Rochester based band Joywave is reinventing classic ‘80s pop with an electric twist. Comprised of Daniel Armbruster’s vocals, Sean Donnelly on bass, Travis Johansen on keys, Paul Brenner on drums and Joseph Morinelli on guitar—Joywave is a beautiful blend of Joy Division, Echo and the Bunnymen with a splash of New Order. Garnering inspiration from classic ‘80s pop band Soft Cell, Damon Albarn of the Gorillaz and conceptually even Kanye West, the band has been making waves since 2010.
They released their debut EP, How Do You Feel, demonstrating a knack for blending influences. Since the release of their EP in March, they scored a No. 1 hit on the Alternative Singles chart for “Dangerous,” a collaboration with Big Data. They also performed on Late Night with Seth Meyers and toured the West Coast, making headlines for their Lollapalooza set. Rolling Stone said, “their chemistry makes them compelling” enough to make every song a hit.
We met up with Sean and Dan to talk about performing, their creative processes, musical influences and more. Get to know them below.
How did you guys meet and form Joywave?
We met in highschool, Sean and my sister were graduating high school together. I ended up at Sean’s afterwards because I wanted some software he had, we got to talking and I asked him if he wanted to be in my band and he said yes. That was many years ago, we started making music then with various bands and then we really came together in 2010.
Tell us about your first show?
It was really horrible. It was one of our worst shows ever, we didn’t play for months afterwards. All the songs were very new and it was the first time we played any of them live. It was really cold outside and I had to walk like 45 minutes so my vocal chords were all frozen.
What is it like touring? Is there anything special you always carry with you?
Touring is great. We’d never been to the West Coast before, went through the Redwood Forrest and just drove along the coast, seeing things we’ve never seen before.
There isn’t really anything special we bring. Someone asked me the other day, “What’s one thing you would grab if your house was burning down?” and I said “literally nothing.” I don’t have anything I’m that attached to. I’m a crazy back up person, I have different back ups for everything.
Whats the most exciting thing that’s happened since you formed?
Shooting the video for “Tongues” was really awesome. Andy Wallace mixed a few the songs on our EP and we got to sit in with him, being with someone who’s done so many awesome records (like Nirvana’s Nevermind) and watching him work was pretty cool.
What are your biggest musical influences?
We’re all over the place. Kanye, we agree on Kanye. Mainly people who do what they want and aren’t afraid to evolve over the course of their career. Damon Albarn. Not even just music, we’re drawn to people who have creative personalities. That’s always more exciting to us, like the mentality more than the specifics.
How do you make your music? Instrumental or digital? What’s your process like?
It’s really hybrid. In the beginning it was all digital because it had to be, we were working with a 0 dollar budget on a laptop. Now, everything is a hybrid. There’s a lot of analog happening and a lot on the computer, usually we demo everything on the computer then we re-track it.
How does that transform to playing live?
There can be some obstacles, sometimes we have to do stuff a little different live. We like it, it’s cool to see how sounds can change when you’re playing live instead of just pressing play.
What are some challenges or advantages to working with so many people?
All of our players have different personalities and have a specific way that they play a part, so it’s always cool to see the way it comes out. Over the years its been different, there are very significant eras and sounds of the band. It’s not like we take a song from recording and recreate it live, everyone just adds their own creative flair to it.
Describe your sound?
Pop for weird people.
We always struggle with that. There are elements of pop, rock. It’s a hodgepodge of everything we like about music. Pop for weird people is sometimes an easy way to say it.
If your music an animal what would it be?
The easiest answer I can think is chameleon, or a rescued pet.
What are your dreams for Joywave? What would you like to come next?
We’re working on our full length for the fall, and then touring outside of that.