If you knew the members of Joywave, you’d know that their desire to have a baby crocodile join them on-stage isn’t that crazy of an idea, especially since it’s coming from a band who thrives off any weird & unique ideas.
I can’t recall the last time (if there ever was one) a band sampled sounds from a record that was aboard a spacecraft back in ‘77, but Rochester-band Joywave likes to do things a little bit differently, and they do just that on their third full-length album Possession. The indie-rock band is known for its clever production and whimsical witty lyrics while also taking a magnifying glass to issues happening in our daily lives.
After sampling the Voyager Golden Records, two records that contained sounds that would help describe what life on Earth was like if any aliens stumbled upon them, Possession fixates on the concept of space, control (or lack thereof), and learning how to embrace who you are. It’s an album that pulls you out of your own head and asks you to really think about whether or not you really should be stressing about things you can’t exactly control.
The band, which celebrates its 10-year anniversary this year, sat down with 1883 ahead of its London gig supporting PVRIS to talk all things touring, Possession, and why they really want to bring a baby crocodile on-stage.
It’s been ten years since the band has formed. How would you say the band and music have grown and developed in those ten years?
Daniel: When we started the band, the idea really was to just be able to do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, and to make the music that we wanted and have the band grow with us. I think we’ve really followed that! [laughs]
And you’d say your music also has grown while you guys have grown up, too?
Paul: Yeah, for sure. I mean, our early stuff was more rock before we first got signed and now it’s been a perfect blend of indie and rock.
It’s also almost been three years since Content was released and now Possession dropped this month. How was the recording process for Possession? Was there anything you guys did differently, whether it’s in songwriting or the instruments you used, from Content?
Daniel: The process was very different. Possession, we rented a barn outside of our hometown.
Paul: You mean Content.
Daniel: Oh, sorry! Yeah, Content, it was Content. We rented this barn outside of our hometown and it was the first time where we really just kind of got in one place and made something in a four-month span altogether. It feels like a lifetime ago. Possession, we did in the same studio in downtown Rochester where we recorded the first record. We did it when we had downtime from touring, so the process for the first and the third record was more similar and the second was kind of an outlier.
Okay, and how did the songwriting change?
Daniel: I think the new record is like a combination of the first two. The first one is really dancey but not as deep lyrically, and the second one’s a lot deeper lyrically, but less fun. This one is like a combination of the two. It’s pretty deep lyrically, but you could be forgiven for being like, ‘this is a really fun song and it makes me happy to listen to’, even though the lyrics might not be too happy!
Since July 2018, you’ve been slowly releasing singles leading up to Possession’s release. Why did you guys decide to have a long period of time between releasing singles and then dropping the album?
Daniel: No, it’s part of a marketing strategy that supposedly works in the industry [laughs]. Things are spaced out ahead because something like a new Netflix show arrives and people binge it in one weekend and nobody’s talking about it anymore. The idea is that if you space things out, supposedly the record cycle lasts longer. Now the release of the record is the halfway point of the record’s actual lifecycle which is kind of interesting. You know that was definitely a label decision.
Not a personal decision?
Daniel: No, but I’m glad that we still get to make records though.
Yeah, some artists seem to release singles only.
Daniel: Yeah! Exactly.
Speaking of singles: I love the single ‘Half Your Age’. Can you tell me a bit about the song and the inspiration behind it?
Daniel: When I was a kid, I desperately wanted to be an NHL hockey player for the Buffalo Sabres. I was so irrational in my belief that I would achieve this, that I was 14 and I could not even ice skate. I was like, ‘I can figure that out! I have four years to figure that out before the draft! I got plenty of time!’ I even played roller hockey and I was not good at it, I was probably the fourth-best player on my team at a roller-skating rink in Rochester. But still, I had this insane belief that I’ll definitely be a pro hockey player and so many people are like that, and clearly, I’m one of them because my next great idea was ‘Oh, I’ll be in a successful band!’ and that one actually did work. But for most people, they have these ambitions or dreams and stuff and everyone’s like, ‘never give up on your dreams’, and that’s not right at all.
Some dreams you do need to let go of so you can discover other things.
Daniel: Yeah, right. Exactly. Sometimes you’re not good enough, you’re not strong enough, or you’re not talented enough and maybe you’re supposed to do something else! Like, maybe I should be handing sticks to the players on the team or maybe I can find something else to do with hockey? It’s just learning that you need to be okay with giving up after a certain amount of time because otherwise, you’re holding yourself back.
You guys sent random fans vinyl to promote ‘Half Your Age’. How has seeing the reaction of fans getting a surprise been?
Paul: Yeah, we just decided as a band it would be cool to reach out and be able to directly contact people. We thought about all the money that every label is spending on digital advertising just trying to get somebody to click on something. We have all these names and addresses from people who have bought from our site or signed up for a newsletter. Those flexes are relatively cheap to make, so we thought why not send the vinyls to our listeners directly. I always think people will respond better to having something physical.
Yeah, I was checking out the reaction on Twitter; there’s a bunch of people tweeting about it.
Daniel: It seemed like 75% of people who got one took the time to post about it. Yeah.
Paul: Which is great because it makes it both tangible and digital.
Daniel: So when you think about if you were working in the digital realm, getting people excited enough to then share the thing that you got them to look at is astronomical.
The title track ‘Possession’ has lyrics that read ‘Am I a letdown / Am I a bore now?’ Can you describe what the track is about and why you decided to name the album after it?
