The city of angels has a new source of sunshine. Joy née Bishop and Jeffrey Downer make up Joy Downer, a bright indie pop duo whose debut EP, Radio Dreamer, is out now. I’m fondly reminded of Florida-based SALES given how soft electronics complement tender hues in their music. I was fortunate enough to pick Joy’s brain about their first release and the future of the project, which needless to say is sunny indeed.
Grimy Goods: It has been written that Joy Downer is an exploration of duality: of light/ dark, female/ male, mind/ matter; your serendipitous name also fits this mission. How does this balance affect the songwriting process?
Joy Downer: The songs were written before we landed on the name of our band. I had noticed a pattern of writing happy sounding songs, about difficult and dark points in life, and in relationships. When I married Jeffrey Downer, I had reservations about changing my name to “Joy Downer”, an oxymoron, a contradiction… but when I was thinking of band names and recognizing I had a tendency towards duality such as light and dark or up and down, there seemed no more perfect fitting name than my own.
GG: Your music carries such sweet soft indie pop vibes. What inspires you?
JD: Music is my life blood, it’s the absolute most inspiring thing to me! I grew up in two very musical households. My dad was a drummer for a Beatles cover band when he was in high school, never losing his passion for keeping the beat. He was big into all that delicious classic rock n roll. Not a drive went by where my dad wasn’t playing the “dashboard drums” to the likes of some Beatles, Bowie, Creedence Clearwater, Queen, The Kinks, etc. And then there was my mom, a composer and pianist, constantly serenading us at home with her gorgeous original songs, never lacking in stunning melody and heart. Her music had no words, but you knew what she intended to say by the feeling that would hit you right in the heart. I’ll listen to everything from soundtracks of musicals or Disney movies, to the blues, folk, jazz, pop, yacht rock, country, rap, classical music. If it’s got a feeling that moves me, I dig it.
GG: All promotional images for your Radio Dreamer EP are colorful and bold. How do you feel art informs music, or vice versa?
JD: It was important to us to come up with artwork that really spoke to us. My friend Nick Rush helped us design the artwork. We went back and forth with him a few weeks before landing on the final images, the ones that really moved us. He listened to the EP on repeat and came up with an overwhelming amount of images and color schemes, and totally nailed it. He’s a really incredible artist, all his work makes us feel lots of feelings. And obviously what we feel from the art, will be a different feeling than what others might feel. That’s the beauty of art.
JD: Rob Kolar! What a guy, what a talent. I met him through his wife, Lauren, who is also an incredible talent and human. I had been friends with Lauren ever since we worked on an Amazon commercial (that never aired). She’s incredible, their band KOLARS is incredible. Watching them live is quite the experience and inspiration. So, when we knew Rob was doing some producing, we asked him about producing a song for us, which was “Caught in Your Spell.” So, he obviously hit the production out of the park on that song (and that signature keyboard part that he wrote!), which is why we knew we had to do the entire EP with him. Every session was so easy and fun. We couldn’t be happier with this batch of debut songs.
GG: You were quoted this way about your debut single “Caught in Your Spell”: “Have you ever met someone that made you dance the fine line of being a stalker and letting that person know you’re interested?” In this track, are you speaking more romantically or platonically?
JD: I was speaking more romantically. Romantic love has always been something I can get carried away with, in this case, to a slightly unhealthy obsession. Something I recognized as just that, and moved on from, but a lot of the time, the way I move on from a feeling or get closure, is through writing a song. Though, this was a song I wrote as therapy to myself, and not something I had intended to ever share. But my brother, Jimmy, really changed my mind about that. He really loved the song and was insistent that I record it and share it. I could have downplayed my shameful fixation/ obsessive qualities, but I would rather be transparent and offer something that was a slice of honesty with a dance beat.
GG: Staying with “Caught in Your Spell,” in it you name drop many cities around the world. Is this a disguised wishlist of places you’d like to tour?
JD: I named these destinations because they were very relevant to my experience. I was, in fact, in all those places–I even lived in Australia for a short while, the other destinations were trips I had gone on. I had thought when writing the song “I wonder what kind of life this person has been living before knowing me, where they’ve been living, why we hadn’t met until now.” So it made perfect sense to capture that sentiment of being in different parts of the world constantly, before landing in the same room.
GG: Anything special about your live show you would like to reveal?
JD: Our live shows are always a great time. This last year that we’ve been playing out, Jeffrey plays all the instruments and it’s quite a sight to see. He’s really a remarkable musician, so fun to watch, so fun to be on stage with. We’ve just begun practicing with a drummer and bassist, so his load won’t be as heavy at the live shows, and I think it’s gonna bring an energy to the live shows that will be really groovy.
GG: What can we expect for the future of Joy Downer?
JD: We are planning a small tour for late July-early August, a radio campaign for April/May, and releasing our next music video for our song “Goddamnit” in the next month. We are really excited to see what’s to come in the future, whatever that may be.
Words: Zoë Elaine