WORDS: AMY ALBINSON
Joyce Manor are a band that feel like your teenage years. With their debut album released in 2011 their eagerly awaited fifth record, Million Dollars to Kill Me is due out this month. ‘I think all of our songs are kind of like a John Hughes movie’ says vocalist Barry Johnson as he’s getting coffee in Long Beach, California. ‘It’s always kind of what I’m going for. Pretty in Pink, just something like that’. There’s a teenage angst feel to their music but he doesn’t think that’s a problem. ‘I don’t want it to read like we’re bored. I want it to be passionate,’ he laughs, ‘that’s just our MO. I’m not trying to be effortlessly cool’.
When it comes to writing he doesn’t want to force anything. ‘I feel like any time I try to write something that sounds poetic it sounds pretty cheesy and bad so I kind of just let it happen and see what pops into my brain without really trying. It tends to sound more natural. It’s a tough process because you feel like you don’t have much control over it’. Each song never starts with the lyrics though, the melody has to come first. ‘I’ll just be walking or driving or something and I’ll start to hear a melody and I’ll just try to follow it’.
“I don’t want it to read like we’re bored. I want it to be passionate…”
What is special about this new record is that it’s the first time the whole band have been on the cover. ‘It’s like a nice family photo,’ he jokes, ‘it was at the Phoenix Theatre in Petaluma, California after a show. My friend Hans took that picture when we were really wasted and I was like “this is great”, such a fun album cover’. As is typical of the band the new record is a short one, with ten tracks sitting around the twenty-minute mark which is often to the annoyance of fans. ‘I just write short songs,’ Barry says simply, ‘I think I’ve got something wrong with my brain where I can’t write a longer song. I always want every minute of the record to be good and it’s hard to do that when you’re trying to write something that’s really long because eventually, it’s hard to keep up that level of quality’. He laughs before continuing, ‘not to say that I’ve ever made a perfect record or anything but`that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to make something that doesn’t let up from start to finish, there’s just something really nice about that.’ As a self-described ‘Weezer-dork’ it’s easy to hear the band’s influence on Joyce Manor’s new record but that has also affected the length. ‘The first three Weezer records are all ten songs and I always loved that,’ he muses, ‘I mean those first two records are just like perfect the whole way through’.
“It’s a pain in the ass but it’s worth it…”
The range of people involved in creating the new record is impressive but, as Barry explains, it almost wasn’t a Joyce Manor record, instead beginning as a side project between Barry and Rory Allen Philips of The Impossibles. ‘It started out with me asking him to produce Joyce Manor and he’s really busy, he’s got a job and a kid and shit so he couldn’t do it, but he could do it over email, like just work on songs for fun but the results were really good’ Barry explains. ‘I talked to Rory and was like hey, would you be comfortable with us re-recording some of these as Joyce Manor and he was like “dude, that’s awesome”. He was totally cool about it and so instead of having a side project we got to do a Joyce Manor record in this unconventional way.‘ As well as having Rory Philips’ involvement the band also got to work with the guitarist of Converge as their producer. ‘Going into the studio with Kurt Ballou was like the most normal shit ever. it was like recording our first record. We just went in, recorded drums, recorded the other shit, it took like ten days’ he says. Alongside this the band also had Andrew Schepps (Red Hot Chili Peppers/Weezer) mix the album and welcomed Pat Ware of pop-punk band Spraynard as a new member. ‘We saw him play the drums and were like “holy shit like that guy is fucking phenomenal,” Barry explains with a laugh, ‘so now we have one member who lives in Philadelphia. It’s a pain in the ass but it’s worth it, he’s great’.
As the album’s release date gets closer the band will soon be off around Europe and the US alongside Basement. On what to expect he pauses, ‘we’ll be on tour, just doing the same old Joyce Manor thing we always do’.
The tour arrives in the UK in November. | Million Dollars To Kill Me is out THIS FRIDAY via Epitaph Records