Joyeria: Fighting Comedy With Tragedy

From workday depression to aspects of capitalism, FIM, the debut EP of London-based artist Joyeria, is a brilliant collection of songs which covers aspects of society in a uniquely cynical way. Whilst exploring beautiful textures and motifs, Joyeria’s use of sound is both experimental yet recognisable, harking back to a time of dominant independent songwriting which can be all but too forgotten in the modern music industry.

After coming to London from Canada, Joyeria has crafted a wholly unique music career and sound, releasing music under many different names, quitting bands when they were at their most popular and thriving with a hard to follow life narrative. This way of crafting and shape shifting in modern songwriting has allowed Joyeria to fully express himself in a totally sincere and uncomplicated way that seems to reflect his opinions, personality and the society he lives in.

‘Wild Joy’ starts off with an autobiographical lyric as he sings, “All the best dads are secret smokers,” sung-spoken out with a low yet clear growl, setting the stage for a very personal EP which reflects his experiences. The track has a subtle optimism as the guitar strums along with a simple light drum beat, creating an upbeat start to the EP.

The second track ‘Death’ carries on in a mellow sense, introducing the soft tones of a clarinet, pairing beautifully with Joyeria’s deep voice. As the song moves on the clarinet and voice turn more tumultuous, lending to higher, more screeching tone for both of them to only then return to the soft, mellow tones as before. This duality carries on throughout the song, showing Joyeria’s amazing musicianship and songwriting prowess.

‘Colour Film’ starts with distortion and more screeching from Joyeria, showing his full spectrum of emotions that permeate the entire EP. The track feels like his own interpretation of the rock genre, feeling danceable whilst still turning heads, and makes use again of the clarinet as a unifying instrument.

‘Performance Review’ is really where his humour shows through as he sings as a boss who is talking to an employee about their performance in a mundane way that listeners would all too well have heard once in their lifetime. It reflects well the current job market, the difference between an old fashioned and new way of running business.

Joyeria’s reflection of society again shines through in ‘Decisions’ which is a conversation between two people talking about plastic surgery and the money spent for it.

The EP finishes off in style with ‘9 to 5’, which starts with a pop synth sound and ticking rhythm that reflects the idea of working 9 to 5. The track climaxes with him repeating, “It’s weekend time” —again a sentiment that many of us have felt whilst on the capitalist wheel that we ultimately have to participate in.

I sat down with Joyeria to ask a few questions about it, to dive deeper into his cerebral mindset, his cynical yet uplifting style and his motivations behind this astounding achievement.

The new EP is an amazing feat and a wonderful collection of songs. When did you first start the process of writing these songs and did you have a theme in mind when you were putting them together?

All the songs on the EP were written within the last year to year and a half, something like that.  I am always writing; I sit down at my desk every day and clock lines on the page.  This keeps the craft well exercised and the emotional element close to the music which I try to turn around very quickly.  Maybe there is an overwhelming mood that comes into form when you write frequently or maybe you can contextualise a mood better the more often you write and read.  The theme of having ‘missed’ in life was at the forefront.  Not in a way that is full of regret or some sad-sack nonsense, but framing it in a way that feels honest.  It’s meant to be sloppy and hard and funny, and it has great beauty, see it? It’s there. As real as teeth, as fleeting as the smile that shows them.  We all know this.  It’s no insight.  

The songs are marked by a dark humour and social commentary. Would you say that this was a conscious choice or something that naturally occurred to you in the writing process?

It is a conscious choice.  I don’t know which comes first, the comedy or the tragedy but it is them fighting each other that I enjoy.  To be some over affected singer with a guitar trying to show people how sad, or worse, how intelligent you are, or how much you know about anything is a fate worse than death.  Most writers do this through mysticism, to hide in the cracks of their writing.  I have been guilty of this myself at times.  To quote Hemingway – “there are many mysteries, but incompetence is not one of them… literature by the injection of a false epic quality… all bad writers are in love with this.”

I love the use of clarinet on the song ‘Death’. Is this you playing? What was the process behind finding these sounds and using them within this texture?

I am playing the clarinet in ‘Death’, as do I play the viola in ‘Wild Joy’.  We have all heard what a clarinet sounds like when played beautifully.  So it would not be of any interest to anyone to repeat that sonic journey and to do an inferior job of it in the process.  Finding new timbres or textures is the fun part, why did Cecil Taylor play the way he played?  In ‘Death’ there is a repetitive monotony to the clarinet in the verses, which moves into chaos and nervous breakdowns for the chorus.  Most death will not be violent; most anxiety is misplaced.  It fit the language of the song and frames the story and theme of the EP, it’s not right, to some it’s ugly, exactly as it’s meant to be.     

