"Just sit back and watch," my friend tells me. "It's hilarious."
What he's referring to is the kind of collective hysteria that typically erupts among crowds of 16- to 19-year-olds at Joyce Manor shows. I had never seen the band live before Monday night, but I was told it was something akin to Beatlemania, with people crowding up against the band to an awkward and uncomfortable degree.
I am too young to have witnessed Beatlemania, so I can't completely say it was like that, but my friend was right in that it was hilarious. Watching from a comfortable vantage point between the pinball and ATM machine at Yucca, I witnessed something that reminded me of both boy-band fandom and a hardcore show. Stage dives and vaguely stalker vibes from a lot of people involved.
One of my favorite overlaps between this and hardcore was a kind of unspoken audience participation faux pas. As in hardcore, audience members coming on stage, yelling some lyrics with the singer, and then diving off stage is acceptable decorum. However: There are some people who totally don't do the last part.
They just kind of stand there, maybe out of some aversion to stage dives, maybe out of some territorial urge to hog the singing along experience all to themselves. There is a great example of this in one of my favorite music documentaries ever, N.Y.H.C., during footage of a set by '90s hardcore (realistically, proto-nu-metal) band Vision of Disorder. However, I saw the most audacious example of someone doing this when Joyce Manor played. It was like watching the rapidly diminishing returns of "stepping up to get your rep up," when you don't step back down at all.
Usually, when people go crazy like this, it's to something terrible. I've cited both boy bands and Vision of Disorder already with regard to things that remind me of such behavior. So the surprising thing is that Joyce Manor is actually not terrible at all. It's actually pretty great. It's like blink-182 without all the corny things like bro attitudes, toilet humor, implicit misogyny, and Hurley sponsorships. The lyrics that people are so ardently singing along with to the point of depriving the stage from one another are well-written and not really delivered in the most outright accessible way. I am not going to tell people how to enjoy anything, but the crowd response to Joyce Manor makes me hopeful for the current generation of pop punk fans. I am glad that they are getting irrational to tasteful music.
Since I don't think anyone in Joyce Manor has any actual control over the silly things people do at their shows, and documenting one feels like an ethnographic study of modern pop punk fans, I've included an interview I've done with bassist Matt Ebert over the past few days in order to actually discuss their music.
Are people still weird about the last Joyce Manor album being different from the first one? Were people legitimately weird about it in the first place? My ear to the ground mostly picked up the murmurs of people on the internet, but it seemed like the same people kept on going to shows and new people got into it as well.
People were a lot less weird about it than I thought they were going to be, actually. We knew what we were making was different, and maybe not for everyone, but it was an exploration of our potential in the studio, and I'm glad we did it. Some elements of the record worked really well, and there were some elements we would have certainly done differently if given another shot at it. The biggest complaint was probably the length of the record, but that's just the way our songs are. No apologies there!
So, did it make the outlook for trying new things in the studio more positive? Like, since you've already have taken some big chances, it won't be a huge bridge to cross next time? Also, people getting upset at the length fascinated me. Do you think they want longer songs or just more songs of the same length on the album, like the way Guided By Voices does it with like 22 minute and a half songs?
I'm really not sure what people want regarding length! I generally don't like when records have 15+ tracks on them, though. Once I sat in on a Q&A with the chef Thomas Keller, and he talked about how the mark of a good chef is to leave their customers wishing they had just one more bite of each course, and I've always kind of equated our records to that. Wouldn't you rather leave a great meal thinking "wow, that was so great, I wish I could have ONE MORE bite of that" than "holy shit, I never want to think about food ever again"? I think that longing for more sort of helps create an emotional attachment to certain things, and music is one of them.
Trying new things in the studio just kind of felt natural, because we knew how high people's expectations were to follow the first record. We could have churned out 10 more of the same songs, but it wouldn't have been much fun for us, and people still probably would have said it wasn't as good as the S/T. So we opted to just play around a little bit with the songs we had, and make it more of a recording project.
I'm really excited about the next record, because we have time on our side for the first time. The last two records were both a mad rush to get everything done in 4-5 days, and with this next one we are taking as much time as we need to get things sounding exactly the way we want them to. We are writing and recording it in bits with our buddy Joe Reinhart. He used to play in Algernon Cadwallader, and now he runs a studio space in Philly called Headroom. The first session we did was great, but we spent 8 whole days on like 6 minutes of music.
Joyce Manor is often considered a pop punk band. Is it reductive in any way when that happens. Like there are a lot of bands now that have this "old time pop punk" schtick where everything is like a genre trope played straight, and you guys seem distant from that. How do you reconcile a pop punk heritage with branching out and experimenting?
I don't mind the pop punk label, but I just don't find much of it to be interesting. There is a big blink-182 influence on our sound, but aside from that there really isn't much thought given to it either way.
Who is your favorite member of blink-182 and why?
Tom DeLonge, but only because he writes the better songs. I guess it's cool that he's really into aliens, too.
Joyce Manor is from Long Beach (I think, sometimes geographical terminology with bands from a spread out place like Los Angeles county can be pretty complex). Is there an extensive scene where you are from? What's it like and what kind of influence has it had on the development of Joyce Manor.
We are actually from Torrance, which is close to Long Beach but is technically part of the South Bay. It's a big suburban hole surrounded by the port of Los Angeles, the beach, and more suburbs. I think our music has a very South Bay feel to it, and I am really proud to be from a boring little suburb that has spawned so many awesome bands. The Beach Boys were from here, and of course Descendents and Black Flag, just to name a couple.
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Tying things in with Phoenix, Joyce Manor has toured with Andrew Jackson Jihad a bit. What kind of relationship exists between the two bands? What kinds of things have you mutually experienced on tour together?
The AJJ guys are my favorite! We did a really awesome big tour together last year, but we have been buds for seven or eight years. I booked them a show in Torrance. I think it was 2005? It was one of their first L.A.-area shows, I think, and One Reason and Hot New Mexicans played. We stayed in touch over the years and, in 2008, Sean called Barry and asked him if his band could open for AJJ in L.A. Barry didn't have a band at the time, but lied and said he did. He immediately called up Chase and they started Joyce Manor as an acoustic two-piece to play the show. So, yeah, there's a history there!
Describe what comes to mind when you hear the phrase "Pop Punk Shenanigans."
Pop punk shenanigans = HELL.