Fronted by the charismatic presence of six-foot, leather-clad Cree Veronica Johnny, The Johnnys sound is an eclectic mix of punk, garage, ’70s hard rock and ’50s rock’n’roll. Originally from the Northwest Territories, the band has built a reputation as an incendiary live act, blasting rapid-fire barrages of lightning-quick anthems featuring catchy hooks and tongue-in-cheek lyrics.
BCP: What nation are you?
VJ: I am Cree and Chipewyan mostly.
BCP: Where are you from?
VJ: I’m from the sub-arctic, near the largest national park in Canada. It’s full of wild bison (wood buffalo) that are the size of a small van.
BCP: Explain the name The Johnnys.
VJ: It’s our last name plus it’s memorable. Everybody knows a John or a Johnny. For most, I think the name “Johnny” conjures a character not unlike the attitudes in our music. He’s rough, tough and probably wears a leather jacket.
BCP: Why song writing?
VJ: It’s a good way to convey positive fun messages. It’s fun to sing and our lyrics make me feel like dancing and shakin’ something.
BCP: What is your process?
VJ: We write about personal experience or a fantasy character/life. We always start with a memorable idea or phrase and then think about what people might want to shout out during a rock show.
BCP: How long have you been writing songs?
VJ: I always wrote poetry and after I learned how to play guitar they gradually turned into songs.
BCP: Who are your influences?
VJ: Other fellow musicians I admire and know who are out there in the music scene, as well as Joan Jett, Madonna and others.
BCP: Your music is loud, fast, and fun. What do you try to convey to your listeners?
VJ: Positivity. Self confidence. Euphoric release. Movement.
BCP: You have a feather hanging off your guitar neck. Does your spirituality play a part in your writing?
VJ: In my solo acoustic music mostly. I wear a feather on my electric guitar to celebrate my Aboriginal ancestry.
BCP: Do you see your music as part of your spirituality?
VJ: As well as being the lead singer of The Johnnys, I play the traditional Aboriginal hand drum and sing traditional style songs as well. This music is definitely a big part of my spirituality.
BCP: Many artists identify in different ways. Do you identify as a musician? An Aboriginal musician? Or some other way?
VJ: I identify as an entertainer. I play the guitar and sing and what most people comment on after a show is my energy and stage presence. I love performing. I love to dress up. I hope to start acting classes at some point.
BCP: You recently performed in front of a large crowd in Ottawa as the opener for Bif Naked. How was that?
VJ: Amazing! Westfest treated us like gold. The highlight for me was when Thomas Star Walker Clair from Ottawa joined us on stage, in full Pow-Wow regalia. It was a surreal and he was breath taking while he danced.
Tune in to Black Coffee Poet Friday June 24, 2011 for a video of “The Johnnys” performing a song.