Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pete Swanson was cool enough to do a long, in-depth email interview with me for this Village Voice music blog piece.
Have a chill week - as much as is realistically possible, anyway.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Q&A: Day Joy

I interviewed Day Joy for a story that appeared in the February 2013 issue of MAGNET Magazine. My word count was tiny, so I wasn't able to squeeze much of the mountain of information I got from the interview into the piece. 

Here it is. To get a sense of whether they're your cup of tea, test-drive "Talks of Terror."

One of my favorite moments on Go To Sleep, Mess is the very beginning, the start of "Animal Noises," where it seems as though the album greeting daybreak, waking up in nature - but then at the end, nature swallows the song whole, reclaiming the sonic space. How was this song written, and what led to the decision to kick things off, and wind them down (in terms of the song) in this way?
Peter Perceval III: Well, "Animal Noise" was actually the first song that me and Michael ever wrote together about 4 years ago or more at this point. It was a riff that I had been working on and one of the first times that me and Michael hung out we were sitting on my roof and I was playing that riff and he sort of encouraged me to keep playing it and he developed a melody to it and that was basically the jump off point where we realized we could make music together. I think partially that is one of the reasons it is the album opener- but also there is some more depth to using it as the first song on the album conceptually. I think how you described it is a good description- in terms of greeting day break and waking up in nature and then having that realization and moment of serenity ripped away from you. I think Michael could go into a little more depth with the concept of the song lyrically and how those lyrics were initially developed.

Michael Serrin: I lived in a house with a large forest behind it for years. The Little Econlockhachee river was just a short walk back and brought all sorts of wild life (and the noises they make) right into my back yard. The owls, alligators, and insects would blend into this polyrhythmic chorus every night. It was really calming. I envied the simplicity of their existence and the carnal beauty of their music. I always thought that, if they had a chance to be human for a day, they'd gladly choose to go back into the woods and never experience the burden of self-awareness again. I guess that's what happens in the song.

How long did the songs on Go To SleepMess gestate prior to recording?

PP: They are actually all really old. Most of the songs we wrote at least three or more years ago at this point… Michael and I began sketching things out and did some really bare bone recordings and then about a year and a half ago we sat down and recorded them all as properly as we could with what we had to work with in my living room at the house. 
MS: As old as the songs are, I really feel like the gestation period was necessary. The songs changed form in a lot of ways, especially lyrically. 

How did Day Joy get its start?

PP: Michael and I met in Spanish class at UCF. I was twenty-two and he was eighteen he was in a band called Introduction To Sunshine at the time and I went and checked them out and then one night I invited him over to my house downtown to go to a Heliosequence show. He had never heard them at that point but i convinced him to tag along so we went to that show and then I invited him back to my house to have a few drinks… we were sitting on the roof and playing some music (what would later become Animal Noise) and then I proposed the option of tripping. Although he didn't know me all that well he agreed to it and we spent the next 8 hours on a journey through our minds plastered to the roof with the Ruby Suns Sea Lion on repeat the entire time. We watched the sun rise and from that point forward knew we were gonna be good friends and decided one day we would start a band together. About 2 years or so later Intro broke up (Which would eventually split into what is now Day Joy and Saskatchewan) I was supposed to be moving to Africa and I told Michael we should record the songs we had wrote and we began that process and did some really basic recordings using more or less just the microphone on a macbook, garage band, and an sm57… I ended up not moving to Africa and we decided to do the band thing and here we are now. 

Can you remember the first time you picked up a banjo to play it, or explored its sounds?

PP: I can absolutely remember the first time I picked up a banjo. It was on July 28th 2005. I had recently become obsessed with bluegrass and the banjo from a few different sources. There is a website that has archived old folk documentaries that I discovered and fell in love with and that led me into getting into artists like Lee Sexton and Earl Scruggs. Around the same time as well when I was in high school in 2003 Jim White had come out with his film "Searching For The Wrong Eyed Jesus" I fell lin love with that soundtrack and movie. I remember a few years later I was watching it with my girlfriend at the time and she realized how much I had loved that innocent backwoods culture and the sound of the banjo and everything involved. I believe I actually cried at some point or maybe a tear slipped out marveling at the beauty and she decided that for my 21st birthday she would buy me a banjo. I had never played nor touched one before that just respected and adored it. She got me a gold tone banjo and that really was the genesis for everything. If that moment had not of happened I dont think a lot of other events would of taken place. I dont however see the banjo being a big part of our music in the future... It was a big thing for me at the moments of a lot of our songs in the past but now I envision our sound moving out of that space maybe utilitzing here and there. Beyond that it is actually a pain to use live if you dont have an electric one. There is always an issue with miking it or using a DI. 

