Jonah Lisa are two London & Barcelona based, sonically eclectic kindred spirits from another side of the globe. When a young ex soldier escaped the conflicts of war and met an emerging music producer in a East London bar, the resulting casual musical collaboration took them completely by surprise. Their first song emerged almost as a whole piece; a distinct shape and sound. Less created, more discovered.
‘We gave ourselves a shock,’ says Jason, the production half of the electronic duo. It was, they believe, a riff from a future place, ‘an authentic experience’ (That’s Liam, whose guitar speaks grunge, rock and pop. Not always in equal parts.)
The band feels indie, but with a consistent electronic sophistication. Drums are urban. Synths are tech, rave and dance. Bass is deep, wobbly, dirty. This is a hybridised noise.
But its unmistakable heart is the song-writing. Hopeful. Joyful. Occasionally yearning. Words that come from the plains, the red earth of their shared motherland, the summer rain of childhood and unexpected challenges of adulthood. Words that come from the rub and ebb of grown-up life in a big city. Thoughts jostle, bouncing against high-low vocals and layered, New York reverb. Gold. Hollywood. A skipping rope. A lost masterpiece. But, as the chorus builds, tension and dark notes yield to the rhythm of hope and light. ‘Just sit on this rock, instead of chaos…’
These men have experienced the best and worst of the world. Liam, in particular who spent time as a soldier, in a war that made less and less sense. The result was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a feeling that there must be another way. When he reflects on the night skies lit up with gunfire; the thunder of explosions, Liam says only: ‘I cannot recall one clear thought’. These days, life feels more lucid. Forgiveness. Healing. Peace. Gratitude. Love. These are his shields. His flags. His marching orders.
Jason, in contrast was cutting his teeth in recording studios. An award winning producer, he mixed and produced for artists such as Basement Jaxx, Elbow, Marc Almond and Rufus Wainwright. He is the musical craftsman of JL, the sound shaper who creates sonic beds for Liams life changing experiences and incredible outpourings of hope. ‘We have definitely grown up’ he states, ‘with some tough lessons along the way, so I guess we don’t feel a need to please, we do what we do.. You can’t compare yourself to the outside of someone else.’
Liam: ‘It’s simple. Whatever’s inside you, you’ve got to let it go.’
In the bands videos a symbolic godhead often makes an appearance – an unexpected presence from the future. It’s part elemental springbok, part digital prophet. Earth meets electronica. South meets North. Heart meets head.
‘We’re not totally sure where that came from,’ says Liam. ‘But it feels like a kind of warning. My personal life experiences are a reminder to do what’s right, for yourself and for others.’
Jason: ‘People can get lost pursuing the next shiny thing. All of us sometimes cover our pain in branded nylon. But that’s not real. And, what’s worse, you might miss the beauty of the simple things. Of the bliss in the everyday.’
Jonah Lisa doesn’t have the answers. But these are two guys who are going to be asking questions. Sometimes feverishly. Always with honesty.