Joywave And Sir Sly Present: An Evening With Sir Sly And Joywave Donna Missal
“Anxiety caused by feeling too content” is just the first aspect of the double-pronged paradoxical rumination that is Content, the sophomore full-length album by Rochester,
NY-based indie quintet, Joywave, slated for release July 28 with a tour supporting Young the Giant and Cold War Kids to follow. The title, Content, sees Joywave apply their trademark irreverence and humor to two large yet interrelated ideas springing from the dual meaning of the word, “content”, and signaling a move into a deeply personal terrain for Joywave frontman Daniel Armbruster.
About the duality reflected in the album’s title (CONtent the noun versus conTENT the adjective), Armbruster says:”I loved that the two words were associated with completely opposite feelings for me (one pure, one not), and that only a human hearing the two words in the English language could tell the difference between the ideas represented. To a search engine, they are identical. How can you explain to Google that one of these things makes you happy and helps fill the void in your soul, and the other is just flooding your senses?”
Three years have passed since Joywave’s “Tongues”and their collaboration with Big Data on the hit song “Dangerous” first put the band on the map. Creating their own imprint Cultco Music via Hollywood Records, the five members of Joywave—Daniel Armbruster (vocals), Joseph Morinelli (guitar), Sean Donnelly (bass), Benjamin Bailey (keyboards), and Paul Brenner (drums)— embarked on an intense tour schedule in support of their debut album, sharing the stage with Foals, The Killers, Brandon Flowers, Metric, Silversun Pickups and Bleachers. They played at Coachella, Lollapalooza (US & Berlin), Reading & Leeds, Okeechobee, Osheaga, Hangout and Bumbershoot, with appearances on Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers’ shows. Glowing reviews followed in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Spin and Entertainment Weekly.
This success enabled Armbruster to seriously adult on a whole new level, and this year he finally moved into a place of his own, a few blocks away from his childhood home. For Armbruster, who sold stationery and paper goods at Staples before Joywave took off, the musical dream born when he started writing songs aged fifteen was finally coming true. The single “It’s A Trip!” began with two basic ideas in mind: “Haunting” versus “haunted”. “I wanted to make something undeniably beautiful that would outlast me, but at times verged on the absurd and snapped the listener out of a dreamy haze. “It’s A Trip!” moves pretty far in the absurd direction, juxtaposing a pretty friendly arena-sized chorus against versus straight out of a haunted house. The song is a little disorienting, much like the past few years of our lives have been”. The music video for “It’s A Trip!” features the band slowly aging as they ride jet skis in
Miami and underscores the sense of endlessly being on tour, just getting older while the girl on the back of the jet ski stays the same age.
Touring—which Armbruster describes as “an episode of Louie where it’s funny but somewhat soul crushingly sad at the same time”—took its toll on the band both physically and emotionally but had an upside. “Playing our instruments was second nature at that point,” notes guitarist Joey Morinelli, that allowed us to focus and interact with crowds, and each other on stage, in ways that we never had before.“
Post tour, Armbruster who had been dealing with chronic illness was diagnosed with pancreatitis, and had to stop drinking on doctor’s orders. Sobriety “really affected the sound of the record,” he says. In contrast to Joywave’s playful debut, the tone of Content is more confessional, sometimes combative, as it questions how connected we really are in this hyper-connected world—which brings us to Content’s second theme, stemming from the collective angst of a generation whose art (and very lives) are now mere content for the Internet. Sonically, Content is more cohesive than Joywave’s LP1, How Do You Feel Now? It’s focused and deliberate, loud and cinematic featuring a more prominent vocal throughout LP2.
As a clear example of conscious, positive content; the title track “Content” is accompanied with a video shot on vintage Super 8 on location at Kodak Tower in Rochester. The building, once the global epicenter of film photography, is a monument to the pre-Internet world in the Rochester skyline and a place that’s close to the hearts of all bandmembers, as most of their parents worked there before Kodak filed for bankruptcy. In addition, Kodak has afforded the band the opportunity to utilize some of their iconic equipment which inspired Daniel to take up film photography to help fill the existential void. “Film is slower and more deliberate, and that’s calming in a way. It’s not disposable, it’s not easy, which in turn, forces you to care. I like that.”
At the end of the day music is at the core of what Joywave is and drives the creativity in every aspect. Brenner sums it up, “We’re always working on new music and new ways to make our live performance better and better. Joywave will not be confined to a certain genre or niche. We do what we want.”
