Christo Jones is the stage moniker of Chris Johnson, a Sydney based experimental pop artist and musical storyteller. Using a custom-built stage rig, he weaves together an elegant tapestry of sound, more focused on the journey music can illicit in a listener than the simple act of creating pop.
Last month his Gravity EP was released for the world to hear, Christo Jones’ debut effort and no doubt a spellbinding, narrative experience start to finish.
What’s the point of music which doesn’t tell a story? Step into the chronicle of Christo Jones, the narrator to your next sonic voyage.
When you wander into a Christo Jones show, the first thing you’ll notice is his setup. Minimal in size but gargantuan in variability, this gear rig has become a central part of his songwriting philosophy.
“I wanted a new way to write and perform so I built this stage rig with loads of instruments and effects at my fingertips and feet. It folds out of a suitcase and everything hangs off it – keyboards, drum pads, samplers, weird percussion, even my acoustic guitar is wired through a dozen pedals. It made the process really trippy and inspiring as it became about plugging into the rig and seeing where it would take me.”
“It forces me to arrange songs in less obvious ways based on what I can physically manage, but some people have told me what they like most about my EP and live shows is that songs go in unexpected directions.”
In all things, Christo Jones believes in the importance of narrative, and what’s more important in a plot line that a twist? Music should take you somewhere else or show you a facet of an artist you would never have taken at face value. Virtuosos of this talent can even drive self-reflection, inspiring a realisation in their listeners which were directly brought on by a certain sound or a profoundly well-placed lyric.
On the Gravity EP this was achieved through experimentation.
“I love music that’s organic but has been twisted by technology to sound grand and otherworldly. It allows a juxtaposition between human emotion and warped sonics to prick up the ears. I do weird things to try to find those sounds.”
In instrumental tracks like Entropy and Prelude this is fully-realised, and Jones struts a marvellous platform when freed from lyrical confinement. A rattling drumbeat fed through distortion carries a sense of impending moral weight, or a tinkling of keys adds emotional colour to Jones’ tale between the story-driven, radio friendly tracks with lyrics.
Only upon the the scaffolds of sonic odyssey steeped in narrative theory was Christo Jones able to construct the grand vision of his Gravity EP. It’s a conceptual EP, exhibiting the story arc of a fictional couple:
“The EP explores that moment in a relationship where one person is really struggling, their partner is trying to help them through, and they’ll either work through it or give up.”
“The tracks bounce back and forth between the couple until a narrator intervenes on Complicate and then the couple sing the final song together. That’s where you find out what they have decided. The resolution is a simple statement, but I hope it resonates with people.”
With any concept release comes an exponential level of involvement from the artist, which is perhaps why the output has faded into relative obscurity. However with recent Australian releases from Marcus Whale, Mike Noga, and now Christo Jones examining the profundity of the format, we have our fingers crossed for a dark horse comeback.
We will always have time for artists who embrace experimentation over pop viability. While Christo Jones’ music is catchy, anthemic and leans towards the pop sphere, his creative ideology is pointed in the right direction with pinpoint accuracy, and we’re ready to wrap our ears around whatever his next output entails.
But for the moment, Christo Jones will be taking that snazzy little briefcase around the country. Watch this space.
“Lots of live shows coming up. I’m doing an east coast run later this year, been invited back to Tasmania’s mind-blowing Museum of Old And New Art (MONA) and am finalising some other really interesting art events and music festivals.”