Joyce Manor, a four piece group from Southern California, is a band like no other. Their unique approach to music is one to be admired. With songs ending at 1:30, they’re reminiscent of the old punk scene. You can’t simply categorize them as “pop punk” or “punk” or anything else, and that’s perfectly fine because they’re freakin’ Joyce Manor.
I got to sit down with the guys in a van outside of The Space in Hamden, a cozy basement venue that was taken over by real music lovers that night. The drone of another band in the background, we got started.
After settling ourselves in the space, we all got comfy. Barry took shotgun, Chase was next to me, and Matt was behind us. The warm summer night set the tone.
They described living in close quarters as “second nature”. It’s “not so bad” but “super fuckin’ weird”, as Barry described. He went on to say that they’re all “level headed people…we’re all very passive aggressive. We just take out our anger on people when we get home.” They all laughed.
As for causes they’re passionate about, they all said “we should probably have an answer for this.” Describing themselves as “pretty liberal people”, Barry explained they’re “all passively liberal.”
Jokingly, Barry said “well I’m a pescetarian… that’s kinda cool I guess but PETA doesn’t want shit to do with me.”
Politics in music, Barry said, “can be really awesome, or it can be really fuckin’ lame. It’s really hard to do well.” “Hard to be tasteful… without coming across as preachy or arrogant,” Matt and Chase added on.
“I feel like a lot of political bands don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about. There are some bands that are really really intelligent and can get their point across. Where the thing is with most bands, you don’t really have to be intelligent. You can be an awesome band and be fucking dumb as a wall,” says Barry.
Matt interjected with “and I love it when a really political band comes into the more melodic side of punk rock. Like the old propagandi stuff; like they were so young and their songs were so simplistic, but they were so intelligent. It still is, but they’re strayed from that… (jokingly) progressive thrash!”
A lot of people are swayed by their idol’s thoughts, like what they like and dislike. “You can’t just take things on the surface like that,” says Chase, “you can’t really assign yourself to one thing just because a band says that’s what they’re all about.”
“It’s also, in rock music, a lot about personal politics too,” Barry added on. “If someone wrote a song that was like ‘Re-elect Obama!’, that’s a fuckin’ shitty song, man. It’s subject matter. Personal politics translate better.”
“There’s too much grey area in politics to really rock shit.”
Chase said, “I think it’s really hard to pidgeon hole and sort of ideology to make it accessible in a song.” Matt said “(especially when) you have a minute and a half to do it.” Interestingly enough, Barry commented “well most bands have a little more time than that… that’s more our dilemma.
“Hardcore bands and early punk bands is a lot of times under the two minute mark. Phil Spector said the perfect pop song is like, two minutes exactly.”
“People are way too concerned with the length of the songs they’re listening to,” says Matt.
Barry expanded saying how “people aren’t used to a song ending that quickly. As soon as they start to enjoy it, it’s gone. I think that may contribute to the fact of why they enjoyed it so much. If we lengthened the parts, people may lose interest.”
Matt brought up a brilliant point, saying how “chefs say you leave the customer wanting one more bite of the dish, and then they’ll remember it.”
Jokingly, Barry said “yeah, if you pile a bunch of it on a plate with like fries for five people, they’ll be like ‘oh I’m never eating again I want to die. I was going to go to the gym after this but now I have to go hang myself… so that’s why our songs are so short.”
Continuing on the political agenda, Chase added “that being said though, back when Fat Wreck Cords was putting out those Rock Against Bush comps, that was a big part of my life.”
When asked if they’re doing this for fun, or looking to be playing stadiums and stardom, there was a lot of “ums”.
“The bit about having an agenda, we don’t have one. We’re really just doing this cuz it’s fun as hell. It’s fun to play guitar and turn the amp up too loud and it’s fun to yell into a microphone. It’s fun to get all sweaty with a bunch of people you don’t know. And, it’s really fun to travel around in a minivan with my true friends.
It just beats regular life…regular life was just crushing my soul, and this is fun.”
“It would be really fun to play in a stadium, but we’re not on the phone with U2’s booking agent every day,” Matt said.
“We don’t have a political agenda. We’re not writing stupid songs to say this is how the world is going to be saved… the whole overly political thing has never really been my deal,” stated Barry.
Some of the guys’ favourite authours include a unanimous “Kurt Vonnegut!” Along with Camus, “The Shining”/Stephen King, and “King Dork” by Frank Portman. Chase mentioned “personal triumph” books.
Barry is not a Disney fan. “I never liked it, I just don’t like musicals that much.” Chase said, “I thought UP was a fantastic movie” which sparked Barry’s mentioning of how the Pixar/Disney films were good, the most noteworthy one being Toy Story.
Barry said “I’m not political, I don’t like Disney. Which kind of go hand in hand.” “Barry doesn’t like a lot of stuff,” said Matt.
Their favourite films included The Shining, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Thing, Dumb and Dumber, Gattaca, Fargo, and Bonnie and Clyde.
When asked to describe each of themselves personally in three words or less, Matt said “band dad”. Chase used “my back hurts”, and “I’m so tired.”
Barry said he was never good at the “about me” section of the MySpace, so he couldn’t answer the questions. “No thank you.”
Their unexpected music guilty pleasures were Shakira, Don McClain, and Barry described himself as a “Hellogoodbye guy”.
I’ve never interviewed a band before where I’ve laughed so much. Sitting down with such revolutionary musicians was one of the coolest things. The guys are incredibly down to earth and they’re doing what they love.