Content is produced by Joywave’s Daniel Armbruster & Sean Donnelly and mixed by Rich Costey (TV On The Radio, The Shins, Interpol) and will be released on Hollywood Records/Cultco Music on 7.28.
The triumphant lead single from Sir Sly’s Don’t You Worry, Honey, “High” turned a hotel-room panic attack into a creative breakthrough for the L.A.-based trio. “This album started out as an exploration of fear and anxiety, over very minimal electronic music, but ‘High’ really opened up the honesty of the record,” says lead singer Landon Jacobs, who co-founded Sir Sly with fellow multi-instrumentalists Hayden Coplen and Jason Suwito. With “High” emerging as “an upbeat anthem about ego death,” in Jacobs’s words, the song ultimately formed the heart of Sir Sly’s second full-length: a deliberately hopeful album born from an extraordinarily dark time.
Written in the aftermath of Jacobs’s divorce and his mother’s death, Don’t You Worry, Honey transforms heavy-heartedness into unlikely joy. The album finds Sir Sly expanding on the moody experimentalism of their 2014 debut You Haunt Me, channeling a looser energy that closely shapes their more groove-driven sound. Self-produced and recorded in Suwito’s studio, Don’t You Worry, Honey also matches their delicately inventive alt-pop with a more granular approach to storytelling. “It was almost like writing a memoir of the past three years of my life, but focusing on little snapshots rather than telling the complete story,” Jacobs points out.
Thanks in part to that purposely detailed lyricism, Don’t You Worry, Honey hits with an undeniable urgency. “Musically and lyrically, we wanted this album to be very much in-the-moment and paint a specific picture with each song, as opposed to just setting a vibe,” says Coplen. With that clarity of vision in place, Sir Sly experienced a profound burst of inspiration. “There were all these sounds and textures that I was hearing in my head so strongly, in a way that hadn’t ever happened before,” says Coplen. “There was never any effort to try to make things feel fresh or new or surprising — that all just came from following our instincts and enjoying the process of bringing the music to life.”
Throughout Don’t You Worry, Honey, Sir Sly strike a powerful contrast by embracing both the thrill of creation and the wistful undercurrent of each track. With its shivering synth lines and graceful acoustic guitar, “And Run” reflects on the futility of regret. “That song came from being fascinated by the idea that, of all the infinite possibilities in the world, I ended up falling in love and getting married and then getting divorced, and there’s nothing I could do to change that,” says Jacobs. On “Astronaut,” Sir Sly build off a majestic guitar riff supplied by Suwito and deliver an intensely danceable meditation on loneliness. “It’s trying to put a different spin on being alone, because sometimes being alone can give you this great ability to see the world in a way that’s larger than life,” Jacobs explains. Inspired by an ill-fated romantic encounter at a festival after-party, the blissfully frenetic and beat-heavy “Trippin” perfectly captures the rush of instant infatuation. And on “Oh Mama,” Sir Sly close out Don’t You Worry, Honey with a hazy and soulful serenade to Jacobs’s mother, a piano-laced piece that makes quietly heartbreaking use of a sampled voicemail.
Since forming in 2012, Sir Sly have forged their singular sound by drawing upon each member’s long-honed musical talents: Jacobs’s introspective yet infinitely searching lyricism, Suwito’s in-studio ingenuity, and Coplen’s sophisticated musicianship and sense of songcraft. Orange County natives and friends since high school, Jacobs and Coplen connected with Suwito through the local music scene. Their early collaborations yielded songs like “Ghost,” a Neon Gold release that quickly earned buzz online. After making their Cherrytree Records debut with the Gold EP in 2013, Sir Sly put out You Haunt Me (which reached #14 on Billboard’s Alternative Albums chart) in September of the following year.
With Don’t You Worry, Honey marking a major turning point for Sir Sly, the band feels a stronger sense of artistic purpose than ever before. “As a person who mainly writes lyrics about himself, sometimes I get caught up in this fear that it’s wrong or selfish to write so much about my own life,” says Jacobs. “What snapped me out of that on this album was going back to the catalog of music that helped raise me, where the songwriters were incredibly honest about their lives in a way that normalized a lot of what I went through growing up. If I can do that for other people, by telling my story and not trying to sugarcoat it, then hopefully I’m able to help them feel a little less out of place in the world.”