When you look back at The Germs and The Dead Kennedys in the 1970s, Black Flag and Agent Orange in the 1980s, or NOFX and Rancid in the 1990s — to name but a few — it is indisputable how important California has been in the evolution of punk music. Growing up in such an environment is understandably going to play a big part in shaping the sort of person you become, and it certainly helped shape Joyce Manor frontman and Torrance native Barry Johnson.
“At a formative age we all got into punk because it was all from California”, says Johnson. “Epitaph, X Games, getting into skateboarding and listening to punk bands at a really young age. Your brain hasn’t stopped developing at that age, so it’s always going to be there. I would have to be running from it to not do something that’s anchored in it.”
Given this fact it’s no surprise that a young Barry Johnson played in a string of punk bands. When he and future Joyce Manor guitarist Chase Knobbe took a trip to Disneyland, the seeds for Joyce Manor were being sown. Joined by drummer Kurt Walcher and bassist Matt Ebert, Johnson wanted to write songs with a greater pop sensibility, citing the likes of The Beach Boys, The Kinks and The Strokes as influences. Yet his punk roots still played in an integral part in the band’s sound, and after a number of releases on indie label Asian Man, the band released latest album Never Hungover Again through Epitaph earlier this year. The album is a collection of perfect pop in the vein of classic Weezer, delivered in short, sharp, two-minute bursts, and leaves the band in an unclear position within an ever-changing punk landscape.
“As far as Warped tour-esque stuff goes, there’s stuff from 1997 that I was really into at the time that has had a big influence on me” reflects Johnson. “But after that I didn’t really have an interest.”
That’s not to say there wasn’t a place for Joyce Manor within a larger and more diverse scene — they’ve formed a kinship with bands like Touché Amoré and Title Fight, and played events like Gainesville’s Fest. While the band have been slowly but surely gaining more and more fans, they saw the ugly side of the punk scene earlier this year. Following an incident at a show where Johnson asked a fan not to stage dive as he was sick of seeing fans getting hurt, he unwittingly provoked a huge backlash from an angry online punk community.
“The internet has a way of creating controversy that doesn’t exist” says Johnson. “After I asked that guy not to stage dive, I didn’t think about it. Then the internet went crazy about it and I got roped into it. It’s completely uninteresting to me — I just got off twitter.”
It’s all a part of the ups and downs of being in a punk band in the 21st century. The online detractors have had very little effect on the band, and while another one of those downsides is a gruelling and somewhat bizarre life on the road, Joyce Manor have been able to put on a string of great shows without the need for people to jump on each others heads.
“I could never do what a lot of bands do and tour for months” says Johnson. “But if I stay at home for too long the idea of touring sounds really fun, and it is really fun!”.
Check out the band’s official website. Never Hungover Again is out now through Epitaph.