The Longest Johns speak out on Wellerman success: ‘The world's our oyster'
If you’re not yet familiar with The Longest Johns themselves, you’ll definitely be familiar with their music – the four-piece are the men behind the viral sea shanty trend dubbed #ShantyTok thanks to their track Wellerman.
The Longest Johns consists of Jonathan ‘JD’ Darley, Andy Yates, Dave Robinson and Robbie Sattin, who formed the band nine years ago but whose musical career shot to the next level thanks to the viral fame of Wellerman.
The band say they have been living in ‘a permanent state of shock’ over the past few weeks as Wellerman continued to grow in popularity thanks to the video sharing site, spawning celebrity versions from Gary Barlow and Ronan Keating to Stephen Colbert and landing them their first chart hit.
Joking that sea shanties getting into the mainstream charts has been ‘300 years in the making’, the organic growth of Wellerman on social media continues to surprise the band.
JD told Metro.co.uk: ‘It’s been amazing seeing it grow for quite a while, because we first kind of saw that the song would start to take on a life of its own when we recorded a video of us playing a game called Sea of Thieves and singing at other players in the game and kind of surprising them.
‘That did really well and started to get shared around every couple of months on different social media platforms like iFunny and Tumblr, that sort of thing.
‘Then people started picking up on TikTok as well, because we released all our music for people to use on TikTok too and people started making memes using the song and it was amazing to see,
‘Every single time someone made something new with it, it seemed like it would go one step above where it was before. So for us, we’ve just been living in a permanent state of shock. Every month or so we’re just like, “wow, it’s happened again, I can’t believe this has happened, that it’s got this many views”.
‘So it’s been like this weird, bizarre continual spiral growth upwards, and it’s been incredible to see more people engaging with the music, and the spirit of community singing is just fantastic to see.’
The song has not only been lifechanging for Robbie, JD, Andy and Dave, but postman Nathan Evans – whose version of their track kicked off #ShantyTok – has since been able to pack up his job and sign a recording contract off the back of its success.
While The Longest Johns haven’t had much chance to catch up with Nathan since the track blew up, we may yet get to see them perform together one day in the future.
Dave explained: ‘We’ve assumed he’s been as busy as us kind of talking to all these people and rushed off his feet. But yeah, it’d be great to see him and a bunch of the other guys – we’ve heard recently that a group called The Weller Men has formed from some TikTok people.
‘If they or Nathan want to come to some sea shanty festivals, that would be amazing. They’d go down really well, and maybe we could do something together then.’
Although the band have built up a loyal following of sea shanty lovers over the past nine years, their newfound fame has meant their options for musical collaborations and TV appearances have opened up worldwide.
JD revealed: ‘It’s still so hard to comprehend that those sort of things are actually possible – it’s like “oh yeah, wow, we could actually try these things”. It seemed like such a far-fetched crazy idea for so long.’
Robbie added: ‘We’ve suddenly had our options blown completely open, where, you know, we’ve got people talking to us about being able to go on Ellen [DeGeneres] and the possibility of getting the high end of British acting, Sir Ian McKellen, reading poetry in the middle of songs and all this sort of thing.
‘Before, we were sort of vaguely considering minor celebrities as kind of a complete write off and now it feels like the world’s our oyster a little bit, so we’re just getting used to it.’
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