Daniel: I guess I named the track actually after the record but that song is kind of about settling down and like giving yourself over to another person and being really vulnerable and the fears associated with that.
Would you say there’s like a common thread throughout each song before each song on the album?
Daniel: For sure. The record is put together with these samples from NASA’s Voyager. It’s this Golden Record, which Carl Sagan is supposed to have curated it to have the sounds of the earth basically; if aliens ever find a record of our civilization, they can know what we were like. The record really starts from the closest to Earth’s perspective and just feeling like you’re drowning, every TV you’re walking by screaming breaking news at you, and all that shit like that. As the record goes, it kind of slowly pulls out into this form of acceptance with not being able to control the world we live in and your own life and just kind of learning to embrace being okay with that.
Yeah, space and the universe seems to be a big theme in Possession; you guys typically sample different pieces of media in your music. Why did you choose to sample something like that?
Daniel: I was a history major in college and I basically wrote every single paper I could on the space program. The story of Apollo Eight was always very inspirational to me; it’s a mission that was in 1968 and you think about all the things that went wrong in America that year — Martin Luther King Jr assassinated, Bobby Kennedy is assassinated, there are riots everywhere — they read this peaceful message, they read a passage from the book of Genesis in the Bible, on Christmas Eve, back to the earth in this broadcast everywhere, and it kind of ends with this line of good night to all the good people on the good earth. You think about what they’re looking at, and they’re thinking about how insignificant our differences are. They’re looking at the earth, it’s very small in the distance, and they look out the other window and it’s just infinite. I kind of wanted to be able to bring a little bit of that into the record by playing the samples from the voyager’s route, which is like 13 and a half million miles away from earth. It’s the furthest away that mankind has ever sent anything. It’s the furthest back that we can zoom out.
Each single you’ve released has had a special space-themed patch to match. What made you think of doing those?
Daniel: It was Paul’s idea!
Paul: Yeah, all mine! We’ve been fortunate enough to get private tours of NASA in Houston. In the tour, we’ve got to go into one of the old mission controls that they no longer use and there are patches lining the walls. It’s incredibly cool. It’s got all of the astronaut’s last names on them, each one has a different design. It really made a lot of sense with the theme.
Daniel: And to add to your question earlier about the release schedule, the patches go along with that. Each release is this little mission leading up to the greater mission.
You’re on tour with PVRIS and you have an upcoming North American tour in the Spring. How was it exploring Europe with PVRIS?
Daniel: It’s really great. I love the United Kingdom. I’ve gone out and gotten coffee, I’ve seen the green room, it’s been great. [Laughs] I struggle with the food here because I’m tragically lactose intolerant and that’s not a thing. I ordered a burger at a restaurant the other day. It was like a place that has a lot of vegan options, it was healthy. I told them I was lactose intolerant and when they brought out my burger they literally say ‘allergy burger, allergy burger?’ And I’m like, wow, making this sound very appetizing! I am dreading trying to order stuff in France. I always thought that we were not that American because like we were never into bro things like football or whatever! That, to me, that’s American culture. Then I got here and I realized that I am literally wearing a flag down the street.
The shows have been good though?
Daniel: Yeah, PVRIS is amazing. I co-wrote one of the songs on the new record and the new EP, so that is why we are here [laughs]. When Lynn and I were working on a song, I was like, ‘Oh, hey, you’re really famous, next time you go, can we go with you?’
Paying it forward!
Daniel: Yeah. So that worked out.
And you have two tours coming up in North America — one across the US and another that is specific to Florida. Why did you decide to have a Florida-centric tour?
Daniel: People always tweet ‘come to Florida’ which very few artists do because it’s kind of a pain. It’s so weird to get down to and honestly, there’s not a lot of band or rock music — it’s primarily hip hop and EDM that exists in the state. For years, we’ve actually never played a headline show in the state. We thought we would be really funny and do a Florida home tour. It’s going to be ridiculous. The premise is that we’re really over-delivering, so if the entire tour doesn’t sell out, we’ll never go back! [laughs]
Paul: We don’t even have an opener yet. I wanted to bring like an animal wrangler to bring out a baby crocodile that people could pet, but then it was pointed out to me that there are probably large organizations that wouldn’t be happy with us.
Daniel: We’re also doing a headline tour in August and September! Across the US and we’re going to Toronto, too!
What else are you guys looking forward to in 2020?
Paul: It’s really just gonna be about the record and touring the record. I’m really excited about it. I’m very proud of it. I think it’s the best thing we’ve done. It’s a super cohesive record. It’s a message that I think people need to hear because everyone is just constantly bombarded by far-right and far-left viewpoints and those people like throwing things at each other. For me, any argument to me that’s presented as black or white or one and zero is flawed.
There’s no nuance right now
Paul: Right? It’s really hard for me to use social media too because that’s all it is. Every algorithm is designed to show you the thing that has upset the most people that day, so you get delivered that and then you’re just like, why am I seeing this?! Then you realize that with something like Twitter, it’s gamed against you; it’s like a new algorithm thing. This is my favourite phone. It’s a new algorithm thing that’s called home and you can turn it off and turn it back to see the latest tweets instead, but when the home thing is on, it shows you tweets by people that you don’t follow that person that you follow like. It’s so aggravating. It makes me angry and I’m sure it makes a ton of other people angry too. I hope everyone can just kind of calm down, but I think we’re probably all doomed.
interview by Kelsey Barnes
Check out Joywave’s album Possession below!