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Category Archives: Local

[interview] Dan from Joywave

joywave-sxsw 

A few weeks ago my inbox revealed a PR email that proved, at least initially, mildly surprising. In short time however, it made complete sense. I receive a good deal of email from this particular agency, so it wasn’t that I received written relations of a public nature from them, but rather that its subject happened to be Rochester’s own Joywave. A band with whom, as you should probably know if you’ve visited this site before or happen to be fans of the band themselves, we have a shared history. We collaborated on releasing a 7″ vinyl single a few years back, one which you may still purchase here. We happen to live in the same town, so our paths have crossed many times in the interim, though with less frequency as of late. The PR email made sense when considering the band’s upward trajectory (major PR firm/cross country tour) – inverse to that of our now twice halted blog – but as ever, we remain invested in their future and hope to continue to lend a hand as best we can with our limited influence. As such, I sent mustachioed front-man Dan a few brief questions about the contents of that email as well as other band happenings, and he was kind enough to respond.

It has been a while since we (personally) have gotten any official updates on the world of Joywave. What projects have you been working on individually and as a band in the last year or so?
Writing and recording has taken up most of our time this past year. We started working on our full length in the fall, and 4 of the songs from that will be coming out March 11th on our new EP. I spent quite a bit of time working on a project called “Big Data” with my friend Alan Wilkis as well.

Give us a primer on Big Data. How do you separate the projects? Do you approach writing lyrics differently?
Totally different. Big Data is very much social commentary on the digital age, and I try to keep everything with Joywave personal and real. It’s pretty easy for me to keep them separate in my head.

You were just in California, you’re headed to Texas for SXSW next week, and in April you’re headed out West again sharing some dates with RAC. Is more touring a goal moving forward?
I think we’ll take some time off to finish the record after the April dates, but hopefully we’re touring a lot once that’s wrapped up.

How did you get set up with RAC? Are there other bands you’d like to tour with?
Andre (RAC) did a remix of our song, “Tongues”, and asked me to do it live with them late last year at Bowery Ballroom and Music Hall of Williamsburg. We met there and he was nice enough to ask us to join them for the West Coast leg of their tour.

The band seems to write songs that are eminently remix-able, and you’ve also contributed some excellent reworks of other band’s music. How do you feel about remixes in general? What role do they serve for you when being remixed, as opposed to doing the remixing?
It’s always interesting to hear someone else’s take on your song. We just got in a really cool “Tongues” one that hopefully the world will hear soon. Sean does all the remixes for us, but it’s usually a good way to experiment with new techniques and different genres. We don’t ever feel like we have to turn someone else’s song into a Joywave song.

Recently, we talked briefly on twitter about bands ‘making’ it. You said that 2014 was going to be a good year. Where do you see yourselves heading in 2014 and beyond?
The top. Kidding. That’s always a subjective thing. Hopefully we have a record out by the end of the year and get to experience some new places/things.

Despite our hard hitting questions lending no real new insights into the Joyworld, regardless, it’s good to keep up with the band’s happenings. Presently down in Austin initiating their world takeover, there are a number of dates over the next few days that you can catch if you happen to be attending SXSW. If not, at least sample new EP How Do You Feel? below, and hope they make a stop in your neck of the woods sometime in the near future.

[stream] CRUSHES // heartache

crushes heartache cover

Music bloggers are strange beings, hanging around the fringes of the music scene in their respective cities, championing what they love, ignoring what they don’t, often with a total lack of pull to do anything of substance. The best ones rise above that to attain a level of respect in their communities; more often than not, however, they’re like us: meeting a few people and retreating to the anonymity that their computers afford them.

The relatively few people we have met around Rochester, however, have by and large been super helpful and super cool, and one of my personal favorites is David Lee Rad, who puts on a killer DJ set, and who is part of this new project that originates from the southern shore of Lake Ontario, CRUSHES.

This song, “heartache”, is the third song that I’ve run across from the project, a dark-synth heavy earworm that sounds like the brooding younger sister to fellow capitalization fans CHVRCHES – both great in their own right, in spite of (or more likely because of) their shared musical lineage.

Keep an ear to the ground for this project, friends; they’re finding their footing.

Connect with CRUSHES // Twitter | Bandcamp | Soundcloud

Mixtapes, Smokestacks, and Planetariums: Joywave Forging Their Path

joywave 88888 cover

“I think of it as being kind of like the space program in 1960s,” said Daniel Armbruster when asked about the level of experimentation involved in creating Joywave’s latest release. “Each mission was about accomplishing a certain goal that ultimately was about putting a person on the moon. ‘Alright, Mercury we’re going to have people circle the Earth. Gemini, we’re going to have crafts docking.  Eventually, we’re going to get there.’ That’s kind of the same philosophy I guess we take to our music.”

