“Will the soundtrack kindly produce a sound? // Well, that isn’t quite what I had in mind”
Deems Taylor speaking during the intermission of Disney’s Fantasia is hardly the first thought for an appropriate intro to a hit single. But indie band Joywave have played the pop music game for years and this is merely part of a series of obscure Disney samples in How Do You Feel Now?, their 2015 release. Following that, the group released a tongue-in-cheek “album”, a collection of remixes of the same song ‘Destruction’ titled Swish, Kanye West’s provisional name for The Life of Pablo. Four years later, Joywave have returned to the limelight to support PVRIS at Electric Brixton ahead of their anticipated release Possession.
In the electro-indulgent indie music avalanche of the early-mid 2010s, Joywave made every effort to stand out and succeeded. How Do You Feel Now? thrived on thrashy riffs when glossy electro-glam was too saturated. Today, the album would be labelled lo-fi, a low-production effort fronted by an album cover of a portrait of singer Daniel Armbruster so stitched-up and mismatched it is near unrecognisable. ‘Tongues’ is a mix of mouthed sounds layered over triumphant drums which shouldn’t work but still reigns as one of Joywave’s top songs. It follows that lyrically, How Do You Feel Now? is an amalgamation of ambiguous thoughts but saw Joywave become an overnight success.
Writing their next project Content over the course of four months instead of ten years gave way to a more thematic approach to writing. Where content is king, the album is a sombre settlement into their groove where How Do You Feel Now? crashed them into the scene.
It appears then that the days of How Do You Feel Now? are over. Joywave are entering a space age with their new Possession. ‘Half Your Age’, one of its singles, is a pensive, dream-pop hit that mourns an alternate life that never was. ‘Obsession’ indulges the indulgent: those that obsess over projects to avoid thinking about larger, more personal problems. In this project, Armbruster has exposed himself more than ever before.
To say that there is a nonsensical air to Joywave would be too polite. It is really a playful absurdity, which is seen almost immediately as they march on stage draped in all-white tracksuits with unabashed pride. This stems from Armbruster, in what seems like a vow to exist and remain in their own bubble, their niche. To this day they insist on being labelled a Rochester, New York-based band when countless others induct themselves into the New York City label.
As a performance, Joywave are a spectacle and know their audience well. In between songs, Armbruster’s words drip with sarcasm and quips that only land half the time. A well-fitting guest, therefore, for England. “If it helps you buy our merch we’ll say we’re Canadian”, he jokes. Armbruster saunters and struts his way around in this support set for the alternative crowd gearing up for PVRIS. How Do You Feel Now? became a viral hit, and left shoes so large they could never be filled. But this band is self-aware, so in tune with their niche and themselves that they will continue to be relevant.
Joywave release Possession on 13th March, including hit singles ‘Blastoffff’, ‘Half Your Age’, and ‘Like a Kennedy’.
Review by Byron Gamble