Joan & The Giants get deep with their optimistic debut EP
“we’re always finding ways to change, but always stay ultimately as Joan & The Giants, with that kind of overall arc of the sound with different influences.”
About a month ago we premiered a music video for The Weekend, the latest offering taken from Joan & The Giants forthcoming debut EP Me & You. With a wealth of experience that comes from kicking around the music scene for the past couple of years, the indie-pop sweethearts today release that EP in all its glory - a long time dream for the group centers/ romantic partners Grace Newton-Wordsworth and Aaron Birch.
Dripping with insatiable hooks, catchy melodies, precise instrumentation, and incredibly lush production, the 5-track release is a testament to the hard work and growth the outfit has achieved throughout their musical careers. Written about relationships, Grace and Aaron's personal experiences, and the much-relatable growth that comes from being in your 20s, there's an earnest sense of depth to Me & You.
To celebrate the release, we caught up with Joan & The Giants frontwoman Grace to chat all about the debut EP, its launch next Friday, touring regional WA, and what’s next for the up and coming indie pop outfit. So be sure to hit play on Me & You, and take a read of what she had to say below.
Hello, thanks so much for joining me. How are you?
Thank you, I’m a bit out of it, I’m at a mine at the moment and it’s just been such a chaotic day, like the plane nearly crashed. It was so scary, genuinely.
Oh my god, we’ll get to the interview in a sec - but what are you doing at the mines?
I am doing a gig tonight!
Thank you, the plane though landing, it wasn't stable, it was crazy and then when it landed it like that (gestures with hand plane bouncing) then went back up again. It was so scary.
Well thank you despite the plane and the chaos for joining me today, I wanted to start off by asking you about your most recent single; The Weekend, which we premiered the video for a couple of weeks ago - it has such a strong message which I think a lot of people will relate to, and you’re notorious for having just stunning music clips - how do you go about directing a video that captures a message?
In relation to this video clip for The Weekend, I think like what I wanted to do directing it was just have a lot of fun, and really put the visuals coinciding with the kind of the meaning of the lyrics. I know it can seem very kind of pretty on the nose the video clip because sometimes I like to make them a bit more metaphorical, like the last one was really artistic and kind of more visual, metaphoric and symbolic. But this one is pretty much just straight out (laughter). It was exactly what It meant, and we just had so much fun. I just want to kind of really show our personalities in it as well, and just have a lot of fun with our friends and kind of show exactly what the meaning of the video is. We shot it on Tuesday or Wednesday night., and it really kind of replicated the feeling of what the song was written about, and just like rebelling against how society kind of makes you feel like you have to live your life, and just having fun with your friends, having fun with the people you're around. I think this video and the meaning of the songs, I was just thinking about it today, and there’s kind of little glimpse of sadness in it, but it's kind of just about how one person makes you feel, and how people around you make you feel, and how you want to feel like that all the time. But sometimes life doesn’t let you feel like that all the time, you know.
It’s like now I’m being more broad than what I actually mean here (laughter).
No, that’s good.
I was just thinking about some of the sadder lyrics in it, like the bridge goes “I felt so alone, like I had nothing to say, you walked me home, carried my baggage all the way.” I think that line is my favorite, because I think in a relationship you kind of do carry the other person's baggage a lot. And same with friendships, you can really carry some people sometimes, and vice versa. And I think like when writing this we were carrying a lot for each other, and I was carrying a lot for friends and vice versa. But it was just such an explosive, exciting, fun rebellious time, and I just really want to go back to that. Shooting it was kind of fun and cathartic in that way. Just like feeling free again.
That was a very long explanation. Enjoy cutting that up (laughter).
That was beautiful, it summed it up perfectly. And of course the single comes from your debut EP Me & You, what inspired you to put together an EP opposed to continuing to release singles?
I think it was tricky because the industry now is just singles, in terms of what everybody kind of wants, well that what you kind of need to do to get people to listen to in some ways. I think when going through this EP, I mean three songs from the EP have been singles, and that was a strategy that was suggested by multiple people to actually get more people to listen to those three songs. But at the same time, like I love, it is our very first EP, and I’ve wanted to write an EP the whole time I've been writing music, and an album that's the main goal for me. It's just really budgeting (laughter). But yeah, to actually put together an EP of songs that I wanted to kind of flow into each other and kind of create meaning throughout, like kind of purpose and scope of the EP. It was amazing. It was so much fun. Like I think it's so cool releasing a whole EP or a whole kind of selection of music where you think about the way that they got to flow as well, and you put out kind of what you want the audience to listen to.
