Jouis are a band deeply respectful of the past. But they sound like something new in today’s music world. Joining a clutch of bands such as Cristobel And The Sea, who are reviving the melodies and sounds of the Sixties in a sincere way without being mere replicants. The band’s debut album, Dojo, is something of a phenomenon. Having met and formed at a modern institute of music (THE BIMM in Brighton), their music is other-wordly, recalling Laurel Canyon at its height whilst their lyrics embody a sense of hippy dissent that still pervades Brighton’s cobbled alleyways.We caught up with Joe Woodham (bass, vocals) and Louis Pavlo (keyboards, vocals) to discuss their debut and the diverse inspirations that make up their music.
The Metropolist: Having grown up and met in Brighton via BIMM (Brighton Institute of Modern Music), what was BIMM like? Studying music seems slightly at odds with the more DIY, anti-system vibe of the city. Tell me about what you liked about it, what you learned that was invaluable and how you came together?
Joe Woodham: Four of the five of us met at BIMM in 2008, we moved to Brighton to study music and BIMM offered a chance to spend some time doing that. However, we mostly ended up hanging out, jamming and writing songs together. In all honesty, BIMM acted firstly as a meeting point and secondly as an education. Learning how to write songs for a mainstream audience wasn’t all that helpful, but understanding the business side of the music industry was a necessary insight.
TM: As your debut album is self-recorded, what inspired or created the feeling that you need to construct and own your recording space, rather than rent it? What was the process like and, again, what did you learn when building the studio?
JW: The opportunity of building a studio kind of fell into our lap. We knew we wanted to record an album and were looking into studio options, but after a chance meeting in the Black Dove, which led to a live in guardian scheme in an old office block, we found ourselves in a unique position to potentially live and work in our own studio at a very affordable price. That was an exciting prospect for us, as well as a bit daunting, so we approached Rhys Andrews and Juan Serra, who helped us plan and build the studio, and who eventually engineered and co-produced our album.
JW: We used recycled materials and insulation found in skips to deaden the walls of the live room along with tyres filled with old clothes for a drum rise. We also left half of the room less padded so we could have two different sounding sides to the room. Drums and bass playing live in the dead end with guitar amps in the brighter end, for example. We learnt a lot about how a room can be treated, how to make the most of the natural separation that occurs, and how to mix the room accordingly. This process of building a studio, recording an album and then self-releasing it has been invaluable and will serve as the basis of knowledge for all of our future recordings.
TM: As an extension of that, why did you record to tape?
Louis Pavlo: We loved the idea of having an unlimited time frame in which to record our music, and felt it gave us the freedom we had been searching for, for many years. Although Dojo is our first long player, we have been together for six years now and during this time we have attempted to make albums, every time being forced to reduce it to an EP due to time/money/resource constraints. To finally have a real opportunity to achieve our goal was a great feeling.
We decided to use tape for a few reasons, firstly because it has always had a certain magic about it, we have always been drawn to it, and secondly because we got lucky enough to borrow a friend’s beautiful Seventies MCI 24-track machine. We feel our style of music lends well to the dynamic, warm feel that tape brings to a recording, and wanted to capture the sound akin to many of our favourite albums. There is something really special about having your music whizzing round on a reel of magnetic tape. It feels like a real, tangible representation of your music.
TM: The band’s name and music has a sense spirituality and transcendence to it. What’s your intention when you’re writing together? What are you looking to achieve with music?
LP: I think our main goal with music is to keep learning and to enjoy what we do. There is so much out there untapped in the musical ether, waiting to be plucked from a random occurrence, thought or experience, and although humans understanding of music is deep and profound, we feel there is always more to discover.
TM: Your compositions sound complicated, or intricate, or both. To what extent do you think a deeper enjoyment of your music would come from being a musician?
LP: Although some sections of our music may be in a strange time signature or progressive in nature, we always work hard to maintain a pulse within the music, to give the audience a chance to groove to something whether it’s in five, seven or four. As musicians, we indulge and push ourselves to create more complex interweaving parts, but always try to err on the side of keeping it groovy. In terms of other musicians, you’d have to ask them. I suppose a better understanding of music in general would bring a deeper enjoyment as the listener can see where the interplay between parts lies, how things tie together and what is going on behind the scenes, so to speak.
TM: There’s also a lot of the past in this, for example Crosby Stills & Nash in your harmonies. Did the folk and prog scenes of the Sixties-era Laurel influence you?
LP: We get that a lot. It’s funny because we never really listened to CSN as a band until we had been told by people that our vocal styles are similar. That is a great compliment. They are amazing songwriters, incredibly tight harmonies, and they sing stuff we wish we could. As for other music from the Sixties and Seventies, we definitely draw inspiration from artists like Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Miles Davis as well as the folkier stuff from the time like John Martyn, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.
TM: Does jazz play a role in your music?
JW: Jazz definitely plays a big role in our music. Using riffs in the form of heads, harmonised and unison lead lines and having improvised solo passages. Although our music doesn’t always sound ‘jazzy’ we feel like jazz is more of a mind set toward making the music than a genre itself.
Three from Jouis
Jouis picked three songs currently inspiring them right now.
From their second album Awoken. Jazzy, fluid arrangements played by innovative Bristol based four- piece.
Joe McCarty: No. 9
From his debut album Old News. A fond ode and a brilliant song. Neil Young meets Harry Nilsson.
Flying Ibex: Our English World
From their second album Habits. A beautiful union of West African rhythms and English singer-songwriting.