Arizona-based alt-rock power poppers Joan of Arkansas have just released their debut full-length album, Imperfectionists. Featuring recent single, “Final Girl SemiFinalist” and focus track, “Peck”, the album is a genre-blurring, energetic gem. We caught up with Joan of Arkansas to chat about the making of the album, their live shows, and non-musical hobbies.
From The Strait: Tell us about the new album, and the creative process/making of it.
Joan of Arkansas: We are really really really proud of this album. We really feel that we are coming into our own and are really starting to branch out but still stay rooted in our “sound”. Basically, we are really happy with being a big ass indie rawk tree that covers a lot of ground: “Final Girl Semi Finalist” and “Peck” couldn’t sound more dissimilar, but you know they are from the same band. We are a full collaborative thing: Zach and E.P. write instrumentals separately: E.P. is the Archers of Loaf, Pixies, Husker Du noise pop fanatic, and Zach is a lil more Superchunky, a lil more indie poppy. They then put their own spin on each other’s riffs and it becomes a lil more “J.O.A.”. I dare you to guess who wrote what. We also have a beast of a drummer (Sean) who is a more talented guitarist than all of us put together, who smooths it all out and weeds out the suck. Josh writes all of the vocal melodies, he just has such a weird ear for them, they always come out of left field to us. Then Kayla and Josh map out the whole vocal/lyrical world. Each of us is absolutely integral. This album is kind of a mile marker where we all feel we understand who we are and what a J.O.A. song sounds like.
This album was recorded liveish with the immortal Jalipaz Nelson at Audio Confusion in Mesa, AZ (Dude has produced so many good albums, you should check him out.) More than half were done in one take. Kayla’s voice almost exploded. We dig the aggressive, loose feel to live recordings, the feed back and fret slides aren’t scripted. Fingers bleed, bad notes are barely avoided, the odd colorings aren’t planned. They just happen. We wouldn’t have it any other way. We are super music nerds and we read somewhere that Husker Du recorded Zen Arcade in one take live. We aren’t as good as Husker Du, obviously, bur we go into every recording session trying to pull that trick off. We kinda love the chaos and the pressure of it.
FTS: Tell us about the focus track, “Peck”.
Joan of Arkansas: Peck is a little sugary pop bomb that has the blackest lil urban ennui filled heart tucked underneath all that musical sweetness. We’ve always loved those kind of songs, where you catch yourself singing happily along to lyrics about depression and urban confusion and the general feeling that you are the ugly duckling that never turned into a swan, just an average duck. We promise we aren’t “downer” people, but if you don’t get depressed from time to time you just aren’t paying attention. That doesn’t mean you have to write Type O Negative songs about it though, Life sounds like a lot of things. This song sounds like you just got a breakup text while you have a mouthful of Funfetti Cake.
FTS: For anyone (like us) who may be located too far away to catch a JOA live show, tell us what they’re like.
Joan of Arkansas: We are a ball of sweat. One of the most common things we hear is that we look and act “possessed”.Kayla is chaos personified, sometimes in the crowd, sometimes sneaking up on band members mid song and shoving the mic in their face mid riff. E.P. constantly looks like he’s gonna fall of the stage or chip a tooth on his headstock. Sean hits the snare like it owes him money. Josh has a neck vein that looks like it’s going to rupture mid song, luckily he’s a nurse. Zach is gonna need a neck brace if he keeps this shit up. We firmly believe that it’s called a show, not a recital. Also, this is one place in our lives (we are working class AF) that we can be drenched in sweat and yelling obscenities at strangers. We take full advantage of that opportunity.
FTS: What are some of your non-musical hobbies?
Joan of Arkansas: Our non musical hobbies: E.P. is a painter and hand paints all our album/singles/ep art, usually on a big ass 3 foot by 3 foot canvas. There is something inherently comical about the fact that our 1 square inch spotify thumbnails require a big ass painting that is now hanging behind someone’s couch. Kayla makes weird stuff. Currently she is making a series of dioramas of famous movie scenes that fit on head bands. The Jurassic Park one she did has working lights and plays the theme song if you push a button. Zach has the menu of every ice cream place in Phoenix memorized and has certain places he goes for certain flavor combinations depending on mood that are within a 30 mile radius. He refers to himself as a “Creamsman”.We are all die hard Phoenix Suns Fans and will not play shows in L.A. during the season out of principle. Our Home venue (the world famous Yucca Tap Room in Tempe, AZ) has a massive Pinball selection and now there is usually one of us on the leaderboard of some if not several games at any given moment.
FTS: What are some bands or artists you’d love to collaborate with?
Joan of Arkansas: Who would we like to collaborate with? We’d love to record with Steve Albini because DUH. Also if Tom Waits ,Saul Williams, Black Belt Eagle Scout,or Frank Black ever wanted a new inferior backing band we would jump at that shit.
Check out “Peck”, the focus track from Joan of Arkansas’ new album, Imperfectionists!