From its humble beginnings as a super indie record being written and demo’d in a three-thousand square foot macadamia nut factory in Hawai’i – complete with chickens and power tools in the background – to its completion, New York-based rock ‘n’ roll band Jonny Lives!’s sophomore full-length, Revolution For Free has been an island-to-island journey which culminated in the release of the record September 27, 2011 via a joint venture between front man Jonny Dubowsky’s own Rock ‘N Renew Records
and Los Angeles, CA-based indie Long Live Crime Records. Recent performances on Late Night W/ Conan O'Brien, The CBS Early Show, Good Morning America, and Good Day Live along with performances w/ Meatloaf, Blondie, Everclear, The Strokes, The Killers, The Kaiser Chiefs and many other amazing bands have solidified Jonny Lives! place in the spotlight, even if the spotlight brings them from the shores of Brighton or Guernsey in the U.k to the Big Island of Hawai'i.
“When I started writing what would become [Revolution For Free], I was living up in the mountains of Hawai’i, and spending early mornings in the ocean and afternoons teaching students how to grow their own food. And, then, hopping on airplanes to travel to schools around the country to continue building a program that connects art, music, and environmental healing,” details Dubowsky. “That was obviously a very different scene than the 3am nights on Ave A, which is where I was spending time when I wrote our debut full-length.”
Revolution For Free shows both growth in Dubowsky’s lyricism and song writing abilities, expanding on the Brit-grit and Lower East Side rock their debut, Get Steady (Eleven Seven Music), and delivering a record chock-full of pop-hooks, melodic rock anthems, shimmering guitar tones, and a powerful rhythm section.
All this is very clear on Revolution For Free, an album that effortlessly moves from the classic AM pop of “Vagabond Lovers.” The guitar-rock crunch of “It’s Not Your Fault,” and the swooning, slightly psychedelic pop-rock of “We Will Not Die Quietly,” the last building and building until it ends with gorgeous vocal harmonies A cappella.
Other album highlights include the garage-rock of “Don’t Throw It Away,” the hook-laden, Beatles-esque raved-up “Your Money Or Your Life,” or the could-have-been ’90s radio hit vibe of “Parking Lot.”
Jonny Lives! pulls no punches with Revolution For Free, speaking out for peace and the environment, all while never losing sight of having fun, crafting sing-along melodies, and writing pop songs that make the listener want to smile.
“In the title track, and across the entire record, I’m talking about the kind of revolution that we had in the 60s with the civil rights movement, an awakening that we can demand certain things, certain human rights,” explains Dubowsky. “A quality of life. For me, music has always been the soundtrack to that process. There’s definitely a story across this record of someone waking up to their power to change things for the better.”
In the mid 2000′s, during 25,000 plus mile touring schedules, Dubowsky started thinking about how to be more environmentally sustainable, while on the road. This got him researching how to pull it off for the band, and led to him realizing awareness wasn’t as high as it should be.
His solution: blend music and environmentalism, two of his passions , and thus Rock ‘n Renew was born.
Jonny Lives! began fueling their touring vehicle with bio-diesel and even waste-veggie-oil (French-fry grease) and also began pulling up to schools in each city to teach students about sustainability before each show. Gaining the support of Debbie Harry, Art Alexakis from Everclear, Kal Penn (Harold and Kumar, House), Fountains Of Wayne, Modest Mouse, The Kaiser Chiefs, and many other artists, Dubowsky suddenly had a huge platform to work on making environmental restoration programs as cool as the bands on Rock ‘n Renew’s roster.
From this initial phase, Rock ’n Renew has grown into a multi-faceted non-profit organization with the resources and connections to make real environmental change happen. It is also still a major part of each and every Jonny Lives! show. Rock ‘n Renew has programs in over thirty cities and has helped over 100,000 students and their communities to restore their local ecosystem.
Moving back to New York City, Dubowsky finished up the album while on the road for his non-profit, Rock ‘n Renew. The drums were tracked in New York City, while other Jonny Lives! band members and special guests tracked parts in L.A., Australia, and Seattle.
“I was involved in every single aspect of this record, from start to finish,” proclaims Dubowsky. “I co-produced the record with friends Brian Boland [the original bassist for Jonny Lives!] and Danny Madorsky [who has worked with Blues Explosion, Chris Whitley, The Bogmen, and Luscious Jackson], with Boland and Madorsky splitting the mixing duties on the record.”