The song ‘Decision’ is a beautiful and fun little interlude in the EP. Is this a real conversation between you and someone or is it fictitious? What is the motivation behind the conversation?

This question is the purpose of ‘Decisions’.  If I’m on stage and I perform ‘Performance Review’ (for example) will people ask/say: “you know, he actually did let the dog eat from the table!” or “you know his sadness was so great it consumed him, but that was 6 months ago, now he is happy, look! Here is a picture of him smiling with friends, he’s just lying to us now”.  Is the story real?  Is the conversation real?  Are these real people or real recordings talking about real things?  Would someone get themselves into credit card debt to change the way they look?  Do we live in a world that would facilitate that?  Encourage it? Is it a good thing? Do we make people feel they need to do that?  This can’t be real, can it? Oh, it can! Feels like we are missing something though, right?  Perhaps it is exactly as it’s meant to be and what a beautiful time it is.  Isn’t every conversation somehow framed by the fiction of what people are trying to portray?  Verbally and physically. I guess the world makes everyone work in sales one way or another.

How much of your own experiences and life informs this EP?

There is no other way. The writing and the music is architecture, not interior design or decoration.    

What was the process like working with Dan Carey?

It was seamless.  He moves through his studio as I do through mine when recording demos.  Moving very quickly though ideas and committing to a performance rather than some regurgitation of a memorised part.  We recorded all the music–drums (played by Ryan Grieves), guitar and bass–in one take to tape.  We lined up the songs and I sang over them once without stopping and that’s what you hear on the EP.  Dan and I then spent a day adding minimal overdubs (clarinet, some synths, viola, triangle, piano).  There is a large amount of trust in this process of working quickly and allowing space for ideas and creativity and most importantly chaos.  Dan has incredible taste and an ear trained like nothing I’ve seen.  He has certainly earned the right to be an all-knowing messiah in the studio, but in actuality, he moves through the studio with the curiosity of a lifelong student as a master should.

What are your main musical influences?

I am influenced by an astounding number of things just like everyone else.  Everything that moves me, for better or worse, is the influence.  I won’t list a group of musicians, bands or artists whose ability to play, write or paint is impressive, passing on the chance to group myself in with people I don’t know and groups I don’t belong in.   The album I have listened to most in my life is likely Philip Glass’ Solo Piano.  I collect solo piano albums of which this is my favourite.  I also really like the format of old country music.  The music doesn’t change much, so it’s like there is a template of sorts.  What determines the ‘good’ vs the ‘bad’ is what or how something is being said or played.      

What are your main comedy influences?

I don’t really know.  I’m not deep into comedy or anything.  I like some stand-up comics; I think that it’s a very tough job.  I always thought it was interesting how there are professional cover bands (like the AC/DC cover band Hayseed Dixie) but there are no cover comics.  Travelling comedians who perform incredible cover sets of famous comedians.  Eddie Murphy’s Raw, Tig Notaro’s Hello, I have Cancer or Bill Hicks or Richard Pryor sets. I grew up in Canada where there are two very strange shows I love.  One was called SCTV which had John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Rick Moranis and loads of others.  I guess it was the Canadian version of Saturday Night Live.  I used to watch that a lot, but it was all reruns because it was already pretty old.  Then I got deep into Kids in the Hall which was a sketch show in the 90s.  I still watch those sometimes.   

What do you love about the current London music scene?

The vast amount of music from all walks of life gets airtime in the venues of this great city.  I used to work doors for a promoter and I was at a show every night for years.  I loved it.  Even when the shows stank – sometimes especially when they stank.

What do you hate about the current London music scene (or the music industry in general)?

I’m not sure where to begin.  The music industry for all its praise of being creative and at the forefront of culture seems to only throw darts at uncovered targets.  There seems to be very little creative risk being taken and you can hear it on mainstream radio. In service of pleasing the streaming industry peddling some new form of ‘musak’ and trying to pass it off as something worthy of anyone’s time or attention.   There are many who are trying to get away from that world, but it’s incredibly difficult with limited resources and time.  It’s so entrenched I’m not sure the cycle will ever stop.  Not that I’ve thought about it.

Words: Ruth Alexander // Photos: Alex Evans

Joyeria’s debut EP, ‘FIM’ is out now via Speedy Wunderground. Stream and purchase the EP here.

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