Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Chicago's Joan of Arc is never reliant on the status quo. In the course of their history, the band's recorded output has elicited not only critical praise through challenging the norms of traditional songwriting, but also significant backlash from reviewers who became increasingly confused by the band's eclectic output. Following an eight year stint with Delaware's Jade Tree Records, Joan of Arc made the jump to a new label and a new beginning with Polyvinyl late spring 2004.

Joan of Arc's genesis can be traced to the days of Cap'n Jazz. Cap'n Jazz was founded by brothers Tim Kinsella (vocals) and Mike Kinsella (drums), bassist Sam Zurick, and guitarist Victor Villareal while they were still in junior high or high school. In the band's last year, guitarist Davey von Bohlen joined. Although Cap'n Jazz's history was short-lived, they built a strong local following in the Chicago area and released two 7"s, several split 7"s, numerous compilation tracks, and a full-length.

Following Cap'n Jazz's July 1995 break-up, Tim Kinsella began writing experimental, abstract songs with keyboardist/guitarist Jeremy Boyle. Additionally, Tim and Sam Zurick were both learning new instruments (guitar and drums respectively) in a separate band with bassist Erik Bocek (a high school friend who had also doubled as Cap'n Jazz's roadie). Their songs paid homage to bands like The Modern Lovers and Slant 6. After some discussion, and with the addition of Mike Kinsella, the two groups became one.

Shortly after the first show, Joan of Arc recorded 1996's Method & Sentiment EP on Jade Tree. The Busy Bus, Sunny Sun EP on Southern was the band's second release and appeared in 1997. Both were 7"s. Several months after the Southern 7", the band's debut full-length, A Portable Model Of, was released on Jade Tree June 1997. The album painted post folk and post rock on top of impressionistic aural canvases. The calm instrumentation, odd sounds, and effects on the album established a template the band would continually re-examine and re-invent on successive albums. With the appearances of Azita Youssefi (Scissor Girls, Bride of No No, Azita), Ryan Rapsys (Euphone, Heroic Doses), and Davey von Bohlen (The Promise Ring, Maritime), the album established the Joan of Arc precedent of using outside collaborators to assist in fleshing out the core group's songwriting.

1998's How Memory Works LP was more realized and complete than A Portable Model Of. The album creatively displayed electronics and composition alongside bits of analog synth noise and short sound vignettes within a rock framework. By the time the album was released, Sam and Erik quit the band and were replaced by Todd Mattei (Friend/Enemy, L'Altra). The album showcased the band's ability to deconstruct and reinterpret traditional rock in addition to classical madrigals and various forms of classical structure.

Although Joan of Arc wanted to distance themselves musically from Cap'n Jazz, the past inevitably caught up to them in 1998 when Jade Tree released a 2-disc Cap'n Jazz anthology. The discography was unintentionally revisionist. What had been a group of teenage friends playing in a punk band was now being touted by zine culture as a band who had galvanized a genre. Suddenly Cap'n Jazz had "dominated the Chicago indie scene of the early nineties" and were "a band who helped transform emo from a deeply underground punk subgenre into a more widely accepted subset of indie rock." Not only were such statements false (their following had been highly regional and by no means dominant, their overall influence was most likely being distorted by the success of Davey von Bohlen's band, The Promise Ring), but Joan of Arc was now tagged with a genre buzzword that didn't fit.

Joan of Arc's reaction to the increased visibility was to become more minimalist. With 1999's Live in Chicago, 1999, the band pared themselves to a three-piece with Jeremy Boyle, Tim Kinsella, and Todd Mattei handling the songwriting reins. Contributors included Kevin J. Frank (Gauge, Radio Flyer), Mike Kinsella (American Football, Owen), Jen Wood (Jen Wood, The Postal Service), and others. The album also marked the first time the band would heavily use the studio as an instrument. Engineers Casey Rice and Elliot Dicks were invaluable in creating the sparse, warm soundscapes on the album. The album delighted hardcore Joan of Arc fans, confused critics expectations of the band, and began to cultivate the "love 'em or hate 'em" debates that began to surround the band. The record just sounded different. One of the reasons was that on the first two Joan of Arc albums, Casey recorded the rock tracks and Dicks handled the experimental songs. On Live in Chicago, 1999, the equation was reversed.

The line-up that appeared on 1999's Live in Chicago, 1999 appeared again, albeit expanded, with 2000's The Gap. The continuous decision to deconstruct and reconstruct song structures and the increased emphasis on the "studio as instrument" philosophy combined with the expanded line-up, ended up being too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen. While fans could appreciate what the band was trying to accomplish with the studio experiments (some songs used 100 tracks), the critics threw their hands in the air. The band was earning a reputation as being highly eccentric and fucking around for fuck's sake.

In 2001, Tim returned to the studio to record vocals and guitar for a solo EP on Troubleman Unlimited. Later that year, he and Mike Kinsella teamed up with Sam Zurick and Victor Villareal and formed Owls. Despite attempts to keep the band together, Owls ended up releasing only one album. Another band Tim was involved with was Friend/Enemy. The ambitious collaboration among Chicago musicians included members of Joan of Arc, 90 Day Men, Hella, Califone, Heroic Doses , Need New Body, Ghosts and Vodka, Bride of No No, and many others. The collective concentrated on improvising accompaniment to loose song structures. It was the second time in as many years that Tim Kinsella had been reunited with founding Joan of Arc member Sam Zurick.

Spring 2004 found Joan of Arc touring with their side bands the Love of Everything and Make Believe. The tour included a stop through Champaign, IL at Nargile. The show started late and it was the night of Daylight Savings, Joan of Arc didn't finish their set until 4:00 AM. At the end of the show, Joan of Arc handed five-song demos to the Polyvinyl members who had been in attendance.

