20 Years of Joy Vol. 1: Virtual Inner Sleeve

Thank you for picking up a copy of the first edition of our 20th anniversary compilation album, whether in the form of a limited edition birthday card or as a straightforward download, and for raising a bit of cash for the excellent charity HOPE not hate at the same time – find out more about the important work they do challenging mistrust and racism on their website.

Having grown up in an era of fully physical releases on vinyl, cassette and cd, an album doesn’t quite feel complete to me without some liner notes, so here are some words from the artists’ with their thoughts about their tracks.

Deerhoof – Everbody Marvel (Happy Version)

By the time the pieces finished falling into place, “Everybody Marvel” was one of our sadder songs, but it started as a demo that was not sad, but rather, happy. The happy version made us sad, until we changed it to the sad version, which made us happy. However, we present the happy version here, which now makes us giggle and feel happy.


Photo by Greg Saunier

Jemma Freeman & The Cosmic Something – Hoping for a Miracle

This was written partly on the way to People Like Us Festival this year. It serves as an exorcism of grief, sudden loss of intimacy and the brutal nature and experience of having someone who was everything to you suddenly jettisoned from your version of reality.

Not very joyful, I am sure you are thinking! But the joy comes from the exuberant  and unrelenting energy that we created in our rehearsal room one sweaty Wednesday night. Crammed in and feeling our usual neurodivergent reticence about rehearsing our set for the festival, we got distracted and started messing about and having fun instead. In less than 15 minutes we had the basis of the song. We liked it so much that we decided to scrap practice and focus entirely on this magical gift that we had created out of nowhere.

We played it live for the first time 3 days after it’s conception to a packed barn, in a secret location, in the middle of the Cornish country side to a packed room full of joyous folks, beautiful queers, trans people, and butches. The response was rapturous and probably my favourite experience of playing live in a 20 year career.

So rather than find this song maudlin, even though its lyrics may be stare out facing the dark, I remember how this song’s vulnerability created a glorious, sustained connection for just a moment. And in that moment I felt pure joy.

Thank you to Lim Orion for kindly adding sax and Adam Hinden for keys!! And Jason Ribeiro on drums and Samuel Nicholson on bass. Mixed and engineered by me (Jemma). Only saying that ‘cos I am dead proud of it.


The May vs Nigel Firth – Stromatolite (Deep Time In The Goldilocks Zone)

I was recently asked to suggest an object to go in a museum of climate optimism, and embarrassed myself by being unable to quite summon up a rosy-enough vision of the future. In the end I settled on the stromatolite, one of the big blobs of calcified bacteria that were some of the earliest forms of complex life on Earth. I find it very reassuring and joyful as, no matter how hard we mess up the planet, it is a minor aberration in the context of deep time, and, given our enviable spot in the narrow band of the solar system that can support life, life will endure.

My other great source of comfort is AT2021lwx, the incomprehensibly huge cosmic explosion that is 100 times bigger than the solar system. It’s been going on for 3 years and in this time has released 100 times more energy than the Sun will in its entire 10 billion year life span. It is 2 trillion times brighter than the Sun. It helps me sleep at night as it reinforces the insignificance of my problems and is the basis of my own practice of Nihilistic Mindfulness.

I pondered both things and made two wobbly tape loops of little piano riffs as I did so. I make these by hand by taking cassette tapes apart; I actually got these exactly in time for once, and made them the basis of this tune. I play synthesiser too much so I tried to play as much toy piano (I have a lovely multicoloured Melissa and Doug one, I’ll put some pics of it on my insta), cello, recorder, musical saw (which I’m trying to learn), the organ from the local church (which has the Treacle Well from Alice in Wonderland next to it) and even some guitar. The vocals are taken care of by a little droid singing ‘let’s do it’ in Japanese.

themaythemay.bandcamp.com / instagram.com/old.man.may / linktr.ee/themay

Firestations – Undercover (Bit Cloudy Remix)

