Coming off their summer tour with Modern Baseball, Torrance, California pop-punk group Joyce Manor is running full speed into October with another tour alongside Crying and The Hotelier and a new album to boot. Unlike the previous records, Joyce Manor enlisted the help of a producer for Cody, an experience that forced frontman Barry Johnson to abandon his intuition and gut for the first time, resulting in a more mature album than 2014’s Never Hungover Again— whether he likes it or not.
The Writer’s Bloc had the chance to talk to Johnson about Joyce Manor’s upcoming tour, Cody, tattoos and Kanye West:
Jordan: For starters, I saw you guys in Pittsburgh over the summer when you were with Thin Lips and Modern Baseball. It was easily one of my favorite shows I’ve been to. What was that tour like?
Barry: The tour was good! It was a very easy tour.
J: In what way?
B: I feel like Modern Baseball has such a dedicated following. Every show was packed. I feel like their crowd was very open and receptive to us and our band, whether some of them were fans of both bands or some of them were just there to have a good time. I don’t know if they were easy to win over, or we won them over before we started playing, but every show just felt really fun and a lot bigger than your normal Joyce Manor show.
J: What have you guys been up to between then and your upcoming one with The Hotelier?
B: In that time, we’ve just been chilling. It didn’t end that long ago. We went out and played some shows in the South. We did a festival in Atlanta called Wrecking Ball. We did a couple shows around there. That was fun. But yeah, mostly just getting our last bit of downtime before our album comes up, because after that it’s just a lot of touring on the horizon.
J: What can you tell me about your new album? How does it compare with 2014’s Never Hungover Again, either musically or thematically?
B: I think musically it’s most similar to Never Hungover Again than anything before it, for the simple reason that it’s the album, timeline wise, that is the closest. The way I write songs now is the way I write songs now. I’m never going for a certain thing when writing a song. I try to think as little as possible and let it happen naturally, and it ends up coming out a certain way.
It’s a little different on this album. There were different people involved. We have a new drummer and we worked with a producer who was pretty hands-on and full of ideas. So it’s different in that way, but as far as the material, it’s kind of similar to Never Hungover Again.
Maybe a little less cryptic, lyrically. More direct.
J: Speaking of lyrics, I was listening to one of the singles that you released off of Cody,—“Fake I.D.”— and I was wondering what was with the Kanye plug. Could you explain that song a little bit?
B: Usually when I write songs, it starts with the melody; I’ll get a bit of a melody and be like ‘Ooh that’s good.’ It just feels good, so then I started figuring out the chords and singing and playing it. So then [the lyrics] just kind of popped in my head: ‘What do you think about Kanye West? I think that he’s great, I think he’s the best.’ It’s like ‘Oh those are really bad lyrics’ but for some reason I just really liked it and kept him in there.
It’s relatable because everyone has an opinion about Kanye West, and everyone wants to tell you their opinion about Kanye West. It’s just something you can’t fucking get away from. It’s just an exhausting thing to talk about. I wasn’t like ‘Oh, I should write a song about Kanye West.’ It’s just all the garbage that’s in my mind. That’s just what happened to come up. It just sounded good. The name sounded good in the song. It’s definitely stupid.
J: Lately, a lot of bands in the pop-punk genre are talking about how their music is maturing with every new album they release. Would you say the same thing goes for Joyce Manor? In what way?
B: I hate when bands do that. Every band says that: “Oh yeah, we matured a little bit.” It’s a good thing, I think…but unfortunately, I would have to say that I think that this record does have more of a matured sound. But the reason I would say that is because we got with a producer who is like a pro, and I think he showed us a couple tricks of the trade and helped us figure some stuff out, so maybe that is why we have a bit more of a matured sound. And as far as lyrically, there’s some stuff that’s a little more adult and a little less dramatic, which I guess is maturing, isn’t it? I hate to say that about my own band.
I even think that even from the first record to Never Hungover Again … then we have “Heart Tattoo” which is like super … I never want to turn into a boring, stuffy band. I always want music to be fun and enjoyable.
J: Also, just a side note, do you have a heart tattoo, or is that just lyrics in a song?
B: Oh no, I don’t. That’s just a song about tattoos being stupid, and yeah, no, I do not have a heart tattoo, nor do I have plans to get one. Some people come up to me and they’re like ‘I got a heart tattoo!’ and they’ll be like ‘Where’s yours?’ and I’m like ‘I don’t have a fucking heart tattoo.’
J: So you mentioned that this was the first album that you had a real producer involved and who showed you a few “tricks of the trade.” What can you say from that experience? Do you think your other albums would have benefited from it?
B: I think we needed it, personally. The main thing that I used to use to write songs in the past —when I knew a song was right—I’d trust my gut. I’d have a gut feeling, like “Alright. Done.
Awesome. This is right. All the puzzle pieces are in the right place. This is the picture I want to paint.” You have to move stuff around and try different things to get that feeling.
I had that with a couple of songs, and then I brought them to Rob, our producer, and he would move stuff around—the songs I had already been sure about. He’d be like ‘I don’t like this part’ and I’d be like ‘Trust me, dude. I know it in my gut that this is right,’ and then he’d be like ‘I dunno’ and then we’d change it, and it would feel weird, like ‘Fuck I don’t know, I don’t know,’ and then I’d take time, step away from it, and it would be right every single time.
So I think having that outside opinion, like a non-biased opinion, was super valuable for making a good record. It was different in that because in the past, the main thing deciding [songs] was my intuition. I had to go against that for the first time, and I think in every single case, it was right, even if it didn’t feel like it at first.
J: Speaking of records, I’m going to backtrack a bit. I actually saw Hop Along two weekends ago in D.C. front row, and the other day I was listening to something off of Never Hungover Again and realized that Francis Quinlan is on the cover. I guess I hadn’t noticed it because I was never that close to her before. How do you guys know her? It seems like everyone in this genre is very tightknit with one another, and I thought it was interesting.
B: That photo was actually taken backstage. We toured with Hop Along a couple years ago in 2012. We were bands, and then later after we met them we became friends. Joe, who’s in Hop Along, produced Never Hungover Again. We’re all just this big family.
I just thought it was a great picture, and thought it was a good album cover, and I liked the idea of putting somebody from a band in a similar scene on the cover. I think that’s cool. Our photographer’s mom was like ‘Shouldn’t it be you guys on the cover?’ and it was like ‘It’s a candid, Mom.’
J: I have one last question for you to put it on a local level. You’re set to come to Baltimore at the end of October. Have you played at the Ottobar before? What are you expecting from that show?
B: I don’t have a good memory, so I don’t even know if we’ve played there. We may have played there. It sounds familiar, but it may just sound familiar for some other reason. So I don’t know what to expect from it, but Baltimore’s a cool town.
J: What can fans expect from the tour, on the flip side of things?
B: Just a good show. It’s us, Crying and The Hotelier, which I think is an awesome tour package. It’s going to be an energetic, exciting, fun show.
Joyce Manor will be at the Ottobar in Baltimore Sunday October 23.
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Piece originally published by The Writer’s Bloc on October 1, 2016.