Not to be confused with the actor of the somewhat same name, John Famos is the rock star alter ego of the talented and charismatic team of Travis McKenna and Robbie Davidson. It’s an exciting time for the band, seeing as they are now really finding their footing and releasing their debut studio single, “Victoria.” The melodic, free-spirited single will offer you an idea of their upbeat brand of melodic rock that they aim to make accessible to listeners of all types and ages.
As a song, the origins of “Victoria” began as a fictional story about their affection for English rock stars until they performed it live for a friend who had recently come to the end of a relationship with a girl named Victoria. After this, McKenna and Davidson were unable to play the song without thinking of them so they modified the song’s story to match and the end result became “Victoria.”
Based in Toronto, John Famos has become one of the city’s hardest working bands. Right after forming, McKenna and Davidson immediately got to work on songwriting and playing at any local space that would have them. When they finally found a vibe they were comfortable with, the guys wrote and recorded a four-song EP at home without any budget or any direction, except the intention to capture the emotion they were feeling for performing music. Some local success came from that EP release which set the stage for the recording of, Tell Your Friends About Us, Pt. 1, an attempt to professionalize their sound and expand their audience beyond just their locality. That pursuit has continued with the release of “Victoria,” the first in a series of singles John Famos plan to record and release until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted to the point that they can actually play a live concert.
To chat a little bit about “Victoria,” songwriting, and that awesome band name, we hooked up with John Famos for a little Q&A.
Your new single “Victoria” reminds me a lot of some of the more melodic, pop-rock that was very popular in the late 1990s. Who’s an artist or band that you’ve really looked up to in terms of developing the sound of John Famos?
John Famos: “Cheers! We definitely grew up listening to ‘90s Brit-pop bands like Oasis but more so have been into current UK groups like Catfish and the Bottlemen and The Kooks which is the vibe we were trying to channel with this song. But truly me and my bandmate both have the same favourite band, Sticky Fingers, from Australia. We make songs with different influences often, but we use them as the frame of reference to compare all our songs too. There is something special about their music we want to emulate.”
“Victoria” began as a song detailing a fictional story about your love of English rockers before it took on more of a real-life meaning. Could you tell us a little more about the meaning of the song? How did it all come about?
“The song concept started simply, I had been listening to some UK bands and absolutely loving the mood, the way they sing about love always gets me going. I sat down on the couch and started messing around on the acoustic. I started with different chord progressions and would sing basic melodies and ad-libbed lyrics imagining I was one of those bands. I was having fun, putting the accent on a little bit, and singing slang I hear them use. Eventually, I chose the melodies and chords I liked best and crafted the ad-libs into a story. What came out was the core of the song, but it wasn’t until I brought it to Robbie, Gabe, and Scott to develop the lead guitar line, drums, and bass, that I felt the song come alive. They absolutely nailed the energy, the way their instrumentation pulls you through the song gives a power to the lyrics that I wanted.
But the song lacked true meaning until we played it live acoustically for a friend one boozy evening. It had actually made him tear up and he described his relationship with his now ex, Victoria, and how he was heartbroken, self-destructive, and reflecting on the choices that led him there. Just like that, the song became real for us. His emotion inspired us and we re-worked the lyrics and story to capture those feelings in this song.”
“Victoria” is the first in a series of singles that you plan to release over the next several months. What can you tell us about these upcoming singles? When may we expect them?
“This song was our first exploration into recording music professionally at a studio (Dream House Studios). We wanted to step up the quality of our recordings and experience the difference from how we’ve done things previously on our home-recorded EP.
Right away after recording ‘Victoria,’ we knew that we wanted to get back in the studio and record more songs but COVID stopped us from continuing. We had to push back recording to the fall and are set to record three more songs then, which we will release over the first half of 2021. These songs will be in a similar fashion to ‘Victoria,’ centred around real instruments, and live rock energy, but we feel they are a progression from ‘Victoria.’
We’ve written lots of songs to choose from over the last year, which has allowed us to really narrow down the best ones to bring to the studio. Our top choices so far take influence from a lot of chorus driven pop-rock songs, making it accessible to the average listener but also exploring our core musical interests. As well, we are looking to include more synthetic elements and depth that we love, like some of our favourite bands often incorporate.”
It seems as though this time away from playing live and touring has been productive for you. Have you just been writing as much new music as you can over the last few months?
“Yes and no. Quarantine was a bit of a shock for us. We were really looking forward to playing a bunch of shows this spring/summer, even had plans in motion to host our own concert to debut ‘Victoria’ as well as the new unrecorded songs, but with everything shutting down so quick we got a little lost. We spent the first few months apart, passing the time in unproductive ways, chilling out, drinking a lot, and really just distracting ourselves from the reality of the situation. Eventually, the desire to release this song properly brought us back to music. We moved back in together and got to work on ‘Victoria’s’ release and music video plan (which is being shot next weekend), and with being together we naturally started writing music again. We are looking forward to the future for sure.”
Lastly, I must ask you about the band name John Famos since I’m assuming it was inspired by the name of actor John Stamos. How did you come up with this witty name?
“It really started from an inside joke that is not too easy to (explain), but in essence, before we were in a band together, we were just friends, and we would chat about our fantasies of fame and fortune with our buddies, and talk about how we would live if we were rock stars. This eventually led us to do things beyond just playing music, like coordinating photo shoots with each other, creating homemade content and videos, as well as make rock star alter egos that we would eventually form a band around, James Stamos, and Bobby John, combining to John Famos. John Stamos is a classic figure of fame, and in an attempt to add some self-awareness and comedy to our legitimate musical pursuit, we liked the relation of our name to that idea. It lets people know that we are aware that we are acting out our fantasy of being a rocker in real-time, but we are not lost on the humour in it.”