Indie + alternative music culture depends on dedicated artists who create diversity & drive innovation in all aspects of songwriting, production & performance. We constantly feature new & notable independent acts on the verge of success. Meet this week’s featured artist in an exclusive interview. Introducing You To Your Next Favorite Artist: Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Milwaukee project “lifetime achievement award” is the product of a year long effort by Jay Joslyn to write and produce a song every week for a year. The sound jumps around and takes it’s influences from a broad spectrum of genres. Joslyn teamed up with Alex Shah and Grant Postier to rework and perform several of the 52 songs as a live three piece project.
We recently talked with frontman Jay Joslyn to get his take on alternative culture. Read on to find out more about your next favorite artist.
Comments from the Curating-Editor
You can really sense the earnest nature of Jay Joslyn’s artistry in his warm, alternative-leaning indie rock. With an impressive project under his belt in Today Hard, Tomorrow Hard, a 52-track record capturing a full year’s worth of ‘song-a-week’ songwriting, Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA) depicts a diverse yet defined sound aesthetic, reminsicent of Car Seat Headrest blended in with Jay’s Death Cab for Cutie influence. There’s a witty sense of humor in his lyricism, as all his songs are riddled with dead-on cultural references that pair well with the intriguing production effects layered throughout (sometimes atmospheric, sometimes experimental, spanning from acoustic to beat-heavy electronic). Each song is unique in its style, yet the project carries a through-line in the charming boy-next-door vocals, as well as the interesting turn of phrase and cadence that those vocals carry. Joslyn takes the lackadaisical minutiae of everyday life and transforms it into quaint, guitar-driven commentary of modern human behavior. LAA has a successful full career’s worth of content in this debut project. It’s hard to capture into words everything I feel in this intelligent record, but I’m going out on a limb and saying this album is this year’s best kept indie secret.
What are your top 3 favorite albums that inspired you to get into music?
The first thing I remember listening to that made me excited about song writing, was the soundtrack for Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny. I started playing guitar when I was 11-12 and I wrote pretty unremarkable songs about my friends in the style of Tenacious D, around the age of 13. When i was 15, I bought We Have the Facts and We Vote Yes by Death Cab for Cutie, which really opened me up to a lot of indie rock bands. Tied for third is Western Teleport by Emperor X, and Twinkle Echo by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone.
What are your fondest musical memories?
First thing that comes to mind is my first show with a full band. They were call “The Archetype Project.” I asked to join after seeing them play a show at my high school. I was a freshmen and they were all juniors from another school district. We played a battle of the bands at their high school and I broke a string near the end of the set. The last song was a Coheed & Cambria cover so I decided to sing it; I remember it being really really rough and pitchy (I can’t sing that high), but I was proud to put myself out of my comfort zone and I think that’s been the recurring theme of my music career.
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener?
Lately I’ve been listening to a bunch of math rock, which kinda spans anywhere from the early 90’s to now. Most notable is this California band called Pretend, and Elephant Gym from Taiwan.
What is your creative process like? How do you approach the writing process? Is there a particular message or theme central to your creative works?
It’s split between noodling around on guitar or my keyboard to work out parts, and cycling through lyric ideas or feelings I have. My songwriting project made me realize my lyrics tend to be on the self-deprecating side, almost making fun of myself. It feels good though, it’s better to put the feelings into a song rather than harbor them. As a white, straight, cis male, I try to be politically aware and stay grounded with certain issues. There’s a song off my project called “the boy, the leash, and the empty seat,” that’s about living in Milwaukee (which is one of the most racially segregated cities in America) and the fact that: black lives matter, white feelings don’t matter.
As an indie artist in the digital age, social media and streaming are essential tools for marketing and promotion. What do you think about online music sharing, both as a music fan and as a musician? How do you think social media/music streaming services impacts the rising musician?
Being a creative type, and someone who’s generally really self-conscious, I hate promoting myself. I hate feeling like I’m showboating or talking myself up. My music Facebook page is pretty bleak, I try and remain pretty neutral and objective with promotion. Living in the digital age makes promoting music kinda rough because there’s just so much information and so much music. It feels like going for a swim in white rapids, so I just dip my toes in sometimes. On the flip side, as a music listener, the digital age is amazing! I try and imagine what it must have been like to discover new bands in the 60’s and how you’re really at the whims of record companies. Streaming services are great and Bandcamp gives DIY and indie bands an outlet to put their stuff online.
How would you describe your visual aesthetic, in terms of album artwork, music videos, and artistry? How does the music you create contribute to your visuals? Does this extend to your live show experience?
Milwaukee has a thriving artist community that is not unlike the music scene. There are many DIY gallery spaces and studios. I’m close with this collective called “After School Special (A.S.S).” The cover for my project “today hard, tomorrow hard” was designed by Stephanie Gage of Martian Press (and also A.S.S), I try to platform artists as much as I can, or find a way to help them out. This plays a big role in influencing my visual aesthetic.
We’re a firm believer that the cities that artists are based in helps craft their sound. How would you describe your city’s music scene? How has it inspired you into crafting your sound?
The Milwaukee music scene is kind of incestuous. It’s not uncommon to see a lineup where a band shares a member with another band. Milwaukee has some really great talent and inspiring musicians. I live in this neighborhood called “Riverwest” where many other musicians and artists live. Since the community is so tightly knit, it starts to feel like one persons success is everyones success.
What is your dream collaboration and why?
I have day dreams about starting a really pretty sounding math rock band with a rapper, or maybe just do a whole album featuring several rappers.
Which songs are you currently obsessed with? What new acts do you recommend to our listeners? What bands do you believe are your best kept secret in the indie community?
I love love love Easy by Palehound. It has quirky and relatable lyrics along with a great guitar riff. Fat History Month has a song called Everyday is Christmas in Hell that has some spooky “be careful what you wish for” kind of vibes. Mike, Count to Four by Via Luna is really bouncy and goes where you wouldn’t expect it. As far as “best kept secret” I always feel like I can’t keep up with new music, in Milwaukee Gauss, Blonder, and Scrimshaw are a few bands that blow my mind and make me feel really good.
What are you currently working on? Any new projects?
I just finished writing and producing a song every week for a year. Halfway through the project, I started jamming with my friends Alex Shah and Grant Postier. We perform and have reworked 11 of the songs which I would like to record and maybe spend some time playing out of town promoting. I also have 8 songs that I wrote 3 years ago that i have not recorded, so hopefully I can hammer those out before the end of the year.