In this week’s Featured Artist Friday we take a look at Chicago pop-punk band Welcome To Jonestown. Welcome To Jonestown is a trio that consists of Burnard Wedderburn and brothers, Jeremy and Matt Handel. Jeremy handles lead vocals and serves as the lead guitarist, Matt is the band’s bassist and backup vocalist, while Wedderburn holds down the drums.
“Before I learned the guitar I wanted to record hip-hop,” said Jeremy. “I spent some time in my room making beats and writing lyrics. I bought a mic and made about 10 tracks. Then I learned how to play the guitar and wrote a few songs, and in my mind recording was the natural progression. The reason I make music is to be heard, and I want to share that with anyone willing to listen.”
The trio draw their musical inspiration from pop-punk legends such as Alkaline Trio, The Lawrence Arms, Banner Pilot, and Blink-182. The band’s lead singer was first inspired by the genre of pop-punk in 1999 upon hearing Blink-182’s newest single “What’s My Age Again?” for the first time.
“The moment I learned what [pop-punk] actually was labeled, I realized that I’ve been an avid pop-punk fan since I first heard Blink,” said Jeremy. “I have always been into the dark and macabre and I like that feeling to shine through in my lyrics. Whether it’s talking about bugs or death or heartache or something equally horrible, ‘dark’ will always be at the center of my music.”
Welcome To Jonestown first came together as a recording band at the end of 2015. The trio then released their first EP in April of 2016, titled “Shut the Punk Up!” The three track EP contained their original songs “Insomnia,” “Punk Rock Cliche,” and “Western Ave.”
When it comes to creating music, Jeremy is responsible for coming up with the initial ideas. However, their writing process relies on the chemistry of the band’s three members and very rarely will Jeremy write the songs entirely by himself.
“To call it a process is a total misnomer,” said Jeremy. “In a sense we just go. Maybe I’ll have played the song for them on the acoustic guitar once or twice, but mostly, we just start and flow off each other. Sometimes it sounds the exact way it did in my head, and sometimes we come up with a sound I wasn’t expecting. Either way, it’s always a great experience.”
Currently, Welcome To Jonestown have been taking a break from live performances to work on recording new music. The groups is currently working on four new songs that they plan to release as their second EP.
"For Punk's Sake" is the working title for the full EP, which is subject to change. The EP is expected to be released at the end of February with the band also making plans to release an official music video or a lyric music video to accompany a single from the EP.
Their first show of the new year will be at Cairo Ale House in West Chicago on March 3rd. Welcome To Jonestown will be performing alongside fellow Chicago bands such as Jury of Fears, Bubbles Erotica, and the Beta Waves.
“When we first formed the band our goals were simple,” said Jeremy. “We wanted to play at least one show and record at least three songs. In our band’s first year, we did both so we upped the stakes of the goal. Now our goals are to play in front of at least 100 people and record a full-length album of 8-10 songs.”
Next week’s friday spotlight will be upcoming Chicago rapper D-Zoe. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our most recent releases of our Whiskey Point Sessions videos series on our YouTube channel. We’ll be continuing our releases of Joliet rock group IDK next week.
(From Left to Right) Drummer Burnard Wedderburn, lead vocalist and guitarist Jeremy Handel, and bassist Matt Handel of Welcome To Jonestown. photo provided by Jeremy Handel.
Drummer Burnard Wedderburn performing during one of Welcome To Jonestown's performances. photo taken by Coren McLeod.
Lead vocalist and guitarist Jeremy Handel speaks to the crowd during one of the band's performances. photo taken by Coren McLeod.
Bassist Matt Handel during one of Welcome To Jonestown's performances. photo taken by Jennifer Lubbs.
(From left to right) Brothers Matt and Jeremy Handel performing at Chicago venue The Mutiny. photo provided by Jeremy Handel.