Joey Joesph — “Rock & Roll Music”
Americana Highways is hosting this premiere of Joey Joesph’s song “Rock & Roll Music,” from his forthcoming release Do You Bongo?, due to be available on August 19th.
“Rock & Roll Music” was written, performed, recorded, and mixed by Joey Joesph at The Eyebrow Palace in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was mastered by Adam Boose at Cauliflower Audio (http://www.caulifloweraudio.com). The album cover photos are courtesy of Devyn Glista (http://www.stblancstudios.com) with the artwork and layout by Joey.
We had the opportunity to chat with Joey Joesph. The song appears just beneath the interview.
Americana Highways: What’s the background behind this song?
Joey Joesph: I was raised in a relatively conservative Christian environment that really played up the perils of “secular” music. The adults in my life told me at a very early age that there was a real possibility I could be possessed by a demon if I listened to any music that fell outside “Christian” genres. As I got older and realized these same adults actually liked the Eagles and Bee Gees, etc, I started to wonder if all this fear mongering was actually more about control than genuine concern.
When I started finding rock and roll and punk music that I identified with and was excited by, I found that I was connecting with something huge and cosmic and sacred-feeling. I started seeing that the people who talked the most about being “set free” were living lives that seemed the most driven by fear and shame. God, as I was coming to understand it, was much bigger and weirder and more interesting than I was led to believe as a child.
Rock & Roll Music is me kind of processing my experiences with this, and also learning more about the origins of rock and roll, and the racist, moral panics that its faced throughout history. — Joey Joesph
AH: This song has a lot of nostalgia in it without ever relying on it too heavily. How did you strike that balance?
JJ: Thanks a lot, I’m glad it comes across that way. Generally, for me, the point of looking at the past is to move forward in life more effectively, with more knowledge and experience. So, when I’m thinking about some unpleasantness from my childhood, it’s usually with the purpose of trying to figure out how it made me who I am now, for better or worse, and to hopefully help me kind of process, and break down any unhelpful, or unhealthy things that have been ingrained over time.
In songwriting I’ve always tried to avoid sitting too long in negativity lyrically, and Do You Bongo? is definitely the angriest album I’ve made, so I felt like I had to stretch myself a little bit to get some negativity or cynicism out without just being a downer. I wanted the songs to feel like, okay I’m mad about these things, but here’s where I can go with that. I hope that comes across too.
AH: You’ve said that you were raised on religious music. I was too, and now feel this kind of heavy spiritual connection to music. Would you say that history of having limited access to rock and roll makes it feel that much more special?
JJ: Oh cool, it’s always nice to meet someone with some shared history! Yeah, I think you’re totally right. I was also discovering music right around the time of Kazaa and Limewire, and we had just gotten our first computer with a CD burner. So I think a lot of my experience with that was mostly hearing songs in skateboarding videos, and then watching the credits to figure out what they were. Then finding stuff online and burning myself CDs to listen to between classes at school, or to air drum along to in my bedroom haha. I remember watching the Zero video, Misled Youth, and that being the first time I heard Queen, The Doors, The Who, Modest Mouse, The Rolling Stones, all kinds of stuff… It was a really exciting time to not just have everything as accessible as it is now – to kind of have to do some digging. It was very exciting and rewarding, for sure.
AH: What was the writing and recording process like for “Rock & Roll Music?” Did the arrangement change, or did you have a pretty clear vision from the start?
JJ: At the time I was listening a lot to John Cale’s Vintage Violence album, and I remember thinking, “man, I really want to try to write a song like this.” I sat at my piano and started banging something out with that in mind – I found the main chord progression, structure and melody pretty quickly, but as I went I started worrying that I had really missed the mark I was originally aiming for. It had started feeling more like a Little Richard tune or something, and I was like, “oh well that’s super cool too” haha. Then, thinking more about early rock and roll, the lyrics started coming pretty quickly, and I was really excited to find out that I actually had something I wanted to say, that I hadn’t really articulated in a song before. As I saw it all come together it became one of my favorite songs on the record. It was one of those that I wrote and recorded at the same time. There was no demoing for that one. It’s really fun when that happens.
AH: What do you hope listeners take away from this song?
JJ: I think it would be cool if it helped someone challenge any beliefs that were put on them, and encouraged them to ask questions and figure out what they really believe for themselves. Not even specifically with religion, but in my case, in relation to this song it was scary to start confronting the ideas that were presented to me my whole childhood into early adulthood. I’m really grateful to be at a point where I feel like I know mostly who I am, and to also be able to realize that everyone is on their own journey, and making sense of things the best way they can, and should be treated with respect and kindness. And that, ultimately, everyone wants to be seen, and understood, and loved.
It also would be great if it just made someone feel good and want to dance, or whatever.
AH: When can we expect more music?
JJ: This album, Do You Bongo? comes out August 19 on my label, Eyebrow Palace. It’ll be streaming everywhere, and there are some cool physical things you can get through my bandcamp page. That pre-order is up now.
I also just finished a new collaboration record with my friend, Jake Borgemenke, who’s a really great songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and self-recordist. That should be coming out in February with a cool label in Cincinnati called Lo Fi City. And then I have a double album pretty much done that should be out Fall 2023 that I’m super excited about! Always something new in the works. Following me on bandcamp is a really great way to keep up with everything I’m doing. That’s: www.joey-joesph.bandcamp.com Thanks so much!
This is a wonderful throwback rock & roll song, with the kind of shakin’ groove that’s truly timeless. Kudos to Joey Joesph on capturing the essence of early rock & roll.