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ISSUE PREVIEW: Brothers Nick and Shane Sullivan of Joyer Push their Abilities and Each Other on 'Night Songs'

This piece originates from Penny's newest print issue, Penny 3.3 ft. Slow Hollows (released April 12, 2024). Read the full issue either HERE or via PENNY'S ISSUU.
 
Photo by Maria Gelsomini
Interview + Write-Up by Giliann Karon

What’s left to say about the shoegaze renaissance? It’s cool that contemporary artists can breathe new life into a genre that broke ground before said artists were born. And it’s even cooler how social media and the digitization of music have leveled the playing field to the point that anyone with the right equipment and ambition can create something they’re proud of, never mind critical acclaim.


Music should be democratic and accessible, but it’s now easier than ever to water down and commodify a trend for the sole purpose of boosting TikTok and Spotify numbers, only to watch it crumble as the trend shifts. New artists are welcome with open arms, but often struggle to stay afloat in an oversaturated ecosystem. And the hyper-individualized TikTok algorithms are devoid of community and fan culture.


Despite the good and bad of the online shoegaze community, brothers Nick and Shane Sullivan of Joyer easily overcome this high barrier to entry. They protect their peace with a minimal social media presence and their sharp technical skills and impossibly high standards position their music as part of a larger movement, rather than a moment in a fleeting trend.


They recently announced their album Night Songs, which is out April 26 on Hit the North Records / Julia's War Records. They’re most at ease when we’re talking about encouragement from their labels and “the scene.” But of course, we spend most of our time talking about their upcoming album. Energetic singles “Fall Apart,” “Star,” and “Drive All Night” mark a shift away from mellow slacker beginnings towards guitar-driven hooks and melodic explosions. I caught up with them at SXSW to discuss their adventurous new album and relationship built on pushing each other to the best of their abilities.



 

GILIANN KARON: What do you find easiest and most challenging about working so closely with your brother?


NICK SULLIVAN: Most challenging is that we live in different states, but that’s not really specific to us being brothers. We don’t pull punches when we’re debating stuff, which is both easier and harder because I can voice my opinion, but I can be more harsh to Shane than I would be to someone else.


SHANE SULLIVAN: It’s definitely a double-edged sword. We’re comfortable enough to be honest when we’re making music. The few times I’ve collaborated with other people, I’ve shied away from criticism because I don’t want to hurt their feelings. It helps the writing process too because we have similar influences. We have the same music taste but a different enough perspective to help each other out when we’re stuck.


GK: You’re from New Jersey, which has garnered a reputation as a sort of “DIY incubator.” What were your experiences in the scene and are there any lessons you carried with you while working on Night Songs?


NS: The New Jersey DIY venues are kinda dingy, so it taught me how to deal with any kind of situation and prepare for whatever’s coming. 


When we were living in Jersey, I was in a band when I was 14. A lot of times it felt like we were just “the kids,” and not taken that seriously. Over time, I started befriending lots of people in bands I’m still friends with now. I met up with High, who’s also from New Jersey, on the road down to SXSW. 


SS: We’re from northern Jersey, so it helped to be really close to New York City. It was nice having the Jersey scene and the New York scene not too far away.



GK: Who’d you listen to and what movies did you watch while working on Night Songs?


NS: We really got into Taiwanese New Wave films, which are very slice-of-life movies where not much is happening. We also watched a lot of stuff by Kelly Reichardt because a lot of them are slow, atmospheric, and take place in quiet nature environments. We both went to school for film, so that’s why they’re kind of pretentious picks.


We just listened to any and all kinds of music. Now more than ever, I’m actually friends with the bands I listen to, like Kitchen and Melaina Kol.


SS: We also started listening to this band Velocity Girl from the 90s. And Swirlies has always been one of our favorites.


GK: What track challenged you the most?


NS: Definitely “Softer Skin.” I write all the drum parts for Joyer and I consciously wanted to make this album’s drum parts more interesting, which was difficult. It’s much louder than we usually are, which was an adjustment entering the recording process, but because of that I’m really proud.





SS: “Fall Apart” for me because it starts pretty fast and then has a much slower breakdown. It was tricky to get down, but I’m very satisfied with how it came out, especially because we’ve been playing it in Austin.


NS: It pushes your vocals, too. We really tried to be more dynamic with our vocals on our new album and that’s one song where he really shines.


GK: Congrats on signing to Julia’s War! How has their support and your labelmates influenced the sound and atmosphere you’re trying to create on Night Songs?


NS: The biggest thing is how nice of a community it is. We were already friends with a lot of bands on their roster, but also we've met so many new friends since signing. Everyone's really nice and supportive of each other. It feels like a big family. I love the attitude of everyone trying to help each other.


SS: The people who run it are amazing. Doug (Dulgarian, singer of They Are Gutting A Body Of Water) has become such a great mentor to us. Everyone at the label is super hardworking and so supportive of us.





GK: What motivated you to shift away from shoegaze/slowcore into a sound that was louder and more urgent?


NS: Throughout our last tour, we started playing our older songs heavier, so we wanted to write new material like that. We play with a lot of shoegaze bands, who we love, but if we were going to be loud, we still wanted to be melodic. It was a mixture of wanting to be more melodic while having songs that are, of course, really fun to play.


SS: Like Nick said, we tried to challenge ourselves vocally, which was scary at first, but is now super fulfilling because our older stuff is more guitar-focused and less ambitious in terms of vocals. It was exciting setting that goal and evolving to meet it.


 

READ THE FULL CONVERSATION IN PENNY 3.3 - OUT NOW!


 

Night Songs by Joyer is out on April 26 Hit the North Records / Julia's War Records.

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