston around 1999. We were looking for a phrase describing something big. You know, big ball’n (laughs). I hit up on Jumbo Rollers, suggested it to Richard and we went with it. ROCK & ROLL MONTE! Uh, that was closer to the truth than I hoped for!

BA: As far as writing goes, who comes up with the tunes and what inspires them?

JR: I’m the primary songwriter, but everyone contributes. Richard has written quite a few songs and Twan has jumped into the fray with a bluesy number called “Wanting To Cry.” We always joke when a member brings in a new tune, that we get to “Jumbo-Fry” it (laughs).

And inspiration, gosh, I just write about life and my myriad of experiences traveling and living on this orb. I’ve been homeless and struggled with addiction for many years so certainly that is a well I draw from. I’ve discovered that writing about common emotions that everyone can identify with generally resonates better with people. Sometimes when you write about an isolated incident that occurred to just you, the reach shrinks. In other words, you can only write but so many junkie tunes. Even though I write a lot of drug based songs, I’m the clean and sober guy. Funny!

BA: Last year, you all released your CD, “What’s All the Hubbub?” Where can we find it?

JR: You can download MP3’s of all Jumbo Rollers music including, “What’s All The Hubbub?” at bandcamp.com. You can also get the CD at cdbaby.com and amazon.com.

BA: Cool. So who do you listen to?

JR: I’m hooked on a cat named Steve Conte. Another favorite is a New York band called New York Junk. I also listen to a lot of local 757 music. I like The Bottle Babies, Raunchstar, and Crissy Babe And The Dastards.

BA: Locally speaking, some people have been playing around here for decades. Was it difficult early on to get steady gigs? Is there any advice you could give a new band just starting out?

JR: There are a lot of great cats that have been shaking this area for quite awhile. Yeah, it can be a little tough. You gotta bang on some doors. It’s a tough sell in any business when no one knows who you are. All I can suggest is be honest when hitting clubs. You know, don’t say you can bring fifty people when you can’t. You almost need a kind ear and a booker, or owner willing to put you on. Another avenue is finding a more established act to put you on. Either way, be willing to work cheap and hump gear late into the night! Also have a packet together and some music ready for presentation. It’s what your selling and what you are. Oh yeah, and you gotta love it!

BA: John, you’re a pretty snazzy dresser. Where in the world do you get your clothes?

JR: Thank you. I’m from the school that says play hard and look your best doing it! I get most of my stuff when in NYC. Sometimes it’s a bit costly for a fancy piece or dirt cheap off a sidewalk vendor. Oh Yeah, and the ladies department is always a great place to grab a top!

BA: Speaking of New York, you’re going up there in May. Tell me about the trip.

JR: Yeah man, we’re making our second jaunt up to New York! We’re booked on May 30 at Bella Napoli 130 Madison Avenue, as part of an ongoing Dinner and a Show series being run by my friends Kipp Elbaum, Frankie Wood and Dave Tanner. Always top shelf and a lot of fun with those cats!

Hey, aren’t you coming on this trip as official photographer? Yeah, you are! Road tripping in the JumboVille Van! Gonna be a blast!

BA: Oh yeah, I’m super stoked to be traveling with you guys! Look out New York!
Alright Johnny, now for some fun. Here comes the “Quick Six.”

JR: Go for it!

BA: Jan or Marcia?

JR: Both!

BA: NY or LA?

JR: NY.

BA: Hash Browns or Grits?

JR: Hash Browns.

BA: Ramones or Sex Pistols?

JR: Ramones.

BA: Mac or PC?

JR: Paper.

BA: Bacon or “Facon?”

JR: C’mon… Bacon!

To find out more about Jumbo Rollers, be sure to visit their Facebook page.

You can also follow them on Twitter.