One of Australia’s incredibly talented up and coming music makers, JOY. She’s talented across so many boards: She’s a singer, a songwriter and a flippin’ good producer. She put out her debut EP, ODE, earlier this year to some rave reviews. She happens to be in town in Brisbane today to play her first ever Bigsound tonight, so Howl And Echoes found themselves with the absolute privilege of sitting down with her for a good old fashioned chat.
How ya doin’ JOY.?
I’m good, I’m good.
Saw you were sick the other day, I hope you’re feeling a little bit better now?
Yeah, well I always get sick but I never lose my voice. Like I always get sick and and I just feel like shit and don’t lose it but this time I lost my voice really badly and it was just like air coming out. So I had to just drink heaps of stuff like garlic-honey-lemon water and shit.
Really pleasant stuff…
Yeah you just have to hold your nose the whole time.
So you were ok for last night then, saw you played a show in Bondi?
So I only got my voice back maybe 20 minutes before I went on, which was interesting because otherwise I just had no idea like, what am I going to do? All I’m doing in this show right now is singing and it’s just air, I just sounded like (indistinguishable raspy lyrics).
Holy shit, that’s coming up clutch. So it went well?
Yeah it was good. I don’t even really know how it went really but I think it was good? (Laughs)
So you pretty much finished up there and got into Brisbane maybe 10 minutes ago?
Yeah I flew in this morning really early. Had to go home and drop all my gear off and the band and then had to turn around and be like (sighs) ‘I have to go into the Valley now’.
No chance of a sleep before you back up tonight? Will you be good to go?
So I was planning on having maybe some kind of rest or a sleep at some point. We played at midnight last night and I had to get up at 4am to catch the flight here so by the time I got to bed it was maybe 2. Got on the plane and yeah. After this interview I have maybe three hours so I’m just going to knock myself out and sleep!
Really good idea. You mentioned you’re playing with a full band tonight. Where you’ve previously played mainly solo right?
Yeah so it’s a new setup again. I used to play solo and then I got a band and we kind of made it a bit more real live stuff, pretty much live arrangements of my stuff but we were like fuck, that doesn’t work. Nobody wants to see that and so then we were like, let’s actually make it sound like the record, so we just did production for like a week. We bought so much gear and just played around with a few different things and programmed it all which took forever and so now it’s an electronic show.
So how many members of the band do you have now?
There’s four with me but they’re all switching instruments and gadgets all the time.
Is it a difficult thing trying to teach other people such kind of personal songs of yours that you’ve written?
No not really. They’re all sort of classically-trained session musicians who can all play every instrument under the sun. The real annoying thing was programming it so a lot of it is running off of a computer and we kind of had to have everything patched in and have it automated so that it changes in between songs which was a nightmare. It sounds good though… I think. So it was worth it.
Are you still doing songwriting or is it now turning into a collaborative thing when they’re involved?
No they’re not really involved unless it’s a show, so I’ll do all the writing and production and then we just try and transfer it to a band.
Is that a hard thing, transferring it into a band?
Nah not really. They just learn the parts and then my musical director and I will just program it into the thing so that it’s all done. It’s just a little more technical than playing an instrument like, if you can play an instrument then you’ll be fine pressing buttons.
Just following along on your social media and you seem to be putting up photos of the MacBook at work making music. Are you sitting on a big old treasure trove of JOY. stuff you’re going to release?
(Laughs) Yeah, bangers.
Trap bangers. Is it just something you do for fun then?
To be honest, I made the last EP and then just kind of didn’t make anything for myself. I haven’t made a JOY. track in ages, I’ve just been doing shows but also working with some rappers making beats for them, so all of the stuff that I’m working on at the moment is just beats for people. It’s cool though, it’s actually a lot more fun than making your own shit but yeah, just doing beats for rappers and also some singers that I’ve worked with where I’m just getting heaps of random instrumentalists into sessions and jamming rather than writing for myself. I probably will start working on my stuff though. I’m actually going to America on Saturday. I don’t even think that’s for JOY. stuff though I think it’s mainly production. There’s a bunch of producers and artists and stuff so we’re just going to write and I guess if something comes out of it then I can use it.