MS: I used to play around with Peter's banjo before I had any idea what I was doing - there wasn't ever any magical first impression or anything. 

What is the most intense song you ever encountered, growing up, in terms of its ability to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? Did that song inspire you, scare you, or some combination of the two?

PP: I think for me growing up in the 80's and early 90's that most songs that made the most visceral connection to me also had a visual one because it was the age of the music video. I remember 4 videos/songs in particular I can think of off the top of my head that had huge impacts on me - Pearl Jam - Jeremy, Red Hot Chili Peppers - Under the Bridge, REM - Everybody Hurts, and for some reason I always had nightmares from Soul Asylums - Run Away Train. I think that might also have to do with the direction I have conceptually pushed the ideas for our music videos. I want them to be intense and visceral. Our songs are very emotional and lyrically evocative and I want the video to reflect these sentiments that are found in our songs. 
MS: I was relatively sheltered from anything non-Christian growing up. All the songs I would hear were second-hand from my friends' cooler (older) siblings or something to that affect. The first song that really inspired me was "From a Balance Beam" off Bright Eyes' "Lifted" LP. That record made music feel accessible to me. It was the first time that I could imagine myself making music because it wasn't so polished. Pop music and religious music often seems to come from nowhere - like there is no human element to it. Any song that feels rawly human will make my hair stand up.

What is "Talks of Terror" about? I interpret it as the outcome of a really dispiriting political discussion with someone who's sort of fatalist, who you can't talk off the edge to a more positive perspective.

MS: Well, I guess that works. That's what I love about writing lyrics. A single song will develop so many different meanings across different interpretations. It's like writing a thousand songs at once. But, for me, Talks of Terror is more of this ongoing internal conflict I have with myself. I delve into a lot of divergent thinking modes. I guess I'm ultimately trying to say to the listener (and myself) that you can't let yourself be scared out of being who you are supposed to be.

PP: I think that writing music and creating art in general is probably the closest thing to creating a child that I can understand. These songs are like our children. They came from within us at very distraught and intense moments of our lives and then they grow up to sort of have a life of their own that is beyond what we had ever initially conceived in them. “Talks of Terror” is a song that leaked out long before the album, and it has impacted so many people on so many levels. I have read emails and interpretations of it that I think are awesome and all relevant in some way or another. For me the song means something entirely different than it does to many others or maybe even Michael. Most of the songs Michael will lyrically develop entirely on his own and then some others I will have already had a little melody and a few lines or I will add some things to him singing and Talks of Terror was one of those songs we sort of built together lyrically in that way in a really base form and then Michael took it and developed it much further. For me, it’s a representation of our current world and someone trying to find themselves in it. In Orlando and FL in general you meet so many people that are just absolutely passionate and convinced in their belief systems. You will meet a devout Christian right or far right individual or someone that is the polar opposite and believes in nothing and has such loathing for those around them and the culture they live in down here and Talks of Terror is sort of a song that in my mind reflects all of us that think we have our minds made up in our life and then are hypocritical at some point in that belief or perhaps our belief system evolves into something else. This can be taken into a political context reflecting our current political climate and peoples interpretations of "terrorism" or religious extremism.. and deeper and further than that really.

Is your songwriting process still like that today?