The new songs were drastically different, more composed, more refined. Joan of Arc, the band that had been creatively reinventing themselves album after album, had not only reinvented themselves but discovered a cohesive vision toward the future. The new songs were a band coming into their own. Following the tour, Joan of Arc returned to Chicago and Polyvinyl contacted them. The rest, they say, is history.

August 2004 saw the nationwide release of Joan of Arc's Polyvinyl debut, Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain.... The album marked the debut of new Joan of Arc member Cale Parks (Aloha) on vibraphone and percussion and also featured members of Town And Country, Love of Everything, Make Believe, Owen, and Pit er Pat.

After 10 years as a band, momentum can surely change and Joan of Arc and Kinsella worked through this change with the release of 2008's Boo Human. A collective effort, Boo Human found Joan of Arc in studio with one-week of recording time and a sign-up sheet for contributions from 14 musicians. These musicians, with past work that has included collaborations with Wilco, Iron & Wine, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Beth Orton and Prefuse 73, recognized the chaotic energy of a diversified recording atmosphere. Boo Human is frenetic and tense, yet entirely cohesive.

On June 9, 2009 Joan of Arc released their latest effort, Flowers. Recorded over the course of a year in four different sessions with four different line-ups, the album holds true to Joan of Arc's penchant for the unexpected.

Twin Steps

Photo by: photo by Loren Risker

sometimes i wake up with hands in my pockets still sleepwalking till i find somewhere to vomit..

Our Brother the Native

Our Brother The Native are three young American guys (two of them aged 16, one 18) who have been working together as a unit since 2005, and whom FatCat stumbled upon towards the end of 2005. Having checked out a link to their site on, and instantly liking what we heard, we got in touch with the band and the debut they were currently writing just fell into our laps.

John-Michael Foss was born in Michigan September 16th 1986. He started playing piano at 7 years old, guitar at 11, and percussion / drums a year later when he joined the school band. Throughout high school John Michael played in various bands with friends, experiencing many different styles of music. He is currently a music / percussion major at the University of Michigan, Flint, with a wide variety of musical influences ranging from classical to folk to jazz to grindcore.

Joshua Bertram was born in Michigan, February 8th, 1989 and started playing guitar in 6th grade. In 2004 he bought a banjo and has been playing it non-stop ever since. In his first year of high school he experienced a "life-changing revelation" when he was introduced to noise music through a couple of friends. They fed him CDs, and inspiration through the noise unit they played in – jamming in a basement and using circuit-bent instruments. After seeing them put on a show, he knew he wanted to make music that was different, "became a music nerd" and from then on continually sought out new experimental music that would excite and inspire him.

Chaz Knapp was born in Moreno Valley, California, May 27th 1988, picking up guitar when he was 9 years old. By 11, he was playing in blues clubs throughout Riverside, MI. Attending blues jams every Thursday night (at the Mission Tobacco Lounge - a 21 and over joint), he played with many 40 - 50 year old musicians. At 14, he joined the Riverside Community College guitar ensemble, playing, learning and even teaching classical guitar. A year later, a job at the Public Library saw a friend take him under his wing, introducing him to stacks of new music – freak-folk, hip hop, cumbia, noise, electronica, and much more. His ears newly opened, Chaz began experimenting with this new music, and with other instruments like piano, drums, and trumpet. Recording a few releases of his own bands, he started his own record label called Delude, releasing different bands / music from around the US.

In his sophomore year, Josh met John Michael, who was then a senior. Realizing that they had similar musical tastes, they quickly became great friends, went to a lot of shows and listened to music non-stop together, eventually starting to play together. Not much happened until the following summer, when they finally got some equipment. John Michael started making some beats on a drum machine, and Josh picked up his banjo and they started to jam, and that was the start of Our Brother The Native. Excited about what was happening, they started to make some rough recordings on an old 4-track machine.

Eventually, the pair started recording on a computer with editing capabilities, and got themselves a Myspace site through which to share their work. A friend in Holly, who ran his own D.I.Y label, heard a couple songs, and suggested releasing something, which gave the duo confidence. Weeks later they found another cool D.I.Y label in California (Chaz's Delude Records), which they really liked. Josh and John Michael hinted that they'd love to do a release; Chaz jumped at it and put out an EP ('Cheer Up My Dear, The Sun Will Shine Again', 2005) and he and Josh quickly became friends, overcoming the geographical distance via frequent phone conversations. A solo release from Josh followed (the more stripped down / minimal, banjo-based 'Pappa Bones and The Creature Children of The Forrest' - released as JSP). Having by then become great friends, Chaz and Josh began working together (under the name Moses Grandy), but felt they were missing something in the percussion department. So John and Josh decided to just have Chaz join Our Brother the Native.

With Chaz still living in California, and John and Josh living in Michigan, their recording to date has taken place with tracks being slowly built up, sent between each other via e-mail for additions. Things would thus grow and gain shape piece by piece.

Josh and John Michael would begin by using acoustic and electric guitar for the basis of most songs, usually recorded straight into the computer through a Boss SP-303 sampler with built in-effects. They also use a Kaos pad, a loop station, and a couple of circuit-bent toys that they run through effects and destroy. They also search out samples of interesting sounds they can find around the house, as well as AM radio signals / static - mic-ing up the radio and running the noise through effects. The album is also noticeable for the vocals of Josh's mum (a music teacher), who came in and sang at the end. For his parts, Chaz uses guitar, keyboard, vocals, accordian, and sometimes percussion elements like shakers, a snare and a cymbal, and also a circuit-bent Furby.
'Tooth And Claw' is the band's debut album, and will be released on FatCat in Summer 2006.

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