JOAN debuted the dual EPs hi/bye this month, each featuring fresh takes on the rollercoaster ride of a relationship—and that’s only the start.
JOAN first came into the spotlight with their 80s homage, love somebody like you, a single that caught the hearts of indie-pop listeners with its radio-like synth and yearning lyrics. Combined with the monochromatic imagery of the 90s and a dedication to constant music-making, JOAN has been establishing their ground in the scene since 2017.
HI/BYE: THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF A RELATIONSHIP
hi, released in November, is puppy love and little crushes, complete with an innocent charm thanks to the band’s old-school sound. It starts with so good, an upbeat head-bopper on being more-than-friends, followed by come over, whose punchy, bass-led instrumental feels like the moment you’re reeled into the dance floor. something special brings unapologetic lyrics and synth back to pay tribute to the friends-to-lovers trope, while right back takes the feeling of coming home to your person and gives it a boy band-esque spin not short of Backstreet Boys or N*SYNC.
Meanwhile, bye, coming out in the beginning of December, builds on the band’s favorite theme—being broken-hearted—and gives it a sophisticated update. The album opens with not over you, its echoing vocals and mix reflecting the cloudiness of a post-breakup mind. waiting on nothing takes this further, empowered by a celestial synth and vocals. On the other hand, don’t say you love me pumps a moving-on anthem, combining a sentimental piano performance with punchy instruments. so done puts the nail in the coffin as the trophy track for doing a 180 and actually dumping a toxic ex.
Heartache is a concept JOAN’s played with once a many time from their debut, and bye shows they’ve stuck to their roots while letting their branches grow and thrive. On the other hand, hi put good vibes on the table, complimenting their nostalgic discography with more upbeat narratives, shown primarily through the 2000s feel every song in the album radiated.
In an exclusive press conference, JOAN’s frontmen reflected on the albums as a testament to their progress. “It was really fun to do. We grew a lot this year as songwriters and musicians. [We] had a bunch of fun,” said drummer and instrumentalist Steven Rutherford. “We’ve had a lot of people reach out and talk about how much a song means to them. It’s been really fun to release over the [last] year and see which songs hit certain people differently.”
Along with vocalist and keyboardist Alan Thomas, the tandem resolved to use 2021 to put the ‘independent’ in indie. “A lot of people learned a new skill during the pandemic. We were like, ‘you know what? Let’s do something that’s really beneficial to our job.’ So we buckled down and said, ‘we’re gonna learn how to produce better, write better songs, and be more independent,’” Alan said.
And that they did: the hi/bye series was officially completed in the first week of December, officially saying “bye” to JOAN’s most ambitious era yet, and “hi” to a new one to come.
2022: SMOOTH SAILING FOR JOAN
JOAN is only at the foot of the diving board, and they’re ready to make waves, with the wave tour debuting across the United States this 2022.
If there’s anything the two miss about touring, it’s about translating the magic of the track to the stage. “It’s such a different experience to hear a song on the radio or hear it in your headphones then hear the artist do it live. We’d love to hone that and figure out how to translate this live in a really effective and energetic way,” said Alan.
The 2019 Wanderland and Ayala Mall shows mark the duo’s last headline show, with Manila leaving fond memories. According to Alan: “The waves and the hugs and the highs and all that it’s very natural for our people here. And it felt the exact same in Manila. It felt like we didn’t leave Arkansas. It truly felt like home.” Let’s hope the 2019 show won’t be their last! And speaking of show, if you miss seeing JOAN perform, then check out their performance during the NYLON Manila Live online concert below.
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