Simon Joyner’s new, REALLY GREAT album “Ghosts“ is out now on the resurrected Sing, Eunuchs! label in celebration of 20 years of making records. I got to chat with Simon and ask him some questions and whatnot. He says it better than I can say here so just read the interview.
FNR: Vertigo has a pretty different sound from your last few albums. Was the decision to work in a different style informed by the subject matter of the songs, or vice versa?
SJ: To a certain extent the subject matter pushed me in the direction of dissonance, yes. The subject matter on my records always leans a little dark, I guess, or full (depending on how you look at it), but I definitely thought that with this cycle of songs I would let the loose-ended characters and situations be reflected in the overall jagged sound. There is something about songs which could be played pretty but refuse to be revealed as such. I think they are ultimately more satisfying because it takes time before one realizes how catchy or melodic they really are. There is so much music which gives instant gratification (and that can be great too) but the records that stay with me over the years, start out difficult and reveal themselves slowly. I also decided to approach Ghosts in the manner in which I recorded my early records, setting up in a warehouse and working on it on the weekends or whenever I had free time to mess around with it. That kind of time lends itself to more experimentation. So, in a way, it ended up sounding more like an early record of mine, The Cowardly Traveller Pays His Toll, then say, Out Into the Snow or Skeleton Blues. The recording approach either frees you up or limits you and given a few days in a studio, you make quicker decisions and you don’t have as much time to try different things with a given song. That’s something I missed about recording so I decided to make time for that with this record. I also had a new band and they were eager to dirty everything up too. No resistance always helps.
FNR: Out of the artists you mentioned as influences on this record, This Kind of Punishment, Alastair Galbraith and The Dead C, is there any particular album you’ve found to be particularly enthralling?
I’m a fan of everything by those three acts. I remember getting Alastair Galbraith’s “Morse” and the This Kind of Punishment “In The Same Room/5 by Four” and “Beard of Bees” reissues on Ajax back in the day and being totally slayed by what I found there. Same with “Harsh 70′s Reality” by The Dead C. Really the whole New Zealand scene exported and shared with us in the 90′s had a tremendous impact on me. I felt I had found real kindred spirits and I greedily vacuumed up as much of those records as I could find. Tall Dwarfs, Cakekitchen, Bats, Plagal Grind, Terminals, Renderers, Bill Direen, The Chills, The 3-Ds, Bird Nest Roys, Able Tasmans, The Clean, etc…. The “Killing Capitalism With Kindness” boxset and “Making Losers Happy” compilations were great too.
FNR: Do you feel like this new record connects more with your older material tonally than your more recent material?
I think so. It’s raw in a way that the early records were, which will make some people happy and upset others, I’m sure. I didn’t necessarily set out to connect with the early material sonically but I think it happened as a consequence of having more time to work on the songs and recording in my warehouse on borrowed gear! That’s the good old days for you.
FNR: You’ve moved around through pretty much every genre and sub genre of folk over the years. What direction do you see yourself moving in now? Do you plan on keeping with the band for future projects?
I approach every project individually and haven’t ever really thought of myself as getting into any genres. I understand why the categories are there, I just never realize that I’ve gotten myself into one until I hear my name being thrown around in lists of artists in whatever genre. And yes, that seems to change. I just find myself getting into different sounds from listening to a lot of records and those records tend to bleed into what I’m doing. It’s unavoidable. It helps that I usually want to give my new batch of songs their own sonic identity so every record feels/sounds like itself only. Sometimes that’s all in the songwriting itself but it can be in the recording style or in the instrumentation too. For me, what’s important is serving the songs at hand and giving them 100% of whatever it is I’m about at the moment, or as Vic Chesnutt would say, my “stupid preoccupations” of the moment. I’d love to work with this band more and I feel like they’re a very versatile group of players who are really open to exploring musically so it would be nice to grow as a real band as opposed to just me and whoever I enlist for a given project.
FNR: The press release on your website reads “Simon Joyner’s sing eunuchs! label”. It’s easy to track down info on the label’s releases, but tough to find any real details about the label itself. Do you run the label? Did you found it?
Sing, Eunuchs! was a label I founded with my friend, Chris Deden (who also plays drums on many of my records). We started it during the lo-fi revolution or whatever you want to call it, in the early 90′s, releasing cassettes mostly (like my “Iffy” and Conor Oberst’s “Here’s To Special Treatment” and “Soundtrack to My Movie” as well as The Dark Town House Band and Solid Jackson and many others) and some LPs, mostly mine, but including a collaboration with Shrimper to get out “Sierra Nevada” by the Netherlands band, The Bingo Trappers. It was mostly started to showcase Omaha acts that no one liked but us, it seemed. We did it for about five years, finishing with my record, “Yesterday, Tomorrow and In Between”. We lost a lot of money and there were other labels willing and more able to release my records and get them out to more people and the bands we were championing either had other labels helping them out or had begun their own labels and were self-releasing, so it didn’t feel like something we had to keep doing. Saying the new record is on Sing, Eunuchs! is a nod to another “ghost” in that sense. It’s not a real label anymore. This is just a self-release but since the new album happens to mark my 20th year of releasing records and it was recorded in the spirit of the early stuff on Sing, Eunuchs!, I thought it would be a nice little nod to that time in my life and the things that the label stood for, albeit briefly. I’m not actually re-starting the label and you’ll notice that the catalog number on my record doesn’t follow any previous S.E. releases. It’s actually a borrowed catalog number from another double album. The record has little inside jokes and miniature tributes like that worked into it’s artwork, for the few folks who care about such things!