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Despite their growing fame, Joyce Manor stay close to their punk origins

The punk music genre is founded on antihegemony, otherness and, most of all, authenticity. 

That is, by choosing this style, bands and fans alike are announcing to the broader scene “we’re not going to fit in” and then to each other: “I won’t turn my back on you if you don’t turn your back on me.”

Californian slacker punk band Joyce Manor is one such band that despite ascending to major label status and an international touring profile, have not lost touch with their DIY punk roots.

“I think we’re fortunate where we feel comfortable in both. We do most of our touring in the US and, yeah, in the major cities we play big rock clubs so then we feel like a rock band.

“But we make sure every tour includes the small venues of the small towns that gave us shows way before we were playing to large audiences in major cities.”

That is Joyce Manor singer and guitarist Barry Johnson who formed the band back in 2008 with guitarist Chase Knobbe. Initially performing as a duo, the act was nourished and supported by California’s thriving DIY punk scene that was rallying around Joyce Manor’s Weezer and early Blink-182-influenced sound.

This led to the band becoming a four-piece that is nowadays also made up of Matt Ebert (bass and backing vocalist) and Pat Ware (drums).

In 2011, Joyce Manor released their self-titled debut that featured their underground hit, ‘Constant Headache’. Yet, it wasn’t until their third album Never Hungover Again that Joyce Manor broadened its fanbase beyond the punk scene. Suddenly they were earning slots at international festivals and on major rock tours.

“The rock scene took a little while to get used to,” Johnson explains. “I feel like if playing festivals and those rock clubs was all you do it’d be pretty hard to step back into the DIY scene, so it is really important to us to keep booking those shows.”

Johnson is speaking ahead of Joyce Manor’s show at The Corner Hotel on Tuesday March 5, which forms one leg of a national tour promoting their fifth studio album, Million Dollars to Kill Me.

The first song on the album, ‘Fighting Kangaroo’, is an intense listening piece that in just two minutes captures both the tone of rousing punk rock and inward-looking self-reflection.

“It is one of the stronger melodies I have [ever] come up with. It has a good energy to it, and I think that the guitar line that Chase added made the song sound more heart-wrenching. I also like that turnaround in the chorus that is really fun to play. We haven’t played that one live yet but we hope it goes over well with the crowds because we are really proud of it.”

This statement by Johnson contains an ostensible incongruity, that is, if the band is so proud of ‘Fighting Kangaroo’, why haven’t they played it live yet?

“We are still working it out, it’s a really complex song. You know every time we go to write another album we want our songwriting to develop so I really wanted that song in particular to reflect that.”

The last time Joyce Manor toured Australia was in 2017 with The Smith Street Band, a tour that has become renowned for the epic party atmosphere created by both bands. So it seems pertinent to close-out the interview with the enquiry as to which city out of Los Angeles and Melbourne has the best party crowd.

“LA crowd’s are great but like, for us anyway, Australian crowds really like to drink and party. One of my favourite shows ever was on the last tour in Melbourne.”

Joyce Manor come to The Corner Hotel on Tuesday March 5. Grab your tickets via Handsome Tours.