Standing next to a noisy, oscillating fan in the crowded band room at Kung Fu Necktie in Philadelphia, PA, Jasamine White-Gluz of No Joy is trying to articulate how she feels about the band’s third LP, 2015’s smashing More Faithful, a year out from its release.
But she’s stumped. So she just ends up laughing.
And yet, as she struggles to say something lucid, she keeps coming back to one word: “crazy.”
Intense recording and mixing sessions in New York and Costa Rica? Trying to make a living off touring for the better part of a year? The band’s singer, guitarist, and co-founder would rather just cram the whole experience into a bin labeled “Emotionally Exhausting ‘Era of Things’,” as she’s finally able to describe it, and move on.
And so, along with bandmates Laura Lloyd (co-founder, guitar), Garland Hastings (drums), and Michael Farsky (bass), she did—by getting right back to work.
Having maintained a relatively low profile for the first third of 2016, Montreal, Canada’s No Joy has spent the winter and spring leaving an intriguing trail of clues of behind-the-scenes activity via social media, including surreal studio videos, pictures of mangled keyboards, and TV show-themed lyric art.
But now, with a European tour underway, No Joy is getting ready to enter into a new era of things. Very ambitious things.
On a chilly Sunday evening in early May, a few days after the band announced that new EP Drool Sucker was on the way, I caught up with White-Gluz after No Joy’s electrifying 10-song, More Faithful-heavy set at one of the band’s only two U.S. east coast dates this spring. We immediately got down to brass tacks about the new EP, due out July 15 on Top Shelf Records. (The lead track starts off my No Joy primer; read on for my riveting track-by-track commentary.)
Recorded in January with Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh of Holy Fuck in a barn “in the middle of nowhere” outside Hamilton, Ontario, Drool Sucker marks two big changes for the 7-year-old band: a new label, and a new producer—well, two, in the shape of the men mentioned above.
So what gives? The thoughtful and excitable White-Gluz explains that the band had finally reached the point where the experimentation needed to be taken to the next level. And early on in our far-reaching conversation, she revealed that the band isn’t just doing one EP—they’re doing a whole frickin’ series of EPs.
“We wanted to try different-sounding stuff with different people, so it just felt like it was time to do something else,” she said when I asked her about the band’s split with long-time label Mexican Summer. “We had done this thing of just putting out full lengths, and we never did EPs with different producers or labels. Top Shelf is like a different scene for us, but at the same time, not really at all, so we wanted to just test it out.”
Well, if that means more material from this decade’s finest musical import, who are we to question it?
“Oh, by the end, you’re gonna be like, ‘OK, take a break. Can you take a hiatus, please? I’m over it.’”
All joking aside (seriously, good one, Jasamine), No Joy is a rare breed of band—there’s hardly a blemish on their catalogue. Since 2010, they’ve been putting out music that’s at once glowing and gloomy, shimmery and pretty, dreamy and hazy, and claustrophobic and noisy. They’ve been called “dream pop,” “noise pop,” and “shoegaze.” But allow me to break it down in more direct terms: No Joy’s music is fresh, original, and fucking essential.
I’m no mind-reader, but I imagine you’re still stuck on that title. Say it: Drool Sucker. If you want the G-rated explanation of its origin, White-Gluz will happily tell you that it’s an innocent little reference to the saliva ejector the dental hygienist uses when she’s scraping your scummy maw clean.
But if you want the X-rated origin story, the real version (and trust me, you do), you’ll have to ask drummer Garland Hastings.
“I don’t know why he was researching this, but…” said White-Gluz, trailing off as she turns to get Hastings’s attention. “Garland, can you explain the handkerchief thing?”
We didn’t quite get a “real” explanation of the color-coded handkerchief system used in the gay and BDSM communities to advertise one’s fetishes—just a smattering of declarations from Hastings and others as to what yellow or brown or red stands for, or what it means when a handkerchief is dangling from the left or right back pocket.
But soon, the phrase “drool crazy” rang out above the din.
“‘Drool crazy’,” repeated White-Gluz, nodding. “And then we made it into ‘drool sucker,’ which isn’t one of the codes, but we made our own out of it.”
