We Need To Talk: Joy-Rides Discuss Their Debut Album 'There Are No Mistakes' [Interview]

on Thursday, June 04, 2020
Words: Saam Das

Where we do we begin with Joy-Rides? The London experimental jazz-punk noiseniks released their debut album this week, 'There Are No Mistakes', and we've been lucky enough to have a chat about it with frontperson and all-round-good-person Kieran Toms.

It's fair to say that we have a conflict of interest here - Kieran has written a number of excellent articles for us over the years, and we'd like to think we're friends with at least four of the band's members. (We even made a podcast with one of them!) But equally, we've been mesmerised by the work of Joy-Rides for a number of years - from their mid-noughties gigs at the likes of Bethnal Green's Pleasure Unit to more recent efforts at DIY Space For London, their live show truly needs to be seen to be believed.

Whether live or on their debut record 'There Are No Mistakes', Joy-Rides exhibit an unashamedly ramshackle nature, somewhat similar to contemporaries Black Midi and Black Country, New Road but with more than a nod to The Fall. From the sublime to the ridiculous, it's a delirious cacophony of sounds. We hear a touch of Young Fathers on the bombastic 'Crackin' Up', '150 Dinners' give us an early These New Puritans vibe, while 'Captain's Musical (According To Paul)' daringly verges on the melodic.

Joy-Rides - 'Captain's Musical (According To Paul)'

FG: 'There Are No Mistakes' was originally due out on "Joy-Rides Day 2020" but the release was postponed by a day to support Blackout Tuesday and the Black Lives Matter movement. Can you tell us a bit more about the history of Joy-Rides Day from past to present?

KT: It's the day we did our first gig which was June 2nd 2005 at On The Rocks. So it’s our birthday. We did the first gig because someone saw our bassist and her sister busking at Liverpool Street station, said: "are you in a band?" They said yes but then they had to make the band. We played then kept playing. We made a pact to play at least one gig a year, forever.

As time went on, we realised we were growing in age, each year. At first you don’t notice, then for a while each year becomes more and more significant. We’re still in that while. Our 10th birthday we made a big deal of it, a big gig with friends performing and a 5-year-old child supported us and so did our bassist’s dad, and others. Since then we’ve made more of a deal of Joy-Rides Day.

One year we played a gig for animals in Brockwell Park. One year we got a bunch of people who had played with Joy-Rides in the past before – people like Cyan from FKA Twigs, Oliver Willems from Bittersuite, Rich Legate from Childcare, Alex Brooke from Woodwork For Wellbeing. They were supposed to improvise but they managed to improvise an entire set of brilliantly performed covers of our songs. Did they upstage us? But anyways this year it was the 15th birthday of Joy-Rides. We had plans in place then the lockdown happened. We had new plans in place, then the blackout was announced. It was an easy decision to postpone the release for a day. Black Lives Matter.

You mentioned you had some release plans in place pre-lockdown, how did the pandemic change things?

Ah, plans. Famously hard to fulfil. A good question and a hard one to answer. The plan was to go to Cornwall, where we’d managed to get the use of a house for five days, with loads of equipment kindly lent to us, and to play and play, whilst also undertaking some rituals on the moor and wearing the same outfits, generally getting into the spirit of things. And so there has always been the plan to release what we went to Cornwall to do. But we went to Cornwall in 2017. Time had passed.

Would Jesse (our producer) have had the time to finish mixing the album if the pandemic hadn’t happened? He’s a hardworking guy. But in any case we had aimed for a meaningful release date, and our 15th birthday loomed and seemed right. And now here we are.

"There are no mistakes, only happy accidents" was a popular sentiment of legendary painter Bob Ross, was this the inspiration for your album title?

The good thing about having a name like this rather than something very specific (or something very simple) is that it can have all sorts of resonances. Apparently there is a quote from someone who our guitarist called his favourite wine maker who said “There is no such thing as mistakes, only discoveries” - it’s true, our guitarist has a favourite winemaker. No one else does, thank god.

I didn’t know much about Bob Ross but I just looked him up and apparently Bob Ross “is famous because he made painting into an accessible hobby through his popular public television show...He constantly encouraged viewers to 'join him' in painting, completing the paintings in real time on the show.”

Joy-Rides are a semi improvised band. But not in a free jazz way, more in an instinctive, direct way – we play live and we follow our hearts, and we go for it. However good you are at playing your instrument you can be in Joy-Rides, play in real time and complete the songs in the show. I guess that’s the spirit of punk too, isn’t it? So I like the sound of this Bob Ross fella, although he wasn’t a direct inspiration.

On a similar note to the previous question, 'Tell Me Why' appears to have something of an air of the Backstreet Boys' seminal number 'I Want It That Way', was this deliberate and if so, are there any other nods to pop culture on the album?