Yeah, that kind of brings me to the next question, was there an overarching theme or idea when you were putting it together?
Yeah, I think a lot of it was the kind of mood and the sounds, and also a relationship in some ways, because the whole concept of the EP is Me & You, and it really is about you and some other person that you're close with or someone that you're going through things with, or someone that you love. And like starting off with The Weekend, I really wanted to do that. Myself and Aaron really just wanted to punch people in the face (giggles) Not like that! Just like punch into it straight away.
In a good way!
In a good way! Like punch people with the sound we were kind of going for, and the excitement and the feeling of kind of when the whole EP was kind of written. It really was written about a time of freedom, rebellion, excitement, new kind of feelings, and moments of connection. I could go very deep with what everything is about, and it's not even just about me or Aaron, or me and one person, there are like multiple people who these songs are about, but yeah (laughter) I don't know how deep I want to go with this (laughter).
It’s all up to you! How much you’re willing to share.
I always over-speak and then am like whyyy, no it’s good I love it. So Weekend into Slow Motion is like bringing it up, and then having kind of having a flow of bringing it down again, and pulling people back into something more slower and I guess romantic in a moment just between two people. And then the third song is Hardest Part, which is interesting, because this is a song that is a tricky part relationship when you really really like someone, or you’ve just broken up with someone and you don't know whether to hold on to the thought of them, or hold on to the hope of being with them, or let them go from your life entirely. My favorite line in that song is “the hardest part of living is knowing whether I'm supposed to hold on or let go.” I just think it's such a true line to so many relationships, even if it's with a friend or a family member, a partner, like anyone. I think it's a very relatable line, and that was actually our first co-write with Dylan Ollivierre, and Matt Camarano, that's the only kind of co-write on the EP, but it's such a special song. And it's just so special to me. So that one was kind of the more sadder one on the EP, which is crazy to me because usually we write so many sad songs, and for some reason these songs are kind of more happy than sad. Which is crazy. Crazy. I think that again, it kind of reflects the headspace we were in when writing them, because obviously, you know, I think before that Joan was going through a lot of rough times, in like the band, myself and Aaron, a lot of the songs were really about sadness, and healing. And this EP is kind of coming out of that, and sort of having experiences and like soaking everything in, if that makes sense?
And then Home Song is actually, you know what, when I said it was sad, there are sad moments for sure. Home Song is definitely one of my favourite songs on the EP, because it's the song I wrote for Aaron after we had the most stupid fight about the dishes, honestly, it was something like that, or cleaning the house. We had a fight and then literally the next day he had all of these missed calls on his phone, and found out his nan was in hospital in Broome.
It was awful, and then we literally booked him a flight because he couldn't afford to at the time, and he got on the plane and went and said goodbye to her and she passed away the morning or the next day that he got up there. So he had to leave straight away and we didn't really get to say goodbye. This was so sad, this woman is so loved by her family, her children, and her grandchildren. She’s actually a member of the stolen generation as well, and was just the most amazing woman. I think it was one of those moments in life, where you just kind of completely forget about anything you were fighting about, anything that kind of seemed petty or that you're holding on to, and just let all of it go, and you just want to be there for someone. So I just wrote that song for Aaron to be like, I don't care about what we're fighting over, I don’t care about the stupid little things, I just care about you and you're home to me. So that one's really special, and always will be. Yeah. And then we finish off with Centerfold, which is so much fun. This song is all very true. Listen to the lyrics they all very, Aaron hates me for these lyrics (laughter) especially the second verse. I wrote this song for Aaron and his favourite band of all time is Blink 182, and he wants a tattoo of I Miss You on him, like Jack and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas (sings) “we can live like Jack and Sally if you want”. My favourite lyric is “we’re like Jack and Sally walking through the haunted night” because that's just for him basically. So that's just a little fun one, it kind of just sums up the two of us. Yeah, it's a bit cheeky.
That is beautiful, and your songs have such a strong indie pop presence that reminds me of Aurora or Florence and The Machine, what artists do you find yourselves listening to and inspire you?
Oh my god. I just have to take a second. They are huge, I just love those artists so much, I can’t even. That is very kind, oh my god. What was even the questions? I got stuck on that (laughter).
