Tuesdays - Jonathan (Balkan Express 069)
Jonathan are a five-, possibly six-member indie lineup from Croatian port town or Rijeka. They are possibly best described as a weird cross-over between post-punk, indie-pop and plain old rock and roll. And yes, before you say anything, an inordinate amount of Croatian bands on this show hail from Rijeka. That is not to say that Rijeka is the only place for good Croatian music. But it is definitely one of the places for good Croatian music. Especially strings-based good Croatian music.
The five-member, all-male Jonathan came into existence slightly more than a decade ago. Lead vocalist Žiro, percussionist Husta, bass gutarist Nixon, and Rade and Tomo, the two guitarist, have all collected decent mileage in various bands and project. It didn’t take long and a chance encounter was followed by riffing and – soon enough – real music.
It took Jonathan three years to release their first album. The few singles that preceded it found their permanent home on Bliss, Jonathan’s debutante album. It received rave reviews by fans and critics alike and the band immediately drew comparisons to the likes of Franz Ferdinand. They contributed music to Croatian hit TV series The Paper which got picked up by Netflix and when Editors picked them as their opening act for their tour of the region, there was no turning back.
Getting Closer Is Keeping us Apart
Jonathan’s debut album checked all the boxes of the contemporary musical production. Edgy enough to be “different”, mainstream enough to be actually liked, released on vinyl for hipster audiophiles and on digital to be practical, and with 12 tracks had actual content. But their follow-up album threw all of that away. Released in 2015, Getting Closer Is Keeping us Apart contained just two tracks. This firmly put the band on the path of conceptual albums, where they stayed ever since.
If their intial albums drew comparisons with Franz Ferdinand, Jonathan’s third album titled To Love, and released in 2017, upped that ante and drew comparisons to Nick Cave, Tindersticks and The National.
But To Love was only the first part of a two-album project. To Hold was released a year later and together, To Love and To Hold comprise a whole. Both in terms of music and album graphics, with the latter album referencing the former and such. Four albums in and Jonathan were finally able to break through the regional barriers and managed to book a tour of the US. Incidentally, this is also when they settled on describing their music as darkly-optimistic.
As a result of their successful tour, the band added a part-time sixth member, Hrvoje, on keyboards. But the pandemic played havoc with their plans. This, at least, is true of all musicians out there. Gigs were cancelled, plans were upended, revenue streams dried up. Jonathan, however, somehow managed to keep it together and started writing new material. And it is this new material that we leave you with. Not yet album-ready, but definitely getting there.
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of, you guessed it, the Balkans. Forget the gusle and tamburice, this show is about rock, pop and a sense of humour. Well, at least there’s guitars. On air most Tuesdays in a new-and-improved time-slot at 1100 hrs. Usually. Your train conductor is Aljaž (aka @pengovsky) who once did the world a solid and decided never to sing again in public. Which is why he ended up doing radio.
TuesdaysWith : Aljaž Every Tuesday at 10.00
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of the Balkans.