When most people think of American cities with great music scenes, they think of Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Nashville, Austin, Seattle– generally larger cities or cities that have, over the years, fashioned a popular and thriving music culture. Yet, it’s hard to believe that in most areas of the country, there isn’t a good local music scene nearby that people are proud of. Having myself lived in Wisconsin for the past decade, I can say that the local music in Milwaukee and Madison, and even other less populated parts of the state, is very active and vibrant. There’s much more happening musically than what gets discussed or written about on a national scale.
With that said, I wonder where Orlando, Florida, falls on the list of top music cities? Top 25? Top 50? I feel from the lists I’ve seen, they don’t usually go on long enough to include Orlando. However, not surprisingly, there’s more going on there than Disney World and Matchbox 20.
Day Joy is an indie rock band from Orlando, Florida. They craft beautifully layered and lush dream-folk rock songs. Banjos, ukeleles, guitars, synthesizers, steady percussion, and soft, arching vocals come together to create Day Joy’s unique sound. Now a “five, sometimes six” piece band, Day Joy initially formed through friends, Michael Serrin and Peter Perceval. The two met in college, began writing music together and playing shows. Over the years, songs have been worked and reworked and now, their debut album, Go to Sleep, Mess, will be released February 12th on Small Plates Records. Shortly after the release, they will be hitting the road for an East Coast tour with other select stops in the Midwest. You can find those dates here.
I recently caught up with one of Day Joy’s founding members, Peter, and asked about Day Joy’s sound, hopes for 2013, and, of course, what’s going on in Florida.
Orlando isn’t a place that’s readily known for their indie music, however, I’m sure there’s more going on there than the rest of the country is aware. What’s the music scene like?
The scene here, in my opinion, is probably the best in Florida— however, that isn’t saying much. The problem is that it’s fleeting and people are constantly giving up on it and moving on. I believe a large part of this is because of the urban sprawl of Orlando. Downtown/Midtown, where all of the art and culture is, is about 20 minutes or more from the university which is the 3rd largest in the country. And I think it’s a demographic that we lose a lot of because they don’t want to drive or get drunk downtown and have to drive back just for a local band. It’s 45 minutes from Disney and a lot of other areas… It’s a really big city that is really spread out and inconvenient.
With that being said though, there are a lot of believers and lifers in the scene that won’t give up on it and there are some amazing bands and music coming out of here. Our friends Saskatchewan, and Road Kill Ghost Choir are doing big things right now and getting their music out there, and, of course, there’s Levek and Hundred Waters who are from Central Florida as well. There’s a number of really amazing local bands– it would take me some time to name– so I will just leave it at that. I personally believe that of all the scenes Ive been involved in, or had contact with– there is more quality music happening here. It’s just that no one gives Florida a chance… Floridians don’t even give Florida a chance. [laughs]
Do you have a favorite place to play in Orlando?
There are a lot of great places but I would say we feel most comfortable playing at Will’s Pub. It is on 1042 N. Mills Ave. and it’s sort of our neighborhood bar and we just always have a good time there. And it’s within walking distance from the house so it’s a win win.
Did you ever feel you had to move to a more high-profile music city to get Day Joy off the ground? Is that something you guys are still considering or is Orlando always going to be the home base?
We are actually going through this conversation right now as a band. We have spent quite a few nights with some drinks and lengthy conversations arguing the pros and cons of that decision. I’m pretty sure that three of us are going to be moving to NYC and Michael is going to stay here for a little bit because he is being stubborn and lives with his girlfriend and can’t just bail on that right now. He also is sort of complacent here for the time being; he doesn’t want more whereas the rest of us just want to get out of Orlando and want to feel the energy of a place like NYC and just have tons of culture and people around doing things. We want to enjoy that struggle up there.
It’s not so much a move for the band or getting the music off the ground but more for ourselves and our own peace of mind. The boys have all lived in Orlando their entire lives— I am from Pensacola and moved down here. I personally am just ready for a change. I want to experience the seasons and the rush of the city… I’ve been to NYC tons of times and have a lot of friends up there. There has sort of been a mass exodus from Orlando to Brooklyn in the past year or so, so we already have a network and connections established there. I’m 27 years old and I don’t plan on being in Orlando when I’m 30. So I am definitely going to be somewhere else. I do love it here though; it is a lot better than people give it credit, being that it always falling under certain stereotypes and such.
When listening to Go to Sleep, Mess, one of the first things I noticed was how polished and complete the songs are, which isn’t always the case with debut LPs. How long have you been working on the material? What sort of studio time did you put in to complete the album?