Obviously, No Joy has a sense of humor. With a JNCO jeans-sized love for all things ‘90s alt rock, the band’s social media accounts are littered with posts referencing Korn, Rage Against the Machine, and most frequently, 311.
Are they for real? Or are they specifically designed to rile and confuse their most humorless, close-minded, and curmudgeonly fans, who White-Gluz has at least once addressed as “Joygalos”?
“I guess 311 is more like a time and a place where I was really into it,” she laughs. “I was in, like, silk-screening class in high school, and I just made 311 clothes all the time. So I have a lot of old things I made that just have the 311 print.” (Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to ask Lloyd about the vintage Limp Bizkit tee she was sporting at this particular show.)
The ’90s, however, did produce one band that has managed to stand the test of time: Deftones.
“Deftones I do legit love from the bottom of my heart. And their new record [Gore] is incredible,” says White-Gluz. “I think they’re a very misunderstood band. I feel like a lot of the things that we wanted to do maybe were because we grew up on Deftones—trying to combine soft and heavy stuff.”
It’s no accident that the cover of Drool Sucker reimagines No Joy’s moniker in a black metal-style logo. Turns out it’s a tribute of sorts.
“A lot of us listen to that music,” she says, adding that bassist Michael Farsky often turns her on to new (not nü, though you never know) metal bands. “And it was just like”—she paused—“we like the way the logos look.”
And yes, she’s well aware of the “logo for my new black metal band” meme, and as I lamely started to describe it, she jumped right in and finished my sentence for me.
“A pile of sticks. I got that sent to me like 100 times, and they’re like, ‘This is you, this is you, this is you.’”
Whether hovering just above No Joy’s effects-laden wall of fuzz on “Chalk Snake” or “Slug Night,” or taking the reins on ethereal slashers like “Junior” or “Corpo Daemon,” White-Gluz’s lyrics—inspired by Illuminati conspiracies and Hollywood—are often delivered in a voice that cracks with vulnerability. Also, they’re typically indecipherable.
Back in March, she answered many a fan’s prayer when she started posting her lyrics to some of the band’s more popular songs on Facebook. Though it’s been a couple months since she and America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh shared the last set—the words to “Slug Night”—she insists that there’s more to come, blaming the lull in lyric reveals on frivolous activities such as recording new music.
Sharing her enigmatic lyrics isn’t all about fun and games, though. Rather, she’s posting with a purpose: to set the record straight.
“There were a lot of wrong lyrics out there, and I found it to be really silly. Like, it’s OK if they’re bad and I wrote them, but if they’re bad and I didn’t write them, I’d rather be like, ‘OK, well, these are the wrong ones.'”
The writing and recording sessions also impacted her decision.
“While we were recording the new stuff, I was looking into lyrics from a new point of view. So I felt like it was time to just put them out there,” she explained. “On these new ones, they’re a little bit more of the center, whereas before they were definitely like an afterthought to the melodies or the songs.”
While she credits bassist Michael Farsky for changing No Joy’s writing process for the better when he came into the fold a few years ago, all of the band members are ready, willing, and able contributors. Even long-time producer/collaborator Jorge Elbrecht, who SPOILER ALERT produced the next EP, which is due out in the fall, has been getting in on the creation action since the band’s debut, Ghost Blonde.
However, she admits with some guilt that the writing process isn’t exactly her favorite part of this whole “being in a band” thing (even though she’s, you know, pretty good at it).
“It’s kind of like you have to do it—like homework. Like, ‘Oh, I should really do this right now,’” said White-Gluz, who still keeps a 4-track recorder on hand.
Considering where she goes to hash out riffs and melodies, it’s actually kind of fitting that she refers to the process as homework.
“I have a weird setup at my parents’ house in the suburbs, where there’s a huge aquarium, and I say, ‘I’m going swimming at the aquarium!’ I don’t leave for a few days and just make a process to do it.”
Alien abductees: adorable, right? Last year, the band accidentally stirred up some controversy with the unlikely crowd by releasing the endearingly messy “Remember Nothing” shirt. White-Gluz and Lloyd first came clean about the incident to Little Burgundy Shoes Magazine last month, but I wondered if there was more to the story—or if they were just messing with us.