‘Undercover’ was the first single from Firestation’s new album Thick Terrain (out now on Lost Map Records!). We described it as an effervescent pop song about depression and self-discovery – it’s about remembering to seek out joy and have fun whenever you can, the alternative being a life relying on the crutches of routine and self-pity. Now, with this exclusive Bit Cloudy remix treatment, the edginess that was hinted at in the original has been brought to the fore, giving the questions in the lyrics “Where is the joy? Is it over?” a more physical urgency. Maybe this particular joy can be found travelling through the city on public transport late at night with headphones in, or on a drunken basement dancefloor with the soundsystem maxed out. It’s still there, but you have to look for it.

As well as his work in Firestations, Martin’s releases as Bit Cloudy have been championed by such diverse figures as Sasha, Alabaster Deplume and Stuart Maconie. He recently curated and presented an hour long Freak Zone Playlist show on BBC6Music and has been released on Castles In Space, Werra Foxma, Byrd Out and Lo Recordings. All his music is made in his living room on a cheap laptop.


MJ Hibbett – What a Wonderful World

I’ve loved this song ever since I first learnt to play it one summer on holiday at my Dad’s house in the last century. It’s so full of joy and love for the world, not as something you can get or can own, but as something you belong to – the line about children learning more than you’ll ever know makes me think of being part of the grand stretch of humanity into the future, rather than just an individual on your own. With that in mind it was a bit of a surprise how it all turned out – it was meant to be me singing along on the guitar, as I’ve been playing it for about 30 years, but gradually it turned into something else. In the end it sort of felt like it was THE TERMINATOR or some other evil AI singing it to itself as it struggled to work out what it had lost by obliterating the human race, which I have to admit is not particularly joyful and almost certainly not what Bob Thiele and George David Weiss had in mind when they wrote it. I doubt it was in Louis Armstrong’s mind either!


West Midlands – Breaking The States

Starting a band is like falling in love. It’s fun and it’s dumb, and it’s easy if you try. Sure, it can get expensive, but for a while you’re bulletproof, every idea’s brilliant, and joy is unconfined. If you’re lucky, someone notices, they tell a friend and spread the word. Everyone should feel that loved for six months in their life.

Soon it’s all divorce courts, bad blood and worse shorts; the bus ride to practice can become a million miles. But no one needs to know about the winter of ’70 and how you lost your first real six-string to the second of your wives.

‘Breaking the States’ recalls the glorious true story of West Midlands’ breakthrough 1984 tour of America and is taken from their forthcoming album The Complete History of Popular Music 1984-2038.


Pagan Wanderer Lu – Overthinking

The way it relates to the theme of ‘Joy’ would be that it’s about the tension between people who live their lives fairly intuitively and ‘just do stuff’ and people who don’t (like me). I think it’s a little ambiguous, it plays around with both approaches – trying them on for size, deciding which one is ‘right’ and really concludes that both / neither are. It’s possibly to be happy and be an overthinker – though it’s nice to escape your own head sometimes. Musically it feels joyful to me in a few ways, it’s quite upbeat and simpler than a lot of my songs – but recording it also represents a point where I kind of became ‘unblocked’ creatively after what felt like a very long time in limbo between records. Joyzine were big supporters of me when I was more active some years back, as I emerge back into musical productivity I’m pleased the magazine is still going strong and I’m still grateful for their support. Here’s to 20 more years!


David Devant & His Spirit Wife – We’re In Love (With The Sound of Our Own Voice)

Joy has, through accidental circumstances, been at the heart of David Devant and his Spirit Wife. Offered the chance to be a part of the Brighton festival if we had a theatre performance we just thought how and not why. Between us we had a sense that without question we would create a musical magic experience in the upstairs of a pub. The rest (records, videos and amazing strange performances) all followed on from our joy in fulfilling the potential to act on this feeling.

Power or joy in one’s power over others, is sad joy and separates us from this capacity to conquer a creative challenge. Conquering an idea like devising a stage ritual is joyful conquering. Joy is thinking “how” rather than why.

