Singer and guitarist Barry Johnson laughs of 'maturity' talk, celebrates good times
Joyce Manor singer and guitarist Barry Johnson has read the recent press clippings almost universally describing the band's latest album, Million Dollars to Kill Me, released in September on Epitaph Records, as a more mature effort. And he's not here for it.
“That narrative has been pushed on us definitely since the last record (Cody, from 2016), but I think I even started seeing it on Never Hung Over Again [in 2014]. Now on this one people keep talking about ‘pop-punk guys mature into actual songwriters,' or some bullshit,” Johnson said in an early September phone interview. “I'm fucking so sick of it. We're just doing the same thing we've always done. … Maybe (Pitchfork contributing writer) Ian Cohen decided to write it one time and it's just been copy and pasted ever since.”
For Johnson, the band's music still serves a similar role as it did when he founded Joyce Manor nearly a decade ago after attending noise shows in Long Beach, California. Or, to be more accurate, after attending the parties that followed these shows.
“There was a house in Long Beach and they would have noise shows, but then afterwards they would have a party. So the shows were really boring and I was like, ‘I'm going to start a pop-punk band to where the shows can also be fun,'” said Johnson, who joins his bandmates in concert at Skully's Music-Diner on Tuesday, Oct. 16. “It was very much the idea of, ‘A room full of wasted people will love this,' and that's carried through the whole band.”
Though simplicity still reigns on Million Dollars, a more streamlined rock record that invites comparisons to the likes of Big Star, some songs are shot through with deeper fears — particularly those of a financial nature — all without sacrificing the music's inherent lighter-waving qualities.
“I think it's hard to exist nowadays and not be thinking about money, with Amazon buying Whole Foods and having robots that stock shelves and everyone is driving Uber and shit. This is not good, the way this is going,” Johnson said. “This gig that I'm in, it's fickle. People could stop coming out to shows and then what do I do? I could maybe bartend, hopefully. But that's a looming concern in the back of my mind. You don't want to die poor and alone.”
Until then, however, there are more shows to be played and more songs to be written, most of which are designed to obliterate these types of outside concerns.
“It feels good to play music for people who are excited to hear your songs. That has never changed for us,” Johnson said. “It's not a complicated thing. It's like pouring a beer in a glass and handing it to somebody. It's just a very human thing that people have done forever.”