For a band that have always been firmly classed as ‘pop-punk’, there’s not a great deal that could be filed under pop-punk on Joyce Manor’s new record, ‘Million Dollars to Kill Me’, and frontman Barry Johnson is the first to admit it.
“This record doesn’t really have any pop-punk on it!” he agrees. “There’s a track called ‘Friends We Met Online’ that’s probably the most pop-punk, but even that sounds more like The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and more twee than pop-punk.”
The California four-piece’s previous record, 2016’s critically lauded ‘Cody’ also steered the band further away from their pop-punk roots, yet the tag still sticks. Perhaps it’s the fact that the majority of Joyce Manor songs are still short-sharp sucker punches that barely pass the two-minute mark, but largely it’s because Joyce Manor have always embodied the honesty and sense of connection that is associated with the genre.
“I hated being classed as pop-punk at the beginning of the band,” states Barry. “I was 24 when our first record got popular, and I didn’t want to be pegged as this ‘pop-punk’ thing, but by the time our third album, ‘Never Hungover Again’, came around, I’d flipped back the other way, and it stopped bothering me.
“I like pop-punk, and I feel like we do something really interesting within that medium, as opposed to wanting to be a straight-up indie-rock band, which I feel is a boring world to exist in. Things that are boring are celebrated there for being sophisticated when they’re not that fun to listen to. We sit somewhere between a fun indie-rock band and a sophisticated pop-punk band; not too serious but not too light-hearted. I like where we fit.”
Given that it’s hard to pinpoint Joyce Manor’s sound these days, it makes sense that they chose to work with Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou on ‘Million Dollars to Kill Me’. Though Converge are an overtly heavy band, there are so many nuances within their experimental sound that it’s impossible to pigeonhole them. ‘Million Dollars to Kill Me’ came to life in under two weeks at Kurt’s own GodCity Studio in Salem, Massachusetts.
“Converge are a very different band to Joyce Manor, but in some ways, we’re very similar,” explains Barry. “Converge don’t fit neatly into any one genre, they pull from different worlds, from hardcore and metal to post-rock. We don’t fit neatly either, you can hear a lot of different sounds in our music, whether it be punk or Britpop or more college rock stylings.
“We’re obviously not as hard to label as Converge, we’re kindred spirits in the sense that we don’t fit into any one thing. Kurt has a very Steve Albini style ethos; he’s just a great engineer, extremely knowledgeable and an insanely fast worker.”