That's a really good question, because I think it used to be back in the day when we were first starting, I know Florence was a big influence, and I actually stopped listening to her for ages, because I didn't want to influence anymore. I didn't want to feel like I was copying anything, or trying to replicate something. I feel like when you're an artist, you sometimes unconsciously do that, you know? So I literally have not listened to her properly like I used to do for a couple of years now. Just for my own creativity I guess, and try to think of new things I guess that are separate to Florence, because I used to be obsessed. I think for this EP, we went for a much more sort of pop, indie-pop production inspiration behind it. I think bands, oh god that's a really good question. In writing it, oh my goodness so many bands, such an intense question. I really love Holly Humberstone, Maisey Peters, she actually just released You Signed Up For This around the time we were doing production, and I was so inspired by her production elements. I really think her production and lyrics are amazing. I love her as an artist. I think, oh my god my head is spinning, like we have so many broad artists we like, from pop artists like Dizzy, they are from Canada, we absolutely love Dizzy. They were a solid influence for a while. Our heavier influences come from bands like Now Now, Blink 182, we've always got little punkier, heavier influences, like in The Weekend there are a few heavier influences in there. Matthew Rogers, she was a big influence for me in terms of songwriting. I love her as a producer, she thinks of music in such an amazing, technical, creative way as well.
And you and Aaron write collaboratively, can you give us a bit of insight into that process?
Absolutely. I think, I mean we're in a relationship so It's really interesting the process of writing, creating with someone that you're actually in a relationship with, because I think you're your most honest self at all times, I know that I am. And sometimes that could be a really negative thing, because when you're working with people that you're not close to on that level, they can kind of make things a little less blunt, a little more soft in their approach to talking and writing with you. But in a relationship it's just so honest, and there's times when it just drives me insane, I need to have a break because its just so intense sometimes. But it's really fun, like when we get onto a roll and we're having like a really great writing session, we work really fast and we work so creatively together. It’s just times when its not rollin’ it gets quite stressful. But I absolutely love working with Aaron, we do write a lot together, and I feel like we have a really beautiful process of writing together. Sometimes it’ll be him just producing a whole demo, and then me kind of creating melodies over the top, or him creating melodies and lyrics. Sometimes I’ll write an entire song acoustically and then bring it to him, and we’ll work on it together in the studio for a demo version. Other times we work completely together. I feel like on this EP some of the songs were really written together, The Weekend was really the two of us collaborating 100%. It was written so fast. Lyrically, together we were just so in the moment, and then with other songs, with Slow Motion we actually finished in the studio like the day you recorded it.
Yeah, which was so stressful. I'm not a big fan of working like that. I like to have everything ready, but that one was really like seeing what happens and hoping that it would all work, and kind of letting go. We had to really let go of a lot of things. And it was great working with Dylan as well because he really pushes you to think differently about the production. He teaches you to open your mind, think about cutting certain aspects of the song, or changing them, or changing chords, thinking differently about lyrics. And he really teaches you to let go of any kind of attachment which I think is a really good thing for us, to be more creative, more open to what could happen with a song. We love working together and this EP was definitely very collaborative of me and Aaron, and then the next stage of that was myself and Aaron with Dylan, he was the producer but then we also kind of co-produced some songs as well, and then our guys who are in our band, came in and smashed out their parts. Yeah, it was a really great kind of collaborative effort. But Aaron and I did write all the songs together except for The Hardest Part.
Lovely, and how has that process kind of evolved over the years as you’ve gotten to know eachother better, and worked with a producer? How has the influence and collaboration kind of changed the process?