Obviously for legal reasons, we have to deny all similarities between that song and any other song, living or fictional. Eddie Argos, the (quite) popular singer of Art Brut, once sang "Popular culture, no longer applies to me" - a bit of culture that was, ironically a big influence on me. I think when you’re a child or a teenager melodies and moods in music resonate in a way later you might try to suppress or move beyond later. And it’s good, obviously, to explore the world and find art/culture/music etc which interests you or pushes you out of your comfort zone.

But still, whether or not you want it to, I think the impact of culture, be it pop or not (or somewhere in between) resonates, hangs around, in a way that doesn’t just surface in mere nostalgia. Nostalgia is often the way we deal with the pop culture of the past, which makes sense because I think nostalgia is a way of easily processing the past, it’s a very normalised and straightforward and maybe comforting way to deal with the past.

Art Brut - 'Bad Weekend'

I think there’s also something a bit tragic and sad in nostalgia - it’s a negation of the present and breeds an obsession with distortions of the past. But you can’t escape it. So I think the tendrils of the past bind us and poke through in all sorts of weird ways, ways that are un-processable or were even imperceptible originally, but they are there and they burst through, and you see it throughout history (or histories) and you see it in music and culture and everything and in lives, and maybe on this album too.

So I don’t know if they are nods or what. But maybe there are nods on that song, but maybe there are bits on every bit of the album that you can shout along to, or hum, or whilst, or move to, or chant together to, maybe all of those are popular culture. Maybe sometimes it makes you feel insane or sad, maybe sometimes it makes you feel glorious and alive. Sometimes maybe all of that. We do like to sing and shout and move and be together after all.

On the being together note, Joy-Rides have had an evolving line-up of musical talent over the years, how does the songwriting and recording process work with your numerous members?

As a partly improvised band, there’s not so much a writing process than a slow, haphazard harvesting of ideas, with little seeds of inspiration. Then we bring them to the stage and we play them. Or in this case we bring them to Cornwall. Or we bring the ideas, then realise what we don’t want, and throw them away, and grow new ones.

The night we arrived in Cornwall, I finished lots of words of songs in a frenzy, partly rearranging old words into groups. Then as we played over the subsequent days, I would just say some of them over and over, trying them in different ways. One of the songs came from an article I had just read about climate change releasing anthrax spores which seemed almost too hellish to be real. One rhythm came from the price of four drinks in four different bars in Besancon, France in 2006. But the sound of that first song just came from Craig playing a new sound on his keyboard then everyone jumping on that. And the words of that second song came from scrap of stories.

So I suppose there’s very little in the way of process of conscious writing. It was just playing and playing – but unlike most bands we don’t practice, our live shows are both the playing and the writing. So Cornwall was a little different in a way, but also we recorded everything we did and took the final album content from that, so in that way it was also the same.

Joy-Rides - '150 Dinners'

The double A-side single 'King Of The Den'/'150 Dinners' came out on postcard in 2017 - do you have any special plans for the album?

We will be playing a show (or depending on when you read this, we will have played a show) at 20.05 until 20.20 on June 3rd to release it. The show will be on Zoom. We will all be in separate places. How will this work? Maybe the question is, will it work? Maybe the question is, should I join. And the answer is: yes.

The album will be available in a Physical version, where you will receive:
- Digital Version of Album
- Physical MANiFESTO Magazine
- Physical Certificate of Authenticity,
- Physical 12” Gold Unplayable Vinyl. (Note: this is a 12” Vinyl Sprayed with Gold Paint, with Joy-Rides and the name of the album written on it. It will NOT play the album but it represents the album. Depending on the thickness of the paint another album may be intelligible if you attempt to play it.)

'There Are No Mistakes' is also available digitally only, which gets you digital versions of all the above except the gold vinyl, which is pay what you like, with a suggested price of £5.52. Plus there’s a digital Gold Vinyl Package which gets you the same thing, except you also get a digital photo of an unplayable gold vinyl, and it’s a quid more.

Lastly, the majority of Joy-Rides have now played cricket together as part of the well-meaning but ultimately unsuccessful Two Bats Or Not To Bat (110 games, 6 glorious wins) - which professional cricketers would you invite to join Joy-Rides, and why?

There are many resonances with that cricket team. There’s a lack of concern with some of the norms of the Thing we do, but a strong concern for others – some of those are collectiveness, openness welcoming-ness. As a result there has been a lack of success according to many metrics, but for those involved it was/is fun. And the welcoming-ness means the fun is not exclusive – more can join the fun.

As for cricketers? When the England cricket team played against Australia at Headingley in 2001, serial Prankster Karl Power walked out to bat with the team. Moments after entering the field, he removed his helmet and was immediately recognised as an imposter. But he was there.

Cheers Joy-Rides!

Find more info on Joy-Rides at facebook.com/joyridesisnotavailable and purchase 'There Are No Mistakes' at Bandcamp.

msn spaces tracker