If you were to look at the cover art for Joywave’s new mixtape, 88888, the satellite circling the 8 would clue you in that the band has launched into orbit. It may be a step in the right direction in terms of evolving the sound of the Rochester electro-pop outfit, but not yet accomplishing the ultimate goal. What that goal is remains an unknown to lead singer and songwriter Armbruster and his band mates, but their identity has been forged and they are venturing onward into uncharted territories.

The mixtape—a unique characteristic of Joywave’s existence—has a long tradition in the world of music. What started as a piece of merchandise sold in truck stops in the 1960s and 1970s has evolved into a cultural staple. Music fans create them to express their feelings to loved ones, and they have become a vital source of promotion for up and coming hip-hop and electronica artists.

Enter Joywave. The band introduced itself to the world using the mixtape method—something that is highly unorthodox in the indie rock scene. “It’s a chance to experiment with music,” said Armbruster. “On our first one, we were trying to establish an identity.”

That first mixtape, 77777, included songs consisting of samples from artists such as The Flaming Lips, Beach House, LCD Soundsystem, Miike Snow, and Drake. Add in a cover of Robyn’s “Hang With Me” as well as a couple of original songs, and Joywave provided a recipe for an ideal mixtape. As a playlist, 77777 covers the gamut in styles—from slow burners such as “Winnipeg,” to disco-inspired dance numbers like “Titan.”

“The first one was much easier to create because we literally just sampled songs that we liked or we were into at the time,” said Armbruster. “We straight up took the mp3s, stripped out what we wanted, and put vocals over the top.”

The workhorses that they are, Joywave has not slowed down since that first mixtape. In addition to 77777, the band’s resume includes the following: a 7” release of the single “Ridge;” a concert at the Strasenburg Planetarium; numerous concerts around Rochester, Buffalo, and New York City; multiple performances at South by Southwest in 2013; weekly sets with the DJ collective Cultr Club; producing and playing on the Fuck Jams EP for Rochester electronica group KOPPS; releasing the seven-song Koda Vista EP; an electronica side-project with Alan Wilkis named Big Data, and now a return to form with the second mixtape.

With the arrival of 88888 on April 15, 2013, Rochester and the music blogosphere were treated to further proof of the versatility and originality that exists in Joywave’s music.  Artists and musicians often go through phases, looking for ways to reinvent themselves and their work. On 88888, instead of taking the music in a different direction via samples from other artists, the band reimagined themselves.

“The stuff we sampled on the new mixtape is from Koda Vista, mostly,” explained Armbruster. “Vocals from Koda Vista, things that we liked from Koda Vista, everything on the mixtape was created by us. Before it was let’s repackage things that we like and put a twist on it. This is all Joywave.”

Creating a new piece of work from an original piece is a project that brings the band’s thought processes to a higher level—a level that goes beyond what Armbruster experienced being part of the defunct Rochester pop-punk band, The Hoodies.

While artistically unsatisfied playing pop-punk, Armbruster was still able to take away important and usable lessons. “You get a good sense of melody from pop-punk,” he explained. “The music relies exclusively on vocal melody to draw you in because you take away the vocals and everything else is the same between songs.” That melody has carried over into Armbuster’s vocal stylings, but not just with the lyrics and at live performances. On 88888, vocal melodies are sampled and looped in ways that stretch the tone and create spastic electronic blips, creating unique progressions that craft the atmospheres of the songs.

Take the track “Tongues” for example, which contains these vocal samples from KOPPS vocalist, Patricia Patrone. While the words may be incoherent, sounding like an electronic version of scatting, they contribute to establishing the mood of the song. It is a characteristic unique enough to have one question how these attitudes, features, and electronic elements are replicated live with a five-member band, particularly when 88888 is also the first release from the band that includes hip-hop songs. Two songs to be specific, which include the rhymes of Atlanta-based rapper Sugar Tongue Slim, known by his stage name, STS. With an eclectic track list like this, it becomes an enigma to try and crack the band’s writing style.

Turns out that deciphering Joywave’s songwriting process is difficult because it is consistently inconsistent. Case in point: Armbruster explained how he wrote and recorded the track “Ridge” by himself. Once it was in a place he was pleased with he then took it to the other band members so they could collectively figure out how to play it live. The final result being that the live version features heavier guitar levels than the recorded version, which instead emphasizes synthesizers.