“No, that’s real! So, our friend Jacob had collected all these images of alien encounters and designed the shirt for us. And then we ended up getting a lot of hate mail from people who were like, ‘These are David Chace’s original images—you can’t use these!’”
For those of you not in the know (I’m waving right back at you), David Chace is an artist who’s the “go-to guy” when you want to get your alien abduction experience memorialized in ink.
“You tell him about your abduction, and he’s able to recreate the images. And apparently, some of these images were very similar to his, because I guess people are all abducted by the same alien,” explained an amused White-Gluz. (Don’t you just hate it when your friends are all like “Pics or it didn’t happen?” D.B. Sweeney really could have used this guy to shut everybody up in Fire in the Sky.)
“It was crazy,” she continued, clearly reliving the stress of the situation. “I mean, I’ve been a diehard Coast to Coast listener, and I followed Art Bell for years and years, so I’m very up in that world. But all these people started sending us hate mail about stealing their experiences and trying to capitalize on them—but there was no intent to steal anybody’s images.”
The band has since sorted out the situation, and now Mr. Chace can add “t-shirt designer” to his resume.
And now, unsaddled by grumpy alien abductees and, perhaps much more importantly, the old way of doing things, our dreamy-noise-pop-shoegaze overlords can continue making their glorious racket, much to our delight and—oh, screw it—joy.
Pre-order yourself a Drool Sucker bundle from Top Shelf Records, and catch the band on their European tour now.
Bonus! The No Joy Primer
No Joy, No Peace | K(no)w Joy, Know Peace
Behold! A playlist of seven great No Joy songs, one from each release, complete with my inane ramblings. Hear for yourself why the killer quartet’s music has such high replay value.
“A Thorn in Garland’s Side” (Drool Sucker, 2016). I swear to God, we’re spoiled—they just keep getting better. The lead track from Drool Sucker includes snippets from a failed prank phone call, frenetic drums, layered guitar noodling, and spine-tingling vocals, all in just three tight minutes. July 15th: only a million-and-one light years away.
“Hollywood Teeth” (More Faithful, 2015). Either you listen to More Faithful all the way through, or you don’t listen to it at all. That said, it felt wrong to rip a song out of the context of the album. But for you, I suffer. Here’s a fast, quirky song inspired by Hillary Duff’s teeth.
“Starchild Is Dead” (Pastel and Pass Out, 2013). No, this isn’t a lament about Paul Stanley removing his make-up for the last time. The drum-heavy centerpiece to the Pastel and Pass Out EP is probably the band’s most “rock” song. And now that I know the story behind the words—sorry, Joy Boys, that convo was off the record—the line “Please wake up, stay with us” is all the more chilling.
“Hare Tarot Lies” (Wait to Pleasure, 2013). The No Joy song that succinctly says, “This is what No Joy is all about.”
“Smiley Face” (Negaverse, 2012). The band’s most experimental release, Negaverse, came after the band realized the recording sessions for their second full-length just weren’t working out. Fortunately, they found a home for this song. Dripping with murk, “Smiley Face” starts off with a minute of directionless strumming and snare beats. But then a brittle, rise-fall riff comes out of nowhere and carries you to the pleasant end.
“Maggie Says I Love You” (Ghost Blonde, 2010). No Joy took the bleak route early and often, and that’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with them. The repetition of the line “The way home” kills me. Every time. (Literally, you’re reading the words of a corpse.) Also—and this will mean nothing to you whatsoever—the song reminds me of running on snow-slicked streets in the blinding sun in the waning days of 2010.
“No Summer” (No Summer/No Joy 7″, 2010). I know it’s weird, but what originally attracted me to No Joy was their name: “No Joy” is one of my favorite Khanate songs. Upon hearing their first two songs, I realized that they were the band I was looking for all along but didn’t realize it. Expecting them to play either of these songs in 2016 would be like hoping to hear Billy Joel play Attila songs—they’ve come that far.
By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you a No Joy fan, true ‘til death. Which song on this playlist is your new jam?