‘Climbing The Ranks’
An Interview with Barry Johnson of Joyce Manor

Words by Brett Bodner
Photo by Nick Karp

If you’ve never heard of Joyce Manor, that won’t be for long. The band is on its first-ever North American headlining tour, and they even sold out their upcoming gig at New York’s Bowery Ballroom.

Since forming in 2008, Barry Johnson and his band Joyce Manor have continued to grow in popularity. The band—named after an apartment complex that Johnson would walk past every day—began as an acoustic two-piece. They then decided to make music that was a little louder with the addition of Matt Ebert on bass and Kurt Walcher on drums.

The band’s first label was Asian Man Records, but they moved to Epitaph for their third album, Never Hungover Again, which was released on July 21 and has received rave reviews.

“The label we were on was great and they talked us into meeting with Epitaph and we hit it off. They have a lot of good resources, a great staff and it’s a great opportunity for us,” Johnson said. He noted that Never Hungover Again was the first time the band collaborated together on writing, and they didn’t feel any pressure from moving to a larger label.

“We bounced ideas of each other more, which we never really did in the past. Usually I would just write parts and we’d come to band practice. This record was different and better for that reason,” Johnson said.

The band continues to write and record songs that are on the shorter side, usually landing somewhere between one and two and half minutes. Johnson says this is due to editing and bands he was influenced by. “I do a lot of editing, which I feel like a lot of bands don’t do. I like short songs. A lot of the bands I listen to made songs that were short, like Guided by Voices, which you can hear it in the songwriting,” Johnson said.

Johnson says when he writes lyrics he tries not to think too much and simply goes with the flow. He never begins writing by thinking he wants to address a specific topic. “I’ll write a line and then I’ll build off that. I’ll like this line or I don’t like that one or I change a word until I get it to a point where I like it. I don’t really focus on what the songs are about, but when the song is done I can look back and be like, ‘oh, that’s what it’s about,’ ” Johnson said.

For example, on Never Hungover Again, Johnson said he’s not really sure what “Catalina Fight Song” is about, but he believes it’s an angry song about being frustrated with life. Songs like “End of the Summer” are about struggling to maintain relationships that aren’t what they used to be.

Despite the band getting recognized by several large media outlets—including Rolling Stone, who listed Joyce Manor in their “10 New Artists You Need to Know” in August—Johnson said it’s nice to get the recognition but they’re not focusing on it. “It’s validating and makes you feel like a real band, but for us the most important thing is that our shows are fun and that everyone is having a good time and we’re meeting new people.”

The band is currently on the road, where they’ll be playing a bit of everything from their past records and select songs off Of All Things I Will Soon Grow Tired, which have never been played live before.

Johnson said the band hopes to do lots of touring in the near future before focusing on making new music. “We’ve started working on some songs, but it will probably be a while before we put anything else out. We’re just going to do a bunch of touring and when we’re home we’ll have practice and write songs,” Johnson said.

You can catch Joyce Manor at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City on September 15 and at Union Transfer in Philadelphia on September 17. See tour dates here.


TheWaster.com | Never Hungover Again