Q&A with joan

by Juliette Paige

Q&A with joan

WRBB’s Juliette Paige chatted with Alan Thomas and Steven Rutherford of joan before they hit the road with half•alive on tour.

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Congrats on releasing your first EP, portra, last year and for this upcoming tour with half•alive! I came across your music a few months ago and I remember thinking “wow, these guys literally have a physical aesthetic to their music!” Your sound, album art, and even the band’s font has this retro vibe to it. If you could physically describe yourself as a band, what would it be?

Alan Thomas: That’s the first time we’ve ever been asked that. To us, portra, at least, we were going for what that feeling would be in ninth grade in a 1980s prom. That feeling when you asked that girl to hold your hand at the prom and take that first dance – like a John Hughes film…I think you’re totally on point to pick out the retro thing. We both grew up listening to Prince and Michael Jackson, all these things that our parents listened to. We wanted to take those feelings that we get listening to this music and embody it with a modern twist. And Steven brings that out physically in our graphics.

So you guys do your own album art and typography?

AT: Yeah, anything graphics and visuals we do ourselves.

On that note, I wanted to talk about your “visuals” that you released with portra. I saw you filmed all of them on a Sony Handicap, and they’re all really subtle and ring true with the physical aesthetic you just described. What’s the story behind it?

Steven Rutherford: We decided we wanted to make something you could watch while listening to the music, but that wouldn’t take away from the music. We wanted it to enhance the experience of the EP. For the “I loved you first” visual, we ended up using the backdrop in the album art to try to tie everything together. We were really pleased with how it came out.

You’re now on tour with half•alive, and I know you’ve toured with some really awesome acts like COIN, MisterWives, Phangs, and courtship. What have you learned from performing for such different audiences and with such different bands?

AT: With COIN, they have such contagious energy when they perform live. Chase [Lawrence] is all over the stage and the entire band is so energetic. It was cool to be able to witness that because that was our first tour. That was kind of our first thing to strive for as a band in terms of energy. I think we had a decent idea of what we wanted to be at that point, but it’s inspiring to see someone who’s been doing what you want to do for a little longer than you have. And they’re doing it super well.

What do you guys like to do for yourselves when you’re not on stage?

SR: We’re pretty boring on tour! We all have Nintendo Switches, and we’ll go straight to the hotel after every show and just play Fortnite or Zelda or something. Sleep’s really important, too.

AT: Every morning, Steven makes himself and me a pour over coffee. That’s an everyday thing we do.

That’s so wholesome!

SR: Yeah, no we’re not the partying rock star guys at all.

January and February are packed with shows for you, and I notice you have a couple of festivals lined up too! What’s a 2019 New Year’s resolution or goal for your music?

SR: I think we’re going to play more shows this year than we ever have. We’re getting to play new songs live and see how different audiences react to them. That gives us a pretty good gauge on what hits with people. We already have some songs that we’re planning to release in the next couple of months. Our plan is to release as many songs as possible and play as many shows as possible.

AT: We’re trying to take everything up a level – songwriting, production, all of that. Portra was a certain vibe, and we’re trying to explore different vibes with our new songs. These new songs feel more fresh. My personal resolution for us is to really tend to joan and grow our seed. I want to grow our little joan plant. [laughs] That’s a weird analogy, write that down.

I actually felt that with your newest single, “all the way.” It definitely had your usual retro vibe, but I also hear more influences of modern pop. How would you describe your evolution of sound?

SR: We’re both pop heads; we love both old and new pop. We’re always trying to figure out how to be influenced by pop without selling out or letting it completely overtake our sound. We don’t want to be that band; we want to be us.

That’s awesome, thank you so much for sharing all of that and for taking the time to chat! I can’t wait to see you at Brighton Music Hall on Friday, January 25!

Listen to portra: