Joyce Manor, Saves The Day

Joyce Manor was conceived in the back of a car in the Disneyland parking lot—the kind of beginning California dreams are really made of. It was the fall of 2008 over a bottle of cheap booze when co-founders Barry Johnson (guitar, vocals) and Chase Knobbe (guitar) decided to team up. They formed a power violence band where everyone would have Johnny Thunders-style glam-names … like "Joyce Manor" named after an apartment complex Barry walked past every day. But when longtime friend Andrew Jackson Jihad suddenly asked Barry if his old band wanted to open for their LA show, he scrambled to say yes.

"I was like, 'We have a new band!' 'What's it called?' And the first thing I thought of was … 'Uh, Joyce Manor!' We didn't even have a band. But they put it on the flyer."

So Joyce Manor made their debut as an acoustic two-piece, with Chase and Barry quickly learned that they were really a pop-punk band trapped inside a folk-punk duo—too many songs just demanded bass and drums. "Playing loud is just more fun," explains Barry.

By the end of 2009, they'd made a new friend in new drummer Kurt Walcher and welcomed old friend Matt Ebert back from Portland to play bass. ("He moved back like, 'Dude, wanna start a band?'" says Barry. "And I said, 'Wanna be in THIS band?'") With their line-up settled, they attacked their songs with new enthusiasm and neurotic precision, discovering their own kind of beauty in simplicity and pursuing heartbroken punk perfection.

Their first self-titled album in 2011 exploded out of nowhere and their second in 2012 landed them on the storied Asian Man Records, home of all of Barry's first favorite bands. Across these two albums, they discovered what Joyce Manor really sounded like—the speed and sense of melody of fellow South Bay band the Descendents, the artfully bittersweet lyricism of Jawbreaker and the undeniable heart-on-sleeve honesty of the first two Weezer albums. By the close of 2013, they had the experience, the discipline and the inspiration to make one of those rare albums that redefines a young band—Never Hungover Again, on Epitaph Records.

Some of these songs, they'd been working on for years, says Barry. Joyce Manor never demos. They just mercilessly rehearse, chopping and editing and reworking songs until there's nothing left that lags. ("I just know when it's right," says Barry) Guitarist Chase had graduated to a co-writing position with Barry, pouring new ideas and techniques into the songs, and while their first two albums were learn-as-you-go experiences, they started Never Hungover Again with a vision, a budget and two whole weeks to make exactly what they wanted. (That's a long time in Joyce Manor world.) Friend and Philly producer Joe Reinhardt took the controls in Hollywood's analog dreamland the Lair. They assigned the final mix to Tony Hoffer—the guy who found the definitive sound Supergrass, Belle and Sebastian, M83 and Phoenix.

Together, they made an album of pop-punk in paradox, right down to the title and photo on the cover. It's something like believing the impossible, says Barry, or at least the too good to be true: "Those people look wasted—yeah, there will definitely be a hangover! There will be pain!'" (Referring to the cover art). It is ten precisely put-together songs about how things fall apart, with some of the saddest lyrics you'd ever shout along to from the front row.

There are broken homes, drunken nights, faltering relationships and the kind of numbness that makes you want to feel anything at all, even if it hurts. Naturally, there are some Morrissey-esque moments in there—like "In the Army Now" about watching friends grow out of music and move on. Or in "End of the Summer," which somehow puts a Big Star-style intro in front of Moz-ian vocals and a chorus that's pure blue-album Weezer. "Heart Tattoo" is a pop-punk stormer (think Lifetime or Dillinger Four) about what really happens when you get a tattoo—"What about the regret?" asks Barry. And "Catalina Fight Song" is maybe Hungover's definitive song, about hanging out on the cliffs that overlook the Pacific—what locals call the end of the world—and thinking "What the fuck am I gonna do?"

If there's a feeling to Never Hungover Again, says Barry, it's a feeling he can't quite pin down—some complex thing that's part anger and part sadness. It's the loneliness when you're surrounded by people and that lostness when everything you've wanted seems to be right in front of you. And if there's a single moment that defines Never Hungover Again, it's the way "The Jerk" ends with feedback and a chord ringing over Barry's last shout of "It all goes wrong!"—because despite the confusion and sorrow and resignation, it somehow sounds so right.

Saves The Day

Life has its share of ups and downs and no one knows that better than Saves The Day frontman Chris Conley. For the past seventeen years Conley has been bearing his soul and reinventing his musical identity with each successive step, a process that is clearly culminating with Saves The Day's seventh full-length Daybreak. The third part of a trilogy that also includes 2006's Sound The Alarm and 2007's Under The Boards, the act's latest disc sees Conley moving past the anger and frustration that has defined the band's last two albums and rediscovering a sense of wonder with the world that he can't wait to share with his listeners.

Daybreak is also the first Saves The Day album to feature guitarist Arun Bali, bassist Rodrigo Palma and drummer Spencer Peterson (the latter of whom was replaced by Claudio Rivera shortly after the album was completed) and Conley insists that his band's participation and encouragement was integral to the final product. "This album wouldn't have been as good as it is now if we had put it out two years ago and I think the reason for that is because there's a renewed energy in the band with this new line-up," Conley explains, adding that many of these songs were initially recorded in 2009 with the band's previous line-up but never felt right to him. "I feel like I have a united group for the first time ever and that feels like a gift."

That transformed spirit is evident in every note of Daybreak (which was co-produced by the band and longtime collaborator Marc Hudson) from the ten-minute long, five-movement self-titled opener to instantly infectious pop gems like "Let It Go" and "Living Without Love." That said, Daybreak also sees the band stretching out musically on the middle-eastern-inflected "Chameleon" and incorporating full-fledged guitar solos on "Deranged & Desperate." "This album is so much more musical [then the past two albums] because my heart was coming back to life while I was writing this and I was starting to be okay with myself," Conley explains. "In a way I was in the same mindset that I was in when I wrote [2003's major-label debut] In Reverie. I felt like I was on cloud nine."

Conley's positive outlook took a dejected turn shortly after In Reverie's touring cycle ended, due to both external and internal pressures—and the making of this trilogy is as much an artistic statement as it is a chronicle of Conley's own cathartic journey from the depths of his own insecurity into accepting himself and the world for what they are. "I was so angry when I wrote Sound The Alarm and then I was looking back on all these situations with Under The Boards," Conley explains, adding that a major turning point in his outlook was catalyzed by the recent birth of his daughter. "I didn't want her to face the world the way I faced the world which was fighting, kicking and screaming so I decided I was going to bring myself back to life with this album."

This therapeutic journey is evident on every song on Daybreak, mostly literally on tracks like "1984," which starts with the Under The Boards-esque statement "I'm dead inside and dying every day," but quickly resolves into "I need your love/I'm trying to rise above/I need you to bring me back to life," during the song's chorus. "I recognize what happened to me and now that I lived through it I can look back on it which is why I think the music breathes more on this album," he explains. "The songs feel more expansive because there wasn't the anger or confusion that dominated the first two albums in the trilogy," he continues. "Daybreak feels like a huge sigh of relief to me."

Conley is also quick to point out that despite its serious subject matter and introspective nature, he actually had a good time making Daybreak. "Trying to tie all of those strange themes and currents and raw emotions from Sound The Alarm and Under The Boards was an absolute a blast," he says. "I had a huge chart where I listed all of the lyrics I had compiled for this album as well as the past two and I was drawing lines from one song to another; writing Daybreak was like trying to finish a screen play because I had to take all of these themes that just flowed out of me and through organizing this thoughts I was also able to make sense of my life."

The word Conley says most while describing Daybreak is "acceptance"—and whether you've followed his music since Saves The Day's hardcore-inflected '90s output or are a recent convert to the band, you'll still be able to enjoy the album as a singular statement on what it means to let go. "This feels like I've wrapped up a chapter in my life and now I'm faced with a new beginning," Conley says. "I can honestly say that I couldn't be more excited about the future of this band."

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