This differed from the process used on 88888, since more samples meant spending more time finding the puzzle pieces, putting them together, and then overlaying the vocals. For this, Armbruster explained that bassist Sean Donnelly also contributed a large portion of the sampling and mixing. Now the next step for the band will be bringing these songs to the stage.

Rochester has been receptive to Joywave since the band’s formation and the band has returned the favor by being supporters of their hometown. “One of the things I like about living and playing here is that I don’t feel the pressure to fit into something specific,” said Armbruster. “That’s been really important to our development. Not that Rochester is an island, but it kind of is. There aren’t a million bands that are trying to do the latest coolest thing.”

The support for the Flour City can be found sewn into various pieces of work. From the cover art of Koda Vista to the final song on the EP, “Smokestacks,” which refers to the billowing towers of Kodak Park in Greece where a majority of the band’s members grew up, the band is proud of its heritage.

“Our entire band is a byproduct of Eastman Kodak,” recounted Armbruster. “My dad is from Ohio, but he moved here right after college and got a job at Kodak. Either someone’s parent worked at Kodak, or Travis [Johansen, guitarist] works at the Eastman House. Without Kodak, without George Eastman, none of us would know each other. I probably wouldn’t be making music, I probably wouldn’t have met the right people to influence me.”

As far as the next mission for Joywave, Armbruster promised new original music from the band. He found his songwriting stride post-Koda Vista and said he has written numerous songs since the EP’s release. The objective behind the 88888 mixtape, while a testament to the bands evolving creativity, is to serve as a bridge connecting Koda Vista with the next release of original music. Armbruster said that a series of EPs is likely, but with Joywave it is best to not make predictions and let the band’s creativity run naturally.

Joywave play with KOPPS at the Bug Jar on Saturday, May 18, 2013.

[mp3] My Roaring Twenties // Your Thread

my roaring twenties your thread cover

It’s a point of derision for some people, when a band becomes too big for local haunts, or when new fans aren’t aware of said band’s first EP. I don’t begrudge people that opinion, when you have to elbow your way to the bar at a show of a band you used to be able to see with a mere handful of onlookers on a random Monday night, though I do think it’s somewhat backwards thinking to hold a band’s success against them.

And while this project, entitled My Roaring Twenties, isn’t at that point yet, with this new song, I can see that exact scenario eventually becoming a problem for his early adopters. Jack Frederick, the mastermind behind the moniker, plays all the instruments here and loops and layers them together in his apartment in Queens. It’s a method that has served him well, whether that’s here, or in his other bands – Black Elk Speaks and Hook Moon. It’s been fascinating to hear his personal progression from one release to the next, and “Your Thread”, released to the masses on his Bandcamp page earlier in February, marks the next forward step for Frederick.

“Your Thread” is an echoing brand of indie pop that’s brimming with confidence and promise. Once everything comes together toward the end of the song, it sounds like it could (and should) last much longer, but Frederick cuts it off abruptly, as if to say there’s plenty more available, but he’s not ready to let us hear it just yet. “Your Thread” is built for repeating; I’m on my sixth time through it already this morning.

Connect with My Roaring Twenties // Facebook | Bandcamp

My Roaring Twenties // Your Thread [mp3]

[local] Noncert Number One

I’m always impressed when people put together unique live performances, and it’s even better when the performances can be done for a good cause. That’s the case with the Noncerts series, which first happened in Brooklyn back in April, and has now made its way to Rochester, where the first event will take place this Sunday, July 1st.

The show is happening at Good Luck. Originally tickets ranged from $60-$100, which included dinner (and some alcohol if you opted for a higher level of ticket), but just yesterday they dropped the dinner part of the event and made the show general admission, with tickets selling for $20 apiece.

There are three separate performances as part of the event, featuring local artists Matt O’Brian (of Thunder Body), Ian Proper (of SPORTS), and DM Stith (of himself). All performances will be accompanied by members of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as students from the Eastman School of Music.

Most importantly, 100% of the proceeds from the evening will go to benefit music programs in the Rochester City School District. If you’re interested in taking part in the evening’s festivities, you can head to the Noncerts Rochester website for more information, as well as links to purchase a ticket of your very own. I hope this is something that the Rochester area gets behind, because it would be great to see events like this taking place more frequently. And cheers to the artists, as well as the organizer and venue, for recognizing it as worthwhile.

For good measure, here’s a track from Ian Proper’s side project, You Women, for a taste of what to expect this Sunday night.

You Women // Broken Diamond [mp3] from Easy Love Demos