Well, Michael and I had been writing the songs on and off for like three years or so… so they are all actually really old. We have probably four different versions of each song from the makeshift recordings we would do over the years. There are also a lot of other songs that didn’t make it on the album that we have as well. Perhaps we will release them one day in the future as B-sides or something. As far as studio time there was actually no studio time because we recorded them all in my living room. [laughs] We spent a good amount of time in the studio mixing but as far as the recording process and initial mixes we did it with just an SM5, some Condensor mics and an Mbox. It was all really basic stuff; we were sort of learning as we went along.
Did you always set out for a lush and layered sound or did that develop over time?
I think that just developed through our recording process. Everything was really basic like we would record or write the songs with just an acoustic or banjo on the porch. Then when we went to put them down, we would just sort of layer them and soak them in reverb and Michael would do countless vocal takes and layers to flesh out the songs. Really, we just would have these one or two riffs that I had come up with on guitar and we would have to figure out where to go from there. That’s why a lot of our songs on this album have a really simple AB or chorus-verse-chorus type of structure, which is something that will definitely be changing on the next album, and has changed in the songs we have already written for it.
I’ve seen the video for the single “Go to Sleep, Mess” (below) directed by Michael Lawrence. It’s rather intense and dark, but with that said, very fitting for the song. Did you relay any input towards the making of the video?
Yea, we did. I grew up in the dawning of the age of the music video and I was always really taken by narrative videos that had a story to them and it wasn’t just a band playing in front of a camera— I think that shit is cheesy. I remember being a kid and wanting to make music videos and seeing Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” and how that changed my life and just stuck with me and I always wanted the opportunity to do something like that myself. Michael and I basically had the concepts for about three videos already planned out. We initially went with another director and he wasn’t able to really capture the narrative and intensity and darkness that we wanted. I loved the work that I had seen Michael Lawrence do on his video for Levek’s “Black Mold Grow,” so I shot him an email and he really dug the song and had some ideas brewing in his head. We basically took an evening and conference called between the three of us and discussed all of our ideas and how we could achieve it. And Michael just did a really brilliant job. Alex Amoling also co-directed the film and he is actually the main actor in the video and he did an incredible performance in my opinion. We are really happy with the video; we just wish it could be seen by more people. I feel like, as a piece of art, it deserves that.
So what’s the story behind the “five sometimes six piece” band makeup? Who’s the reluctant part-timer?
Well we have just played a lot of shows where we will throw on an extra member. For instance our album release show is coming up and we are going to be adding a 6th member for that, a girl by the name of Erica Quitzow, who is an amazing musician and celloist. We will have that extra element for that show. Typically, Travis and I split up the cello lines between our guitars and improvise to sort of achieve the sound we have on the record. We’ve had our friend, Dominick, play trumpet and our friend, Mikey of Isle, do some auxiliary stuff. If there’s someone who wants to play we toss them in there and see how it goes.
After the February 12th album release, you have about a month-long tour in place, mostly up the East Coast. Would this be your lengthiest tour to date? Are there any places you’re really looking forward to playing, on this tour or a future one?
Yea, we are going on tour for a little over a month— this will be our longest tour to date. We had to replace our drummer with our friend, Dave Plakon, who is the owner and manager of North Avenue Studios and also happens to be the bassist for Saskatchewan. So we are really excited to go on tour with him. We love playing NYC and getting to see all of our friends there. I think we are all really excited to play Chicago for the first time and, of course, whatever shows we get in Austin will be great. We were going to play Boston, which I was really looking forward to, but we are hopping on another show in NYC instead. I’m also really stoked to go to Philly because I have never been there.
What’s on the map for Day Joy the rest of 2013? More touring this spring/summer? World domination?
Well hopefully it will turn out to be a busy year. Hopefully, so busy we don’t even have time to think about moving out of Orlando because we are constantly on the road. That would be ideal. Three of us our finishing up our lease on our house as soon as we come back from tour, so we won’t have any serious financial obligations for a window of time. We’re hoping to be able to take that opportunity to just travel and tour all over the country. We REALLLLLY want to make it over to the West Coast and tour the shit out of it. That would be awesome and then hopefully Europe. If all of that could happen this year I would be content and feel like I have accomplished something. If it doesn’t, I will probably just give up and off myself. [laughs]
Well we all certainly hope for the best then. Thank you for your time Peter and best of luck to Day Joy this year!