Normally, I’d start with a lengthy paragraph saturated with weird anecdotes and far-fetched puns that probably only make their writer giggle at the very best, but this time decided not to. Instead, I’ll clock in this week’s band Joy with a comment of their own about how the act came into existence, which in its extremely mundane nature goes to underline the fact that even the most stellar music has the tendency to rise from a very simple and trivial setting.

‘The four of us have been friends for years, and we’ve played music together outside of Joy before in various projects and settings. We decided to start writing together as Joy in mid 2015.’
There you have it, friendships and decisions. There’s no higher powers, no occultist bullshit or posing in grandeur, just four like-minded blokes in a room together, bashing their instruments and heads against one another. Here I try to unravel that what it exactly is then, that makes Joy pop up from the grey mass so efficiently, and I have the group’s vocalist Andrew Langhans with me to provide some insight to their output from their own view.

Joy is an angular, blackened, and grinding hardcore quartet from Raleigh, North Carolina. Since their formation, the band has released two EPs, a self-titled one in 2015 and Of Nothing the following year, and a full-length titled No Light Below pretty much a year ago. From the first release, Joy‘s been going for their own unique sound and the curve has been quite ascending from there on. Belonging to the same pack as The Secret, Nails, All Pigs Must Die, and Hexis for example, you’re able to hear a broad array of influences in their style, without being able to draw any straight lines to single pre-existing bands or aesthetics for comparison. That said, if the mentioned and similar acts tickle your spine, Joy will also definitely hit home.
‘As far as heavy music goes, we listen to almost everything from hardcore and punk, to black metal and thrash, to doom and stoner metal. As far as Joy goes, we like to keep things fast and loud. Hard guitar riffs from bands like Converge or Trap Them have always been inspirational to us. Fast, heavy hitting drums and chaotic thrash elements from Trash Talk were also very big inspirations when we first sat down as a group to figure out the direction we wanted to take the band. We try to take aspects from all genres we love and combine them into something that is uniquely us.’

In my very unilateral opinion, this particular style went stale for a long time after the early 2000s. The mentioned few were the ones single-handedly keeping the genre alive until more and more fascinating bands started to come along within the recent years. Joy‘s self-titled EP was in the frontlines making things interesting again, despite going unnoticed by many when it dropped. The frantic two tracks brought fire to the smoldering heap in a vividly vigorous and striking fashion. “Enter The Grave” opens with feedback and blast beats before picking up a hardcore pace and ending to an apt, crushingly heavy breakdown. “Switchblade Teeth” continues the same way, but feels like an expansion on all fields. The EP as a whole is an impeccable start, albeit being an almost aggravating tease.

Despite being a tad rough around the edges, the spark was instantly there, advancing to pack some serious heat across the five tracks on Of Nothing in the following year. One could characterize Of Nothing as ten minutes of pure joy and wouldn’t be off in any sense, with or without the intended pun. The release offered forceful pieces of brutal execution, leaving no room for error or further contemplating. Slightly hovering above the rest would be the opener “Tear Me Down” and the closer “Cut to the Nerve”, together establishing frames for all of the frenetic and enraged thumping in between. In comparison to the first, the second EP shows progress in compositions and evolution in style, refining the band’s sinuous contours.
‘Writing has always been a very interesting process for us. We definitely work better together as a group. Being in the same room together is the ideal writing process. We can bounce ideas off each other, get feedback on ideas instantly and usually get the general outline of a new song started in just a few hours. That being said, it’s sometimes very difficult for us to get together on a frequent basis. With our full-time jobs and half the band being married, it can be hard for us to line our schedules up to write together. Usually, we all demo out ideas on our own time and send them to each other to get opinions or to build off of each other’s ideas. We take those ideas when we are together and then go from there to build a song. It usually takes a little longer that way, but it has worked out for us so far.’

