The Epic 2017 Project #134: 170514
JJ72 were an alternative rock band from Dublin, Ireland. After forming in 1996, they signed to Lakota Records in 1999, releasing two hit albums before splitting in 2006.
The band was formed by lead singer and songwriter Mark Greaney and drummer Fergal Matthews, while studying at Belvedere College. Greaney grew up in Dublin, where for a time he lived next door to Phil Lynott (Thin Lizzy). Matthews originated from County Meath. The name ‘JJ72’ derives from a window at Belvedere College made from 72 jam jars.
After auditioning several bassists they recruited their schoolmate Garvin Smith on bass in 1996. After a few early gigs, Smith left so following recruiting problems for a replacement, Greaney and Matthews entered the studio as a duo in early 1997 to record their first demo. They sent it to local record companies and media but with little response. In 1998 they started university courses, but shortly after starting they decided to concentrate on the band; They played a concert at Behan’s pub in Dublin, backed by a string quartet, and were asked to appear on local television. They then recruited Hilary Woods who, despite having only picked up bass recently, joined as the band’s bassist in January 1999. They recorded a second demo, and targeted the UK, playing several gigs there and getting a write-up in Select magazine This led to interest from the Dublin-based Sony sub-label Lakota Records, who signed JJ72 in mid-1999.
The début single “October Swimmer” was released in November that year, and was named ‘Single of the Week’ by BBC Radio 1 DJ Mark Radcliffe. They were given support slots with The Dandy Warhols and My Vitriol. The band’s first hit though came with “Long Way South” in May 2000, which peaked at number 68 in the UK, and they played at festivals including Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds later that year.
The band released their eponymously titled debut album in Summer 2000. A great critical and commercial success alike, the album has sold in excess of 500,000 copies in their native Ireland and in the United Kingdom, where it reached number 16 on the UK Albums Chart. The album spawned the singles “Snow”, “October Swimmer”, “Long Way South”, and “Oxygen”, and saw the band perform promotional tours in Europe and the US. “Oxygen” gave the band their first top 30 single in the UK giving them a Top of the Pops performance slot.
Following this and, after touring with Coldplay and Embrace, they set out on their own headline tour.They supported Muse on a tour of Europe, headlined the NME Brats tour, and played a few gigs in Japan. But several performances had been cancelled after Greaney lost his voice, and there were further cancellations in 2001 after Matthews was knocked off his motorbike, with Kylie Minogue’s drummer Bob Knight standing in for a few gigs. Matthews recovered in time for the festival season and support slots with U2. The band received an Irish Music Award for ‘Best New Band’ later that year.