Joy Guerrilla use the world around them to create vibrant worlds of their own

Joy Guerilla is the musical brainchild of LA based duo Adam Grab and Magna Daniec. They released their sophomore album The Park Is Closed last Friday, an album that takes simple melodies and phrases and turns them into sonic landscapes that are bursting with life. It’s the follow up and almost sister album to 2018’s Skyline and takes a look at the darker side of the West Coast of America that they mapped out on their debut in both tone and inspiration. One of the immediate reactions you get to listening to their music, beside the instinctive feeling to groove to it, is just how tightly composed and structured every moment is without losing that free-flowing nature that makes jazz so beautiful. We caught up with the duo to learn a bit more about their process, inspirations and what makes their sound so vibrant.

How did the group form? What’s your story? 

We met up in the Bay Area of CA. Mags was actually Adam’s piano teacher for a short time, but we soon realised that we had a lot of musical interests and goals in common, especially 70’s fusion, Euro prog rock, and vintage analog keyboards. We soon started playing music and writing together, and it’s been constant since then. 

How would you describe your sound? 

We’re sure we could come up with something esoteric and lofty here, but at heart we both know it could best be described as jazz fusion, with influences from anything that grooves, really. One of our fans from Japan describes it as “a blend of the city and the country,” and we suppose we’re happy with that. 

What do you draw inspiration from for the sound and movements within the songs? 

The music we most admire (both stylistically and recording-quality-wise) would be the “high-fi” era of the mid/late-70s, when analog recording was really at its peak. As such, a lot of our sound choices most often come from that era, plus the collection of analog instruments we’ve slowly acquired over the years. In terms of direct sonic influences – probably Dexter Wansel and Larry Carlton for arrangement sensibility; Michael Boddicker, George Duke, and Cecil & Margouleff for synth sound design; Herbie for phrasing and tone. The movements within our songs are ultimately because we fully understand the limitations of instrumental music, especially in the current rapid consumption streaming environment. We personally are not fans of indulgent, overly “jammy” music, and instrumental music with solos can trend in that direction at times. We like tight arrangements and transitions that keep you engaged in the musical narrative. It keeps us interested in creating it, and hopefully the listener in listening. 

What was the story that you are trying to tell within the album?

 When we were writing and recording our last album “Skyline,” we were trying to put together an album that portrayed life on the West coast as best we could. We ended up, more so by happenstance, deciding on a tracklist with a brighter, more “daylight” feel. However, we still had a body of songs we knew had potential, yet tonally just didn’t fit. Inadvertently we had essentially left out the songs that evoked the darker side of the picture, both literally and emotionally. We knew that we couldn’t leave that half of the story unaccounted for, and decided this time to focus on that. 

What’s the creative process behind a song?

 We always have a picture of the songs development and sequencing, so we start with recording the bass and drums directly to tape. This helps them sound really locked-in, and also makes sure that it still retains the human feel of being played live in as few takes as possible. We then do a lot of tinkering with the guitar, percussion and keyboard overdubbing, and we’ve learned to be okay with simply losing stuff that doesn’t fit. Since we use a lot of analog synths, we sometimes spend hours tweaking patches until we feel it fits the song. Overall, the process is somewhat pre-determined, but it also will evolve and take form as elements are added. It may not be the most time-efficient method, but we’ve gotten our work-flow pretty dialled in now. 

Over what time period was this album created? 

As mentioned above, many of these songs were started at the same time as “Skyline” was being written and recorded, and others were much more recent (“Sowa” and “The Park Is Closed” specifically). It would be safe to say that between writing, recording, overdubbing, editing and mixing, it took us about 2 years to really get it to where we felt it could be called finished. 

You worked with a lot of musicians to bring this album together. What did they all bring to the project? 

Tim Aristil on drums and Elijah Zhang on guitar have been invaluable and they are in no small part responsible for the sound of the group. They are willing to listen to our suggestions but aren’t afraid to assert their own musical tastes to the songs. They both think like producers and musicians, which is really the best kind of person to work with. Les Lovitt, John Grab (Adam’s dad), and Doug Webb have been doing session work in Los Angeles since the 70’s, and it’s hard to replicate the sound of a horn section that has really grown together and knows how to self-balance. Doug Webb’s sax solos truly blew us away when we were recording, and he had nearly no heads up on the song or the changes. We were really excited to have Mike Maher from Snarky Puppy on “Earthsuit,” and his melodic ear and placement really helped bring the middle section of the song to life. We also owe a lot to our compatriot Julian Nicholson, who not only helped us mix this, but brought his own creative ear to the sound design and balance of the songs. A multi-talented technician. 

Who are some of your biggest influences for the sound of this album? 

