Ezzah Rafique | Transcribed by: Isabel Elise | February 13, 2021
Hailing from Little Rock, Arkansas, joan perfectly infuses the essence of indie-pop with seasons of the year in their new EP 'partly cloudy'.
Alan Thompson and Stephen Rutherford sit down with ORENDA Magazine's Editor-in-Chief, Ezzah Rafique, to talk about their EP 'partly cloudy', bringing elements of the '80s and '90s hits to modern songs, and creating a sound that infuses the DNA of the band.
Listen to interview here.
A: Hi, how are you?
E: I’m good! How are you?
S: Hi, good!
A: How’s it feel outside, bud?
S: Pretty good.
E: How is it there?
A: It's good. It's um, it's not too crazy with COVID. I mean, we definitely have like, not great numbers. But like, I'm sure like it is in Dallas. Like, it's still like, very open. For a lot of, a lot of stuff. But um, yeah, the weather's nice. staying busy. Everything's good. How about you?
E: It's good to here too. It's like the same things are starting to open up, but there's still like hesitancy among some people, you know about going out and stuff.
S: Yeah. Hmm. Hoping the vaccines turn everything around. We’ll see.
E: Yeah, I’m hoping. How was like for you guys, the creative process, like for music and stuff? How was that different due to COVID?
A: I mean, we're probably writing more than we ever have. Which makes sense, I guess, because we're home. But yeah, it's just it's weird to not tour like, we're definitely a band who loves touring and sees like such the value in it and, and like have built… built our career largely on touring. And so, it's weird to like, really, like when we release 'cloudy', and then 'partly cloudy'. With no like touring. It was kind of strange, but also kind of cool. Because this year, other than not being able to tour we've been like, very busy, like we treat this like a day job. So, every day we're riding, you know, nine to five and or 10 to five, depending on when I wake up. But yeah, it's been I don't know it. It hasn't really stifled us, other than touring it to me, right, Stephen, you may have a different view on it.
S: Yeah, well, it's interesting, cause like, when we tour there, we don't have like a big team or anything to tour with us. So, we're kind of all hands-on deck. So, when we're on the road, we're not able, we're not really able to ride at all. So, it's interesting, because like, the creativity has been, I mean, I think we've been more productive as far as like writing songs than we ever have been, just because we haven't toured but it also sucks because we can't tour. But yeah, it's, it's, it's been cool. Because, like we released, we released the 'partly cloudy' EP, which was just, you know, alternate versions of 'cloudy'. And we made that because we weren't able to tour and we like wrote, you know, 'cloudy' with a live show in mind. And yeah, making 'partly cloudy' was like something we would have never done, but it's some of the best, like, my favorite stuff that we've ever made. So, it's kind of cool, you know, cool. Things are coming out of it.
E: I love ‘partly cloudy’. I think it's so cool that you guys reimagined like ‘cloudy’ and like matched it to a season. How was incorporating a season to a song like was that, was there a process behind that? Or like, do you guys always know that?
S: So, what was interesting is I mean, we know whenever we wrote ‘cloudy’, we, we did not expect to like write an alternate EP. It's kind of something where we just were like, We… We thought about maybe doing like acoustic versions of it. But once we like started digging in, we basically ended up with an EP that was just six songs of alternate versions of it, which was cool. But no, it was like after we wrote it, and we were like, listening through the EP, and it just like kind of fell into place where it's like, man, this is this feels like, different seasons of like, the year and kind of like, fits with the whole. I mean, which was kind of the idea with ‘cloudy’ is like, I mean we, we wrote it in the fall, and we recorded it in the winter and like, you know, it kind of had a seasonal feel to it anyway. And so like, whenever we wrote ‘partly cloudy’, it just kind of fell into our laps and made sense even more.
A: So, it literally stretched like the writing through the recording. We started, well we had written some like the summer of ‘19. And then early, yeah, no, well, what year is it?
S: Yeah. The summer of 19.
A: Coronavirus, completely… My timescale is like nonexistent. Um, yeah. So, summer, fall of ‘19. Then went into recording it the next year. And then like, it literally like was a year process of like writing. So, I mean, we literally probably hit every single season. Yeah, I don't even really think about that. E: Yeah, so like, I really love the whole like vibe to all of your songs. Honestly, I've been listening since like, 2019. And so…
S: Thank you, that’s awesome.
E: It's so good. And I feel like you guys always have... a specific sound [that matches a] mood. So a lot of your music has a lot of 80s and 90s elements to it and it also has a signature tone that makes it distinguishable to you guys. So, do you think that having that distinguished sound, is [it] important in your factor [when] creating music? And is there like a specific sound that you guys want to try making like a genre you haven't tried?
S: That’s a good question.
A: Thank you for saying that. That's really sweet about it being unique. I mean, that, that is the ultimate goal, I think, a constant conversation that we're having, like, just between Steven and I and our manager, Colin, like, and in the team in general is how do how do you make, like keeping the context like we're two guys in a band from Little Rock, Arkansas, writing songs in my bedroom, like, so we're like, very small, I mean, DIY from the perspective of like, you know, we're not working with like Big Top 40 producers, and we're not working in big studios in LA and all that. But like, we've been doing this for a while individually, and we work with friends that have been doing it for a while. So, it's not like true, you know, bedroom pop, or whatever DIY but how do we make [the song] commercially viable? Like, you go turn on the radio, and you hear a new Katy Perry track. And then you hear a Joan track I want it to be sonically and production value, and just overall similar, you know what I mean? Not necessarily, like, I want to sound like Katy Perry. I just mean, I want you to, I want it to be indistinguishable that like, ‘Oh, this could have been written and recorded by the biggest names in the whole industry’, and you record[ed] in the best view with the best gear like, because I do think that our especially our friends in our team, are of that caliber, and I hope that we've proved to be in the end, but… but that's kind of like the that's the yearning goal is like how do we make like commercially viable, accessible pop music that still has that Joan sound? And, you know, when I listen to like bands like Coldplay, like Coldplay can release a song like Paradise, or a song with like, Jay Z has a feature, or you listen on Yellow, and it's all you know, it may sound different song to song, but it's like consistently Coldplay. And a lot of that's, I think in his voice, like, it's a recognizable voice, you know, it's, you know, it's Chris Martin, the guitar parts, the drum part. It's just like they're infused in it. I hope, I hope I don't know that we are but I hope by you saying that it's somewhat indicative of what we're doing in that you're going to hear my voice on it, which is uniquely Joan, you're going to hear Stephen