So JOY. is really only one kind of project for you, it’s not ‘it’?
I kind of just want to have it all under the JOY. name but I don’t want it to be confusing or anything. If I’m just dropping random shit people will just be like ‘What are you doing?’. I think it’s kind of confusing because people see you’re doing a vocal feature and assume you’re a singer and then if you’re making beats now they start to get confused.
So what rappers are you working with at the moment?
There’s this guy JD (Jeriet Dwight) at the moment who is an up and comer. He’s really cool. I don’t know if I’m going to get shredded for saying this: I don’t really like Aussie hip hop but I work with a lot of Aussie hip hop guys. Which is actually really good, they’re really good, it just isn’t my favourite genre but this JD guy has got kind of a British twang going for him. Kind of like a mix of Skepta and… I don’t know, someone else…
We fucking love Skepta!
Yeah he’s really cool. I just like working with people who do different shit I guess. I spend a lot of time with vocalists just making them sing random things into a microphone and then just chopping it up and sampling it.
You’ve worked with a fair few people this year. Was there any collaboration you had where it was like ‘fuck yes, this is the biggest highlight’ kind of thing?
So I’m with Universal Publishing and I’m pretty much in their studio every day of the week and there’s so many people signed with them like Horrorshow and there’s Ruby Frost, she’s from New Zealand and is kind of pop I guess. I had a really good session the other day though. It’s always fun when you actually know the people before you go into the session, so this one I did with Slumberjack, who I’ve known for a while. So it was just really fun because you’re just in there making something random and you don’t really care.
That’s real bangers right there.
(Laughs) Yeah we actually made something really cool which was unexpected. Some sessions if you don’t click with the person it can be a really awkward day.
What happens when you’re in a room and it’s like that?
I’m kind of a really chill person so if I don’t get along with someone I’m probably not going to be up in their face about it, I’ll just do my thing. It’s fine though, everyone I’ve worked with so far has been fine it’s just that some people you click better with than others, which obviously makes the music better.
What can we expect from you in the next year? Obviously heaps of bangers, maybe some bangers but with three z’s on the end?
(Laughs) I don’t really know, I’m still kind of thinking about what I want to release. It would be cool to do another EP and maybe start writing an album. An album is going to take me forever because I need it to be perfect. I also want to do a lot more production for other people as well so maybe even just dropping an EP with me not singing on it. I feel like people come to see me sing though so it might be weird. I want to try different things and see how it goes. So I guess you can expect a bunch of random stuff that’s not really professional and some shows, some travelling.
A lot of relatively unknown acts playing Bigsound this year. What would you tell them as someone who’s established herself?
I’ve never actually played Bigsound before so I can’t really give them any advice.
Oh, not specifically Bigsound, more like, you know music in general?
(Laughs) Oh, I thought you meant just for Bigsound.
Yeah, Bigsound life hacks from JOY.
(Laughs) Have all the drinks and eat all the food. I don’t know. I feel like I was in their position not even that long ago so, I don’t really know what happened. Just keep doing your thing. I feel like being really antisocial and locking yourself in your room does pay off. In high school I didn’t really go to parties or anything. Probably because I wasn’t allowed to go but it worked out well I guess.
Thanks mum and dad.
Yeah thanks for being so strict. I guess just muck around with what you’re doing and it also helps if you can produce your own stuff so I would recommend playing around with software and stuff. Even if you’re not going to record your own album, it’s still cool to know how to do those things. I just learned everything from sitting at home on my laptop just pressing buttons.
Well it worked for Kanye. We’ll leave you to it JOY. Thank you so much for the chat today, go get some rest and all the best. Have fun in America!
Thanks, catch you later!