That is so interesting. I think with our songwriting personally, we had to work really, really hard to get better. Like some people are very natural songwriters, and kind of have something special for the start. Myself and Aaron have been together for eight years this year. It's a bloody long time, jesus! So we’ve been together a long time, and we’ve been writing together that entire time. The first three, four years of writing together we wrote just all terrible songs, like the worst . In fact we actually changed our name just to get away from how bad the songs were. They weren't great. It took us years of grinding and working and playing live to get our, I guess Mojo. Even in a live sense, in 2019 we played over 100 shows. Touring regional WA, and just so so many shows. I think it's also that chemistry, building good solid relationships and trust, and just like getting better at your instruments, and also vocals, my voice has changed so much over the years, and I think that is just growing up and just really working hard. It's like whatever you do in life, in other fields people go into a university degree, we’ve just sort of grinded and seen what happens. I think it's so difficult being in the music industry because nobody tells you what's going to happen, and how you're going to go, and if you’re even going to get better at what you do. You just have to really trust and enjoy, and hope the process serves you and goes well. I think its a really tough industry, and I could go on about it all day (laughter). But I think over the years our style and influences have changed. Like the next EP we’re going to do, and the next music is already sounding different to this stuff, we’re always finding ways to change, but always stay ultimately as Joan & The Giants, with that kind of overall arc of the sound with different influences. I’m always excited to see where we can go next, and what will inspire us next. It’s really interesting when it comes to influencers, I’m going back to that now (laughter). Every single time we uploaded some in the first few years. They kept saying we sounded like Middle Kids, which is bizarre because I had never heard this band until last year. I now am in love with middle Kids, and I really love their sound. We even cover a couple of their songs now. I think they're starting to be a bit of an influence on the way I’m writing now, which is like oh god, triple j is going to go, they really do sound like middle kids (laughter). I also forgot Taylor Swift, I obsessed over Folklore and Evermore. I can't even tell you. I just think the lyrics are so incredible, she's definitely been an influence for me over the years, even when I was like 13. I forgot to say Phoebe Bridges as well, oh my god, sorry! But it's artists like that who taught us about how we want to write, and I really love writing realistically and about detailed experiences, but also in a metaphoric, symbolic way. Being a creative person you really just soak yourself in experiences, and feel them 100%, I don't think any artist can help that. It's kind of the hardest part about being so vulnerable.
That's beautifully put. So the release is out this Friday, and has a launch at The Rosemount next Friday. Are there any particular songs from the EP you’re looking forward to playing most live?
Actually I'm really excited about playing The Hardest Part because we never play that live. We kind of started playing the EP at recent shows and really like getting used to it. But The Hardest Part is just so slow and it’s on the piano, and I usually don't bring the keyboard to gigs. It's more of a songwriter stripped back song, I think I’ve played it at one or two shows so far, so I’m excited to have that moment of stripping everything back and just getting my piano out. I also really love playing Centerfold, I’m really getting into guitar, I’m obsessed with it. I never used to play guitar. Now I just want to play guitar all the time, to the point where the guys are like “aren't you meant to be, don’t you love jumping around and doing what you do at the front”and I was like but I just want to play guitar. Just let me play! I love The Weekend too, but I just can’t breathe, it’s too much. Just too many words. So that one is always hard but I do really love playing it. I love them all, it's so hard, I love playing them all live, so I’m really excited for all of them, but definitely The Hardest Part.
You often tour regional WA, with Aaron having family in the Kimberly, and you down south, how do these regional shows compare to say a Rosemount show in the city?
That's a really good question. It’s hard, we've had some incredible regional shows and we've had like the absolute worst of the worst. Honestly, I think it can be pretty rough out there. But I think people really do appreciate music regionally, and they love seeing a good live band and I do encourage city artists to get out and travel regionally. I think my favourite was when we headlined Shinju Matsuri Festival, and we were playing just as the fireworks went off, and it was incredible. The other day I played a regional show that was so beautiful, it was in Bunbury, and it was so special. But honestly, recently we've had some really bad regional shows with just terrible sound guys who have just been awful to us and the supporting bands. Sometimes the people that attend these events, I think, like I’m from a farm, I feel like regional WA has a bit of catching up to do, progressing a little bit. You know, we've played some pretty rough outback shows, one time I got on stage and a guy yelled “show us your tits” like the first thing he said when I went up on stage. There can definitely be some sexism, I’ve experienced more sexism out in regional WA, misogynistic comments and things like that, which is not great, it's where WA has a lot of catching up to do regionally. But overall, I reckon we’ve played more very wholesome,beautiful gigs than real rough just absolute shit shows (laughter). It's good, but you're taking a risk because you don't know what it's gonna be.
What are your plans for the rest of the year? More touring, more gigs?
Yeah more gigs, we’ve got WA festivals and shows coming up and fundraising events. We’re about to announce a tour as well, another regional tour for January, so that will be coming out just after our launch. We're going to just keep announcing shows, and keep doing what we do, just keep grinding. Just gotta do it. It's really fun, I love playing live shows and I also love being in the studio. I love it all, except the music industry (laughs) oh my god, but I’m glad you’re in it.
Aw thanks, I’m glad that you’re in it, and I get to do fun stuff like this!
It's so good I love it!
Well congratulations on Me & Yous release this Friday, and all the best for the launch.
I’m sure I’ll see you around soon!
Yay. That would be really nice.
Joan & The Giants 'Me & You’ debut EP launch
Friday September 30 - The Rosemount Hotel, Boorloo (Perth)
Joan & The Giants debut Ep Me & You is out now via Tomboi Records.