PP: For the most part yes. I will write a riff or chord progression and perhaps a melody and bring it to Michael and we will flesh it out. I am not as good at contributing things to songs as I am at creating them so the songs that Michael makes and brings to the table on his own are usually 100% him and I will have a little input in the direction and maybe add a thing here or there.We share a very connected mind when it comes to our ears and music so we usually know what the other is thinking or the direction to take something we pretty much always agree on or understand. We have a lot of new material and will probably be recording our next record really soon even though the first one hasnt even been released. I would say we already have half of it demo'd out and most of those have been the same writing process. We just write really well together- I have never been able to write with someone like I can with Michael - Im not sure I even could. We are starting to include the other band members and exploring that a little more for some of the newer songs we are currently writing. We have been jamming a lot and just doing a lot of random stuff with one or two band members and seeing what sticks and works with the direction/vision we are trying to take the band.

Mike and Peter, you're obviously the main songwriters in Day Joy. Can you tell me a bit about the other members and how they came to be in the band?

PP: Well once we heard the songs recorded we knew that if we ever wanted to play anything live we would need 5 or 6 members to pull it off successfully. We added 3 members to do just that and those are Travis Reed and Artie Burer of Loud Valley- which me and Michael also used to play in off and on... and Adam Ibrahim whom is also in a local band. I also live with Artie and Travis and all of our equipment and practice space is at our house so it just made sense. Day Joy just sort of had a better response publicly when we released stuff on the internet and picked up a lot of momentum so the boys got behind it and have been real supportive. Artie is a sound engineer and amazing musician and I know he has a lot of interest in writing with us on the new record and being a part of it as much as possible and Travis is really interested as well... so we will see how it goes in terms of the writing process. I get a little nervous with too many chefs in the kitchen though haha. 

If the banjo isn't the core of Day Joy's future music, what instrument(s) do you see taking its place?

MS: We recently bought a Juno 6 after a show in Atlanta. We were on tour. We had no money. It was a completely brash and irresponsible decision, but it was the best bad decision we could have made. I think that will take a center role in a lot of the music. Peter also recently invested in an electro-harmonics voice box which will probably play a psychedelic role in the vocal arrangements. I was big into "found music" on the first record - i.e. train sounds, amp static, nature sounds. I would like to take that to the next level, but I'm not quite sure how yet. Ultimately, nothing will really replace the banjo per se. I think we're just moving away from it.
Michael, does Day Joy material strike you as religious in a way? 

MS: Yes and no, and I hate to answer the question that way. I mean, there are definitely a lot of religious references, but they never really portray religion in a positive light. So I would shy away from calling them religious. I think I have an underlying resentment towards religion in general. There is a song on the record that is almost entirely dedicated to my feelings on religion and accepting (rather than denying) our mortality. One of the lyrics is "Tragedy's honest just like they taught in church as a kid. Learn what to call it; learn how to draw it prettier than it is". I guess it's hard to look your child in the eyes and tell them they'll one day die - maybe that's what religion is for. That's sort of the opposite of the message in any of the songs.

Why did you choose "Go To Sleep, Mess" as the title for your debut album?

MS: Originally, when we were first drafting the album, I had this grandiose concept of the album mirroring a late night tossing and turning, finally falling asleep and having beautiful nostalgic dreams, then a nightmare, then awakening. The album still follows this trajectory - it's just a little more interwoven. The line between the waking and dream states is blurred. I think it is actually more effective this way. "Go to Sleep, Mess" was kind of the obvious choice. The title made the album as a whole make more sense and (I think) it's a good indicator of the weight of the subject matter listeners will encounter.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Triple Threat: Farewell My Concubine, Gabriel Saloman, David Bowie.
Triple Threat: Heavy Hawaii, Pak, Grouper.
Triple Threat: Wavves, Kitty, Alicia Keys.

New poem: "Eggshells On Matzo"


Cold-cream jars agape. HVACs singing
scat. Clods of palladium shaken loose
into piles. Exteriors dreamt en cumuli
A tribunal of paper birches, quaking aspens.
Is this one of your movies about nothing?

Daylight humanizes rafters. Using mop 
brushes we applied white lacquer to 
alabaster idols. Trowels caked in fondant. 
Before the lift an apparition hovers, mute.
Contrails beget halos or elide the action.

So boogie on down to Blanco; check out
the ecru scene. Under layers of kohl, more 
silence. Arboretums beset by unicorns, 
melisma. The video feed was uncut sclera. 
Constellational, bones curl round a wrist.