Herbie for the sound of this album and really all the music we do. Roger Nichols sense of space and clarity not only with the mixing but also the arrangement and instrumentation itself. It’s hard to top the staying power of P-Funk horn lines, they always fit so perfectly and stick in your head. We always use that as our high-water mark when writing melodies. 

If you could be a support act for any artist who would it be and why?

Probably Drake or Taylor Swift or something, just to see how the audience would react. Sounds like fun. 

Favourite concert you’ve been to?

When we lived in Brooklyn, we managed to see D’Angelo twice in one year, right after Black Messiah came out. Possibly the tightest band ever. It’s a sobering experience when a concert is insanely good yet also slaps you in the face by showing you how much work you have to do. 

Favourite show you’ve played?

We actually own an old short bus that we outfitted with solar panels, which charge batteries and allow us to power a full band set-up anywhere we can set up and park. The idea was to have a mobile busking machine, since when we started we did a lot of busking and have always had a love for it. In 2016 we went on a little DIY tour out to TX during SXSW, and we would use the bus busking to fund our gas and food expenses along the way. One night, we were out in Austin and were set up on the sidewalk, busking from the bus power, when a group of cops started flashing their sirens and pulling up to shut us down (something we had become pretty used to). All of the sudden, seemingly if sent by some birthday-party-guardian-angel, a procession of 10 or so costumed characters marched up and started vigorously dancing to our music. Sonic the Hedgehog, Ninja Turtles, Sponge Bob, Super Mario, Bugs Bunny – the whole gang was there. Fairly certain Sponge Bob even did the worm, a difficult feat with that boxy frame. Not only was this hilarious, but it did buy us another 10 minutes of playing time, as the cops seemed unwilling to break up this dance party of cultural heroes. Don’t think that will be topped for awhile. 

What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again? 

We’ll have to get back to you when we do!

Introducing: REAVE

Reave are the new synth-pop trio you need on your radar. With influences ranging from some of the contemporary greats to classic artists, they hone in their sound with familiarity whilst simultaneously being immediately captivating. Made up of Brandon Darby, Rory Ward & Enya Philips, based in Manchester and London, together they join to make the type of music that just makes you want to get up and boogie as soon as it comes on, whilst concurrently being heartbreaking at their core. Backed by glistening beats and swaying synths, lead singer Enya’s dreamy vocals wash through and shine out of every mix, evoking similar stylings to that of Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser. They released “One More Night” back in January, the band’s fifth single and are already planning for what’s next. We spoke to the band to get the lowdown on what they’re all about.

What drew each you to music and how did you get into it?

Brandon – I grew up in a very music loving family, my parents had been going to gigs all their lives and were also into the early 90s house/rave scene, going to the hacienda etc. So I think that has had probably brought me towards music. Apart from that it’s just a type of creating that attracted me.

Rory – I listened to the Smiths a lot when I was younger and I was fascinated by the melodies of Johnny Marr, since then I had to learn every Smiths song.

Enya – I grew up in a very musical family, I watched all my siblings perform and make music growing up. They taught me everything I know and I’ve got them to thank for being able to do anything music related. My parents were in a band together and threw us into pretty much every musical class when we were younger! So I think the familiarity drew me into it, it’s all I’ve ever known and is kind of a safe space for me. 

How did the band form?

It started out as a project to create synth music and we eventually saw the potential of having a female vocalist over the music. Once we met Enya and we tried a few ideas, REAVE was formed.

How would you describe your sound?

We try invoke a certain danceable and evocative energy into our music and nostalgic sounds, if that’s even possible. Electric but soft and moody. A Concoction of multiple influences but rooted in the synth-pop music and soundtracks of the 1980’s (without being too cliche 80’s) but with quirky and modern sounding lyrics/vocals. Make of that what you will, haha.

What’s the creative process behind a song?

When we’ve developed an instrumental, Enya has a go at the melody and lyrics from the feelings/vibe she gets from the track. When we’ve decided on something, the vocals are recorded and anything else that fits the track with the new vocal (like new guitar parts) are added before mixing. We spend a lot of time perfecting the sounds but the idea for the track can come really quickly and after that it’s sort of a blur how each song comes to fruition.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

Enya – There are way too many to list but to name a few: Tame impala, Euthrymics, Grimes, Talking Heads, Happy Monday, The human league, New order, Yazoo, Modern talking, GL, Sylvan Esso, Methyl ethyl, Porches, Harvey Causon, Robyn, Jack Garratt, James Blake, Franc Moody, Duo Mundi 

Rory – The Smiths, Gorillaz, Pixies

Brandon – Its ever changing and there’s always new ones im picking up on but to name a few: Bowie, Beach House, Cocteau Twins, Depeche Mode, Johnny Jewel, Vangelis, Julee Cruise, Pure X, Michel Berger, Sharon Van Etten, Pink Floyd, Future Islands, Austra, Brian Wilson, Arthur Russell, P. Cowley, John Maus, Moroder, MBV, Ride, Erik Satie, Tamaryn, Wire, Black Marble etc. Mostly dark, melancholic music with gothic undertones 

If you could be support act for any artists who would it be and why?