With us, cardboard and super 8 film were initially part of the joy of how. I’m grateful that being in Devant somehow allowed me to feel what this realm of joy is. It’s a resistance to the gate keepers who want to keep us apart from our creative agency.

In his epic Jerusalem William Blake talks about not wanting to reason and judge but to create. This is the joy we seek. Although I love compliments, it’s important to note that this kind of joy is not self-satisfaction but like the joy of a thunder storm expressing itself as a thunderstorm rather than the damage it causes.

Deleuze said about joy, “It’s not self-satisfaction, it’s not the pleasure of being pleased with oneself.” Sadness and guilt are the things that are often used to keep us apart from  our ability to act on a creative hunch. To overcome this we are not thinking about a Pollyanna optimism but instead the right to express even if it turns out skewed.

It’s summed up in a phrase a friend recently returned from Peru with, “only forward only joy”. Thinking How to proceed not why do that!? Create don’t judge. This is the joy of trusting in the collective to support the individual in all their personal wonky capacities to act. And we thank Joyzine for being there as a portal into this alchemical atmosphere of joy!


The Moths – Tell Me

Around sometime in 2007 during the short whirlwind that was the career of the Moths! – the band had evolved into a full live band and were speaking with Weekender Records about potentially releasing a re-record of the track ‘Tell Me’. The band went over to a studio in Dollis Hill, West London to record the track. It never got released, and until today, has been pretty much lost in time. The original version and a later version exist on streaming services. The later version was recorded with Rich McNamara and released as an exclusive ‘In the City, Manchester’ single and put on a compilation. Here we have the long lost version of ‘Tell Me’

Hatcham Social – Lion With a Laser Gun (Live in Hackney)

We were playing these shows to support this compilation album – a sort of director’s choice/introductory box set LP- that Fierce Panda released in 2022. It was really exciting to hear these songs again and to make them fresh with some new players in the live line up – we added Rachel Kenedy (of Flowers and Fuse Box City) on second vocals and Keyboards and Joanna Curwood (Yassassin and Beds in Parks amongst others) on second guitars and more vocals who both have amazing energy and feel.

After playing the Rough Trade show to launch the LP and a few other shows we went into Sam Ayres and Rachel’s studio to play a live session. We wanted to keep a record of what we were doing at that time, since we never knew how long it would be going and what would happen next!

Everything was done live together in their home studio in Hackney with the idea we may work more on them, but they got left until now. When Joyzine asked about a song it seemed like a great moment to dig out the old hard drive and see what we had. So Rachel sent me over the tracks and I did a quick mix and put a vocal on in my living room.

This is a song from our third album released on O Genesis and itself all recorded live, but this is quite a different feel. I was never truly convinced by the presentation of the song on the album, (my favourites being ‘Ketamine Queen’ and ‘Stay True’) and this brings a more abrasive quality that I love. It’s anarchistic and fast, with amazing intense driving bass and drums from James and Finn, and I think it shows the feel and beauty we found with Rachel and Joanna playing in these shows. It’s great to share this moment of this wonderful line up of some of my favourite people with the world as part of the Joyzine celebrations. 


Photo by Ornela Aliaj

I, Doris – Do It Yourself

‘Do It Yourself’ is about the joyful act of self love – what better expression of joyful release than a cheeky strum on the clitar?


Photo by Mini Moody

Stony Sleep – Delirium Tremens

Brothers Ben and Christian still find joy in making music, together and apart.

Christian (drummer of Razorlight) has changed his name and goes under the moniker Shïan and the Genre 18 and Ben Fox Smith (singer of Serafin) is making his 11th solo album. 

This Stony Sleep track was unearthed recently on cassette and is from the band’s first demo in 1995 before they got signed to Big Cat Records as teenagers. It is reminiscent of Mudhoney and Pearl Jam with a sprinkling of Islington from where they emerged.


