Interview: Meet NOLA Anarcho-punks Joy

Photos: Beau Patrick Coulon

Joy are a trio from New Orleans whose first self titled cassette is about to be issued on Girlsville. First released digitally last October, the EP caught the attention of not just Girlsville, but Noel Gardner over at The Quietus who included it in a feature in his regular column Noel’s Straight Hedge about “The Best Punk & HC Of 2020“.

“A guitar/bass/drums trio with the latter element, Griz Palella, chipping in extra electronics and sharing vocals with guitarist Pasha Jovanovic, at various points Joy sounds – to me – like Fugazi, The Mob, Shopping, The Slits, Chicks On Speed … and NOLA neighbours Special Interest, if only because I’d like to think a band that inspiring are, well, inspiring others in their locale.” Noel Gardner, The Quietus

In between Lifetime movies about Salt-N-Pepa and a Wendy Williams biopic, I conducted an interview with Joy’s Pasha Jovanovic, so without further ado, We bring you JOY!

50thirdand3rd: How long has Joy been going, how did you decide on the name for the band?

Pasha: The band was born out of Mardi Gras season (January/February) of 2018. We decided on the name Joy on the one hand because it’s a little tongue in cheek, the music is of course more aggressive and chaotic than joyful. But more so than that, because joy is subversive in these bleak times. We are entitled to more than drudgery and suffering, we are entitled to our own thriving, and the name Joy is totally sincere. It refers to catharsis, community, dancing together and playing music. Pursuing our right to joy against the odds.

50thirdand3rd: Had Joy played any pre quarantine shows? Also related to that question, what is the NOLA scene like and who are some of your favorite bands, any that everyone should know about?

Pasha: We played a grand total of 2 shows before quarantine! We were very picky. Now I wish we’d played every single gig offered to us! The second one was the best, and that’s where the live photo was taken by Beau Patrick Coulon. Our friend Meg Turner, a tin type photographer who focuses on queer representation, was having an exhibition at the CAC, so we had a punk show at the art museum. It was legendary. We played that show with Special Interest and Softie, both of whom we respect and admire.

The NOLA scene is pretty special! It’s very small and it really feels like everyone is very open and supportive with each other. You can bike around town and see so many different kinds of music in one night, and be part of many different kinds of scenes. You can go to a single show that might span 3 or 4 genres and the crowd will be supportive of it all. This contributes to a lot of fluidity between scenes, and an open exchange of ideas and lots of different sources of inspiration floating around.

50thirdand3rd: I noticed the tags on Joy’s Bandcamp page references peace punk & Spice Girls, a combination which I found really interesting and compelling. I’m curious about records, bands, people, politics, books, art, culture or really anything that influences the sound you’re creating, or that you were creating when you documented where you were at on this EP.

Pasha: Thank you for giving me an opportunity to sound off on our influences! First, the Spice Girls reference. One day Heiress and I were listening back to Daj Mi in our practice recordings, and it struck us that there was something really pop and dancy about it, and it reminded us of the Spice Girls, my vocals were majorly inspired by Eve Libertine from Crass throughout writing this whole set of songs, and when thinking about how to describe this confluence of influences we were hearing, Heiress coined the term “anarcho-spice.” It’s not something that we take super seriously, it just kind of made sense to us as we were putting the music together. What really resonates for us about the Spice Girls reference is being unabashedly “girly” or “feminine.” Taking something that maybe would be looked down on by patriarchal society as being frivolous, but reclaiming it in the name of representation and, no pun intended, joy.

For bass playing when writing this music Heiress was inspired by Rubella Ballet and Rudimentary Peni. Griz was thinking about Zounds, and creating a really driving, forward motion kind of feeling in the drums and beats. I am constantly in a push/pull relationship between Crass and Kate Bush, the two sides of my personality. When i’m making things that sound straight “punk” my Kate Bush side is like “let’s make this strange”, and when i go too far into the romantic lyrical Kate Bush world, my Crass side is like, “that doesn’t have enough power.” So the resulting sound, especially lyrically, is a product of that tension. The harmonies and the experimental vocal samples are that Kate Bush influence, and the aggressive delivery is Crass. Specifically, Crass Penis Envy and Eve Libertine’s delivery is something I always come back to. With guitar I was inspired a lot by Gang of Four and Wire. When making the samples I was thinking about This Heat.

Idols of Perversity is actually named after a great book! It’s by Bram Djikstra and the full title is “Idols of Pervesity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siecle culture.” It’s about the representation of women in art. Here’s a little excerpt from the description because it’s more articulate than I can be about it. the song is about the echoes of this kind of misogyny:

“At the turn of the century, an unprecedented attack on women erupted in virtually every aspect of culture: literary, artistic, scientific, and philosophic. Throughout Europe and America, artists and intellectuals banded together to portray women as static and unindividuated beings who functioned solely in a sexual and reproductive capacity, thus formulating many of the anti-feminine platitudes that today still constrain women’s potential.”

In terms of political climate, all these songs were written during the Trump presidency and we were all angry and horrified every day. We are well aware that the other presidents have been war mongering corporate shills too, but this guy and his whole family and all his staff were truly demons from the depths of hell that enabled fascists everywhere. It certainly impacted us personally, and our approach to the music we wanted to make.

I don’t exactly know how we settled on this sound in which we combine drum machine and live drums depending on the song, I think a lot of that is just taking in lots of different influences from the scene and wanting to try it all. It’s also a matter of just working with what we had, Griz brought a Volca Beats drum machine into the mix so we were just excited to try it out and see what we could do with it. I have a Roland SP-404sx sampler that I have been loading samples into for literally a decade now, so yeah, we just want to use everything we have at our disposal and see what comes out.

50thirdand3rd: Decorated Shame lyrically takes aim at frustration with class exploitation and debt, Dirty sounds to me like it’s touching on themes of alienation that stem from our use of social media and technology. Does everyone contribute to the lyrical process or is there a main lyricist in the band… and was I picking up what you were putting down lyrically?

Pasha: I am the sole lyrics writer and I work on the lyrics for months and months, trying different things and re-writing. Griz makes a guest appearance in Dirty actually, where she has her own section in the middle, but other than that I write it all. I think your interpretation is great. Decorated Shame is definitely about class exploitation. The working class contributes labour and sacrifices their bodies and time to the exploitative workforce and then have to turn around and give their money to landlords, every month, forever.

Of course it’s not always that simple, not everyone who is a landlord is a horrible exploitative person but, the song expresses frustration with that structure that keeps poor people down. The line that says “just 30% of your income, just 30% of your earnings” is a reference to the economics of paying rent. Like you shouldn’t be paying more than 30% of your monthly income towards rent. The lyric is sarcasm, as many Americans are forced to pay far more than 30% of our income for rent, and besides that 30% is way too much when housing and shelter should be a universal right, and it’s easy for a person who owns their home to tell a working class person how it all makes sense when they don’t have to live that reality.

Dirty is definitely about our collective sick relationship with social media and being willing to give up all our rights to our data and our privacy, in the hopes of being validated and feeling connected for a moment, even though that connection is ultimately shallow and unfulfilling.

Joy’s self titled debut CS/DL is available for pre-order Friday, Feb 5th via Girlsville.

Joy Bandcamp
Girlsville Bandcamp

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Courtney DelMar

Aside from writing about bands for 50THIRDAND3RD, CJDelMar runs the Girlsville Records imprint out of Portland, OR. Girlsville is home to bands like COACHWHIPS, HOOD RATS, TOWANDA, MR. AIRPLANE MAN, VIRVON VARVON, & THE PRISSTEENS.

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