Healthy Junkies are everything that epitomizes the indie punk spirit – driven, authentic, and capable of causing a riot at any moment. Having just released their new album Forever on the Road, the band have unveiled a haunting cover of Nirvana track “Something in the Way” and you can check out our exclusive premiere of the video here.
Inspired by the time they met Krist Novoselic in Seattle during their U.S. tour in 2018, Phil from the band had this to say about the track: “We took a trip to Seattle, Olympia, and Aberdeen playing shows along the way. We visited under the bridge which Kurt you used to hang out at and references in the song in an attempt to capture his spirit in our version.”
As a band that has toured relentlessly since their formation in 2011, until the global lockdown of 2020, they came into the new record still firmly locked in the groove. Their own fuzz-drenched take on “Something in the Way” follows single “Last Day In L.A.”, and is just the tip of the iceberg on an album made during quarantine.
Lead singer Nina Courson shines throughout with her Parisian drawl inflecting the Junkies’ brand of rock n roll with tonnes of 60s Femme Fatales Nico and Brigitte Bardot. Elsewhere on the album, Healthy Junkies have further pushed the boundaries of genre using hip hop beats, piano and string arrangements, horror film style soundtracks, and even reggae alongside goth, punk, and grunge.
The soundtrack to their US tour of 2018, their cover of “Something in the Way” celebrates one of the band’s main influences, the grit, and moods of Nirvana underpinning their chaotic and explosive sound.
Ahead of the release of the single, V13 spoke in-depth with Nina Courson and Phil Honey Jones from the band about their love of Nirvana and more.
Thanks for premiering your new track with us. Why that particular Nirvana song and what does it mean to you all?
Nina: “Something in the way is the first Nirvana song that grabbed me and it got me into the band. Listening to the song also gave me my first insight into understanding vocal harmonies, from that moment onwards musical harmony made more sense to me. When we toured the USA in 2018 we visited the actual bridge in Aberdeen underneath which Kurt used to hang out as mentioned in the song. We felt the spirit of Kurt and of the song by being there and so it was really quite a natural decision to record our version of it. Also, I have never been a fan of covering obvious choices so, for example, I would not cover “Teen Spirit” or “Territorial Pissing”.”
Tell us about meeting Krist Novoselic in 2018? What did you talk about?
Phil: “Krist just happened coincidentally to be playing 2 shows with his current bad, Giants In The Trees in the Ballard area of Seattle at cool venue called The Sunset Tavern, when we were in town. It was a small venue, not unlike The Dublin Castle in Camden, London in size and vibe. So there was probably only 50 of us in the audience and he was really quite accessible. We bumped into him naturally, told him we’d travelled from the UK, which interested and impressed him. “That’s a long way to travel for a gig,” he said. We also talked about Healthy Junkies. He loved the name and asked us what drug we were referring to. When we told him marijuana he was in complete agreement. Basically he is very down to earth and easy to chat with. He wished us luck.”
Did you ever get to see Nirvana live and what do you remember when you first discovered them?
Phil: “Sadly none of us had the pleasure of watching a live Nirvana show in the flesh. If the live videos are anything to go by that would have been incredible. I had lost faith in blues-based rock guitar music by the end of the 80s and had switched to electronic music which was experiencing an almighty explosion at that time. I even cleaned up my precious Gibson SG and put it up for sale. But then I heard Nirvana. Someone gave me a copy of Nevermind and it blew me away. Guitar based rock music delivered in an original way that simply resonated with so many at that time. Grunge was in my life and it seemed utterly relevant. I did not sell the SG and instead began writing songs again. Thank you Nirvana.”
Nina: “I never got to see Nirvana live because I was too young. But having discovered them as a teenager posthumously. I will say that their music had such a marked and significant effect on me that I decided to give up my theatre studies and switch to making music. I formed my first grunge band and have never looked back. So Nirvana literally changed my life.”
Obviously “Teen Spirit” was the point where Nirvana and grunge hit the mainstream. Do you think their popularity was a good thing for rock music/music as a whole ?
Phil: “It is likely that that huge success of Nevermind was the beginning of the end for Grunge and Nirvana themselves. Although of course, many people cite In Utero as their favourite Nirvana album which was recorded in the Autumn of their existence and, like the red leaves of the trees in Seattle, its beauty was like a harbinger of the inevitable end.
Nirvana inspired so many bands all over the world and continue to do so. With that in mind, the huge popularity of the band meant their musical reach was far and wide. That has to be a good thing. With movements like both punk and grunge, they have this ascent of purity and dynamism which once commercialized morphs into a pale imitation of its former self.”
Nina: “If it wasn’t for the fame that Nirvana achieved Kurt may well still be alive today. However, the fact that so many teenagers and people of all ages have been so massively inspired by Nirvana and exposed to rock music due to their commercial success is a good thing. So it is a bit of a double-edged sword.”
Grunge was described as the last musical revolution, do you think there will be another musical revolution of that scale and if so, what could you see being the next game-changer in music?
Phil: “Grunge as a genre and musical description was created by the mainstream music press of the time, who had such clout back then. As was punk. Those same outlets do not have the same huge readerships as they did back then. Everything is so spread out across online media outlets. This does not mean that there cannot be another musical revolution. These things usually are the result of many factors: Socio-economic, the weather (’76 heatwave in the UK), the need for change, the invention of a new instrument (the synthesizer) etc. At the moment many people are feeling disenfranchised and isolated. Looking to music for some kind of respite, a feeling of belonging, especially if that band resonates with you in their lyrics and their sound, is something that could well happen again on a large scale. The world is more globalized now and information moves around so fast that if you did have a movement like grunge it would appear and disappear in a flash. Technology is probably going to be the thing that creates the next “Big Thing”.”
Nina: “The grunge scene was basically a bunch of bands who had a similar sound/vibe all playing in the same area at the same time. Nirvana turned the rock scene on its head completely. Previously bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses were playing long technical guitar solos and had a certain rock star attitude that was left over from the 80s. With Nirvana, it was all about the songs and the spirit, very much like Punk. So a new movement or whatever you want to call it could most certainly happen but it would depend on the mainstream media. Things are so different now than in the 90s with technology completely dominating our lives that it is really futile to compare the times. There is right now a very healthy underground scene happening but it is mostly being ignored and overlooked by the media. Maybe that will change. It should because people need to know about the incredible amount of talented bands that are out there.”
Now the song is out, what is next for the Healthy Junkies? How would you describe 2020 for the band and what are your hopes for 2021?
Phil: “2020 has been a productive and busy year for us. Not being able to tour gave us more time to work on writing music, recording songs, and making videos. If it wasn’t for lockdown our new album Forever on the Road would most likely never have happened.
We are following up immediately with a third single plus video off the new album. This is really an attempt to capitalise on the areas which are still functioning for us musically. We, fortunately, have the tools at home to record music and edit film, much easier in the digital domain than it ever was before.
It is difficult to predict what will happen in the coming months but we are booked to play a couple of social distance table only gigs. One on November 14th at The Hives in Rotherham and one on December 22nd at The Amersham Arms as part of a two-day Xmas festival. We also have a bunch of new material to work on so that will keep us busy.”
Nina: “We have to keep busy with music to make us feel alive. If we stop we don’t feel like we exist and get depressed. So I totally recommend being creative in these turbulent times as it is the best therapy ever.”
The Healthy Junkies released their Forever on the Road album on September 25th and you can pick up your copy from here.