Brandon – Beach House would be insane because I feel like the vibes could compliment each other nicely, even though we are different. The lights and effects at their gigs are so cool too, would love to play while being engulfed in blue mist.

Rory – MGMT because it’ll be a good show.

Enya – Tame impala because they are such an inspiration. Almost wouldn’t feel worthy to support them hahaha.

Favourite concert you’ve been to?

Brandon – Hard to choose one – my top three are Beach House, John Maus & Tamaryn

Rory – The Cure

Enya – James Blake but Jack Garratt / Franc moody are a close second.

Favourite show you’ve played?

We unfortunately haven’t had the privilege yet, although individually we have all played live as solo or with bands before.

What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again?

Well it’ll be our first gig as REAVE so it’ll be a great experience we reckon.

Any future musical plans after the new single?

Release more singles, an album & play shows eventually. We can’t wait to get together and have a jam in person.

Where would you like to be in a years time musically?

Brandon – Be in the middle of nowhere in a studio recording new tracks

Rory – I would like to own a grand piano!

Enya – Playing and making music together!! In the flesh!!  

If people want to find out more about you where should they go? 

Check out or Instagram, Spotify or give us a search on google.. 

Introducing: Maeve Aickin

Too often does music become oversaturated with huge levels of production and plastic sounding instrumentation that the core element of a song becomes lost. Maeve Aickin does everything but that. With just a guitar, piano and some vocals Aickin has graciously crafted a collection personal stories of trying to gain control over change as she became alienated from her body following a diagnosis of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrom. The result is her intimately rich debut album Waiting Rooms, released via Corkscrew Records yesterday. Written between 2018 – 2020 and recorded at the start of lockdown with a bunch of borrowed equipment, Aickin has created an album that is both influenced and fresh. With a sound that reminds of the early Angel Olsen Strange Cacti/ Halfway Home era, it’s a duality of hazy and vibrant movements. Sparkling and distant guitars glide around the soundscape as Aickin sings with both passion and restrain, letting out just enough for you to hear the deep emotions buried beneath. We spoke to Maeve ahead of the release of her debut album to learn a bit more about the Minneapolis based singer, and what she’s all about.

What drew you to music and how did you get into it?

The way that songwriters are able to tell stories in multiple dimensions is probably what first drew me into music. I loved country as a kid, and Bonnie Raitt was (and is) one of my favorite performers. “Too Long at the Fair” is a forever song for me; those first couple of lines, “Jesus Christ, wept and died / I guess he went off to heaven” are indelible in my mind. That melancholy yet simultaneously comforting story is told through pristine lyricism coupled with such precise instrumentation and production. At the end of the day, I just love storytelling, so I think it makes sense that “Illinois” by Sufjan Stevens is what got me into more independent music. I heard “Chicago” for the first time in sixth grade and I felt like I was listening to something I had never quite heard before. I saved up to buy the album on iTunes, and the rendering of those quintessential American stories in full color, intimated with such an exacting brush, forced me to pay attention to everything. For the first time I was researching individual lyrics and poring over artist interviews to try to find significance within every syllable. And of course, sometimes you just write a line because it’s a good rhyme. But that wasp in “Palisades” was a symbol I obsessed over for years. I wouldn’t be surprised if I wrote a dissertation about that song.

What’s the creative process behind a song?

I don’t think that I’ve ever written a guitar part or melody before writing lyrics. I have great respect for folks who are able to do that, but it’s just not how my brain works yet. Usually I accumulate phrases and through the serendipity of tracing experiences together they start to become songs. Sometimes it’s sort of a sneeze that I write in one go then refine and sharpen once I’ve had some time away from the experience; that’s what happened with “Harriet” and “Elsewhere.” With “Temple,” it took me a much longer time to figure out what those words meant to me, to position myself within the ethos of the song. The first verse was a joke that I wrote after finishing my Psych homework. Most of the song was nonsense for a while, just hung lopsidedly around the chorus idea, which I stole from my middle school journal, and then I passed this place of worship that was literally dug out of the ground in the middle of a field. The image was so resonant for me in a sort of ineffable way. I realize that part of songwriting is self-mythologizing, and projecting yourself onto your surroundings. That temple does not mean anything in and of itself, but in the song, it means what I externalize onto it and then present as a given through narration. Even as I recorded “Temple” for the album I knew that it was true to my experiences but I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. And then, a couple weeks after finishing tracking, I was diagnosed with OCD. It was sort of a funny and reassuring moment because I thought “oh, that’s what the song is about!”

Your songs tend to focus on a more simplistic sound, just vocals and guitar/ piano. Is there any particular reason for this?

