:: Junior Boys :: Hi-Dive :: May 1 ::
By Marisa Beahm
Many budding musicians dream of stardom before they even strike their first chord. A desire to act out the rock star cliché in front of screaming fans is their impetus to enter the music scene. But, this is a far cry from what inspired the experimental electronic-pop duo Junior Boys to produce their music.
Their impetus was much simpler: they wanted to create forward-thinking, boundary-pushing music; touring and stardom were merely afterthoughts. In fact, it wasn’t until after they finished their first album, Last Exit, that they realized they would have to go on tour.
“I do enjoy [touring], but I’d much prefer recording and writing music than performing,” said Matt Didemus, one half of Junior Boys, in a recent interview with The Marquee. “When we first started the band and started recording, we didn’t intend on performing it live. We did it for the sake of making an album. Then we realized that, ‘oh, we are going to have to play shows.’”
Even though touring initially took them by surprise, the Junior Boys are back on the road once again to promote their latest album This Is Goodbye; and this time, they’re primed for it.
On the first tour, the band, from Hamilton, Ontario, faced the challenge of making a technologically-driven act interesting for audiences. In the past, they used visual presentations to complement the music, but for the new tour, they decided to add a live drummer, Dave Foster, to the mix. The live percussion will add an energetic dynamic to the show, which already includes Jeremy Greenspan on guitar and vocals, along with Didemus, who plays synthesizer and does what he calls “laptop stuff.” Even with a rigorous tour schedule, their priority is still on crafting their musical creations, not the glitz and glamour of the stage.
Their unostentatious nature is reflected in other aspects of the band, such as the how they chose their name. Junior Boys was discovered in a high school yearbook, where it was used to describe activities, like junior boys football. This title struck the musicians as silly, since it had a boy band connotation, which is the converse of their group.
“Naming a band is a difficult thing. You can end up sounding pretentious really easily. [Junior Boys] sounded vaguely boy-bandish, so we took it,” Didemus said.
Junior Boys was formed in 1999 by Greenspan and another friend, Johnny Dark. After Dark left to pursue other interests, Didemus, who already helped the group record and produce their songs, joined the band. The current members of the group have known each other since the ninth grade, where they grew up listening to electronic and dance music. While Junior Boys is sometimes compared to experimental groups like Depeche Mode, they are able to draw from these influences without mirroring them.
“We get compared to early 1980s stuff. I don’t really think we are like a retro band,” Didemus said. “We don’t wish we were making music in the 1980s. What was good then, was people were using these new technologies, but still densely rooted in pop framework.”
Junior Boys use inventive sounds to push musical boundaries, but they make sure their final products are not too obtuse, so they have a wider appeal, or are “something your mom can get into too,” according to Didemus. Junior Boys can make even the novice electronic listener gain appreciation for synthesizers and computer-generated beats. Many of their songs follow a loose formula: they begin with rudimentary rhythms, which are gradually layered with inventive beats, instruments and Greenspan’s soothing vocals, which results in an emotive collaboration of sound.
As the title, This Is Goodbye suggests, their newest album’s songs shed light on feelings of nostalgia during times of transition, both emotional and physical. The lyrics ruminate over topics like tourist towns and the fear of being forgotten. To tie the record together both thematically and lyrically, they covered “When No One Cares” by Frank Sinatra, which mimics the melancholic feel of the rest of the album.
“We both liked that relaxed quality of the singing, the crooner music,” Didemus said. “There is this weird connection between crooner music and electronic music. They have these weird sort of 1950s/1940s sound to their singers. We wanted in some ways to make that connection ever stronger.”
Pulling Sinatra into the realm of electronic music exemplifies the boundless approach that Junior Boys takes to their songwriting. By focusing on musicality rather than pyrotechnics at their shows, Junior Boys’ serious commitment to innovation is clear. This is enough for them to keep gaining new fans and keep them touring for a long time to come.
:: Junior Boys ::
:: Hi-Dive :: May 1 ::
Spectate if you Gravitate:
• TV on the Radio
• Mr. Fingers
• LCD Soundsystems