There’s a new beat combo in town and their name is JustSo. The duo formed when ex-Longsands and current long hair, David Stanyer met singer and pianist, Olivia Morley at an open mic night in the rock ‘n’ roll hub of Dudley in North Tyneside.
Despite a disparity in age (21 v 37) which could scupper many a prospective band on musical differences alone, Olivia and Stan (as he’s known to friends and journalists) hit it off and promptly formed JustSo; starting off as a duo before expanding the band into its current form by adding Gareth Dixon on bass and Paul Reed on drums.
The newly-expanded band have recorded a full 12-track album which they will be launching on Friday 22nd September at The Exchange in North Shields. Martin Sharman caught up with Stan in advance of the album launch to talk songwriting and serendipity.
“It’s down to Olivia and I coming from different generations – I’m into old-school indie and Motown; Olivia is into a lot of contemporary pop, but also 70s stuff like Queen.We wanted to write an album of hit after hit, as is our debut album was, in itself, a greatest hits.
“When the Longsands finished, I made a decision to go into music full-time, and Olivia and I played a lot of pubs, clubs and weddings. We naturally started to write our own stuff, and that’s how JustSo was born.
“Funnily enough, Olivia actually supported the Longsands at the Cluny a few years back when she must have been only 14 or 15. She remembers me saying good luck to her – that was where we first actually met!”
Talk turned to writing their songs: “We both had some songs from our back catalogues which we pulled apart and rewrote them for JustSo.
“On the piano it’s natural to write a lot of ballads, so a song like ‘Move Out Of The Way’ we rewrote completely as a rock song, bringing the best of both worlds. So I act in a producer role to a lot of Olivia’s songs, adding middle eights and such, but it’s still her song. And then they come to life when they’re played by the full band.”
So what do JustSo sound like? Bands with both male and female vocals are an obvious comparison – think The Beautiful South without the acerbic wit, or even Fleetwood Mac shorn of the marital disharmony. The guitar dominates the piano at times, at least on record, which is a bit of a shame – more emphasis on Elton John-style piano leads would be a rare and wonderful thing. However, Olivia Morley’s voice is lovely: smooth, clear and tuneful. At such a tender age she’s clearly got a bright future ahead of her.
The faux-soul of ‘Outrun The Sun’ is a jolly slice of pop with a soaring chorus; ‘Stay’ is a big ballad with some pitch-perfect harmonies; and ‘When They Got Me’ is a country-tinged number – you could probably line-dance to it if you were that way inclined. There’s a full twelve tracks on the album – something of a rarity for an unsigned band these days – so there’s plenty to get your teeth into.
So often music journalists are in search of the newest, edgiest material, which JustSo are patently not. However, that’s no bad thing. In an increasingly tuneless world, JustSo brings classic pop songwriting, suitable for all ages – your granny would love them. On the strength of the number of people bobbing along to their performance at Corbridge Festival, they’ve got a lot of local support, and one would expect their album launch to be a popular affair.
JustSO will launch their album at The Exchange in North Shields on Friday 22nd September. Tickets, priced at £10.00, are available from ticketsource.co.uk.