Speaking of stylistical refining and intriguing songwriting, I don’t think anyone could’ve fully prepared to what came two years after Of Nothing. Joy‘s first full-length No Light Below is a definitive example of growth and finding your own voice. The album is a stellar piece of blackened hardcore and grind conjoined with bleak and hopeless atmosphere and flawless production. After the two-year overture, the band found their way into the black hearts and effervescent lips of many by focusing on their own assets and what they’re capable of achieving through their distinctive craft.
The album is a whirlwind of chaos and cacophonous noise that manages to be surprisingly sophisticated and rather elegant throughout, without compromising the underlying tones and emotions. Right from the beginning of the opener “Hurting My Soul”, it’s clear the band has elevated themselves yet again. The tracks play around with contrasts and different tones, and each individually offers something different without losing the grip from remaining uniform. The ugly hardcore approach of the likes of the titular track, “Feel” and “Pass the World”, join forces with the grindcore pummeling of “Exist Without” and “Bleak Home”, topped with the downbeat sludge tones of “Despised” and “Calloused”, altogether create what could be described as a crucial and perennial release in Joy‘s respective genres.

‘Whenever we start writing it has often been very different for us to figure out what direction we want to take things. We are definitely our own worst critics. We try to not fit into one specific sound, and initially that can make the writing process very difficult. I think our best songwriting has just come from just letting go of genre stereotypes and just writing what we like and what we think would sound awesome, like going from a fast, black metal inspired blast beat section straight into a big hardcore style guitar riff. It’s really freeing to not write like ‘alright we did ‘a’ and ‘b’, now we have to do ‘c’. It can certainly make things a little tricky and frustrating at times, but in the end we are always very happy with what we’ve created.’
It’s obvious by now that neither the music nor the lyrical themes don’t trifle with light subject matters. As established countless times before, I’m a sucker for good narratives and storytelling when it comes to that side of things, and it’s always a pleasure to stumble upon well-written lyrics. That’s also the case with Joy, whose lyrics are portrayed from a deeply personal view with words that are easy to relate to, yet there’s a chance of reading and interpreting them in multiple ways. I have few basic, but confronting questions for bands featured here, and lyrics are always an integral part of them as well since they play an essential part in the whole musical experience.

‘The lyric writing process is very important to me. The lyrics for No Light Below took me a little over a year to mold into something I was happy with. Something that has always frustrated me is lyrics that are bland or don’t seem like they come from a genuine place, especially in heavy music. I think it’s really easy to spot emotionally empty writing. I don’t have a specific influence other than my own life experiences, but as for the writing itself I try to keep everything very poetic. I try to imagine that I’m just writing poetry first and foremost, then figure out how to fit that writing into a song. I like to have a definitive message in each poem, but I don’t want to beat people over the head with the meaning or spoon feed it to them. I try to keep things a little open so whoever is reading them can take the words and interpret or use them as a mirror to reflect their own experiences and emotions back at themselves, but I definitely wrote the words with a specific meaning in mind. Everything I write is very personal and meaningful to me.’
It’s easy to agree with everything Andrew said above. In order to feel and perform tangible and meaningful music, superficiality is something to steer clear from. When the words you see and hear actually bear some kind of weight and significance, the whole context is different. Even when Andrew’s vocal style is from the extremely harsh end, you can still pick up what’s being said, sense it, and really identify with it. Of course the more notional and figurative lyrical approach has its place in the bigger picture, but really grasping what’s being recited has the proclivity to be more comprehensive and meaningful for the listener.

Joy has been present for four years and during that time, the band has proven to be an integral part of the scene as something you definitely should keep your eye on. The band has the all the tools needed to make a real number out of themselves, and that is, fittingly enough, pretty much the direction where they’re headed.
‘I think our only goal when we started was to hangout and create music we want to hear. We wanted to play shows with bands we liked listening to, and over the years we’ve gotten to play with a lot of amazing artists and made many good friends along the way. The heavy music scene can occasionally have some gatekeeping, which is fucking stupid, but 99% of the time the scene has been nothing but supportive and inclusive to everyone, which is really cool and encouraging to see. We just want to play as much as we can and create good art. Our next goal is to probably put out an EP. Since we are currently not affiliated with any specific record label we kind of want to get really experimental with our next release, mess with our sound even more and put out something that nobody would ever expect from us.’
I’m confident that Joy will find their way to the masses rather soon at this rate. It’s one thing to have ambitions, and another to actually hold on to them and do everything humanely possible to meet those aspirations as well, all the while setting new personal objectives constantly. At this point I can only urge you all to familiarize yourself with the band if you already haven’t, as y’all simply need more Joy to your lives.

Joy is…


Ideal start would be to follow the band on Facebook and Spotify. Also urge them to make up a coherent Bandcamp page so that it’s simpler for all of our pampered asses to directly support them. Nothing like a good ol’ group pressure.

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