The Scaramanga Six – Jump Into The Fire

This was an extra track left off our 2017 dystopian double-album epic Chronica as we simply didn’t have enough space on both discs. We thought we’d do a shuffle and ‘Jump Into The Fire’ chugs along satisfyingly. I’m not entire sure what it’s about anymore but I’m pretty sure I was watching the Letterman TV appearance by XTC performing ‘King For A Day’ which inspired me. Steve is definitely channelling his inner Moulding on the bass, Julia makes staccato lead guitar appearances and Gareth has a total moment of joy adding in the ‘Purdie Shuffle’ in the middle bit.


Tiny & The Tears – Honey

‘Honey’ is based it on a quote from Beefheart who described the effect of cannabis as being like a moth with its wing trapped in honey. I transferred cannabis to the aching love that one human can feel for another, a craving that is never ending, that even in death the need still remains.

The Burning Hell – The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton

Few songs bring me as much joy as the classic Mountain Goats track “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton,” from the 2002 album All Hail West Texas. Like all the best Mountain Goats songs, it’s a concise short story with just the right amount of detail, and a decent helping of tragedy and melancholy. Yet the song is ultimately redemptive, and it’s hard not to love a tale of young dreamers triumphing over the suffocating expectations of their small-minded parents and teachers – especially when that tale centres on a teenage death metal band. Set to a happy-go-lucky major key 1/4/5 chord progression, the song’s most joyful moment is surely the “Hail Satan” coda, which leapt out of the speakers the first time I heard it, demanding to be sung along with at top volume. I’ve loved this song for so many years, but I still can’t resist that bit, and it always makes me smile.


Deux Furieuses – Keep Your Eye On The Prize

‘Keep Your Eye on the Prize’ is an unreleased studio demo we recorded ten years ago just prior to our debut album Tracks of Wire. We wrote “Nothing behind us, everything ahead of us” as we started our new band. ‘Keep Your Eyes on the Prize’ was originally a folk song from the American Civil Rights Movement based on the traditional song ‘Keep Your Hand on the Plow’. Pete Seeger did a version and we wrote our own post punk version. It seemed appropriate for Joyzine’s 20 Years Of Joy celebrations because we are proud of our resilience on this difficult journey together as women in the music industry. It has been the love of our lives to play together and Joyzine has been there supporting us all along the way. We didn’t use the song on Tracks of Wire, but looking back it shows the protest song roots of Deux Furieuses. We recorded it at 2fly Studios, Sheffield, and remember singing down stairwells for natural reverb and using an Ebow on the guitar.


Dead Patrons – She’s Lost Control

A great deal of thought went into finding the perfect track to fit the theme but after rehearsing it our sorrowful hearts could not take it. Therefore, we went with a Joy Division cover.


Scrounge – Forward (Live from Cable Street)

For us, this track is connected to joy in several ways – from the cathartic release of playing it (especially audible in this live version) with its rising and falling structure to the idea of constantly moving forward, which is inherently joyful and full of possibility. It’s also a track that several people have said really resonated with them when they first heard it – and as anyone who makes music can tell you, hearing that the stuff you do has a genuine impact on people is more or less the most joyful feeling there is.


Photo by Louise Mason and Ella Margolin

Mike Gale – Butterball

I came up with ‘Butterball’ after listening to a lot of the Japanese reggae/pop band Fishmans. I was just messing around with some samples and stuff that I’d found and this really fun and happy little instrumental started to appear. Putting the song together and finding little samples to add to it was possibly the most fun I can remember having while coming up with a song for a long time.


Photo by Mike Gale

Piney Gir – Yalla Let’s Go

Joyzine has brought us joy for 20 years now.  I can hardly believe it’s been going for that long.  I love how supportive Joyzine is of our community of indie music & culture.  It has truly been spreading joy and positivity for years and who doesn’t love that?  I wrote this song to celebrate Joyzine’s birthday “Yalla Let’s Go!”  means hey, let’s have a party!

Thank you Joyzine for giving so much over the years… here’s to many more years to come!


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