The boring but true answer is that those are what I had access to. My family moved countries near the beginning of the pandemic, so I didn’t have access to my acoustic guitar or any kind of percussion. Since I wrote most of the songs on an electric guitar it made sense to record them on that instrument, but I definitely think there is space within Waiting Rooms to expand. Someday I hope to have access to a synth and mess around with its capabilities, and on the second LP I definitely want a more spacious sound. But for this project, I hope that the writing is strong enough to transcend the simplicity of the instrumentation. It might not be, and that’s okay, but at the very least it’s a good capsule of where I was at while writing and recording it.

Who are some of your biggest influences?

Aaron Weiss, Lianne La Havas, Pianos Become the Teeth, and Adrianne Lenker are big influences in terms of songwriting. I remember listening to Big Thief for the first time and hearing “Real Love.” I thought, like, “I didn’t know that you could say that!” Lenker is just so crushingly honest in her writing. It’s brutal, but comforting at the same time to hear someone giving voice to the thoughts that consume you. Phoebe Bridgers does something similar where she articulates these incredibly dark, impressionistic thoughts and then is able to joke about them. There are a bunch of really dumb jokes with myself on the record, and even if I’m the only one who ends up enjoying them, I like lightening the heaviness of the subject matter with humor. Anjimile is another artist who I’ve become obsessed with in the last year. They have such a singular voice as a writer, and their skill with the guitar is virtuosic; they can articulate these deep and urgent ideas just across the fretboard.

You said you wanted to start playing music after you saw Julien Baker live, what does this moment mean to you?

I worry that I talk about this moment too much, but it really is the reason why I taught myself guitar. Seeing someone so full of conviction, someone with such magnitude and poise launch her voice out to us transformed me. She gave such a generous and graceful performance. And to witness her do this while wearing a rainbow flag guitar strap, maybe it’s cheesy, but I saw myself. I felt boundless. I thought, “I could do that too.” Maybe not as well, maybe not to the same effect, but I could try. My loftiest aspiration is to write something that makes someone else feel the way that “Rejoice” makes me feel.

If you could be a support act for any artists who would it be and why?

Maybe Moses Sumney just so that I could watch him perform. His recent Afropunk gig was so captivating and thoughtful. He obviously writes stunning music, but his understanding of performance as a discipline, his creativity and ingenuity, it blows my mind. I guess in that respect it would be terrifying to open for him because I can’t do anything close to what he accomplishes as a performer. I’d also selfishly love to open for Soul Glo; I’ve been blasting their new EP all weekend and want to see it played live so bad. I’m realizing this is less a list of artists I want to open for and more a list of artists I want to see in concert.

Favourite concert you’ve been to?

I saw Charly Bliss at 7th Street Entry when they were on the Young Enough tour and it went so hard. Eva Hendricks is a riveting, lightning in a bottle performer. Boiling it down to just her energy might be minimizing the amount of work she puts into performing live, but I felt like there was nowhere in the world she wanted to be more than on that stage singing with us.

Favourite show you’ve played?

I had a dream that I was a member of boygenius, so that completely imagined concert probably takes the cake.

What will it be like playing that first show once shows are allowed again?

I think just being around other people who love the same thing I do will be wild. While I have a deep appreciation for artists who are putting on virtual shows, the energy of being in a room, whether you’re playing or watching, where everyone just loves music is preternatural. It feels kind of like the best church services; everyone is on the same page and they just want to celebrate a common love. 

Any future musical plans?

I’m writing the second LP right now. I have no idea when it will be done or when it will be recorded or even how it will be recorded, but I’m stoked because this is the first time I am consciously writing a record. In its infancy, Waiting Rooms was just songs I was writing because I didn’t know what else to do with that weight. Eventually I became aware of the reoccurring themes and started writing with the intent of creating a body of work, but I’m taking the opposite approach with this project. It’s kind of forest instead of trees. I know what the overarching concept is, and now I’m starting to home in on sub-ideas within that concept and trying to define my relationships to them. This is much more immediate, but I also have a virtual gig on November 29th through an organization called High Plateau Productions, and I’m launching a music blog in January.

Where would you like to be in a year’s time?

I graduate high school this year, so I’m hoping to go to college next year. I really don’t know what I want to be doing otherwise; hopefully playing shows, organizing, reading. However trite it may be, I take a pretty one-day-at-a-time approach to my life. It’s that Eliot line that I realize has been quoted to death, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” While I think for Prufrock it’s a reflection of his discontentment, his neuroses, for me it’s a positive thing. Predictability is an unsung quality.

If people want to find out more about you, where should they go? 

My music is on Bandcamp, Spotify, and Apple Music. You can find me @maeveaickin on Twitter and Instagram. Links to my music and gigs can all be found there.