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JOY. Talks The Internet, Real Jobs And YOLO Life Choices

Written By Sam Murphy on 06/03/2015

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Last year a then 17 year-old girl took to the triple j studios to perform Like A Version with Peking Duk. It was a notable Like A Version. One, because it was the act that eventually went on to nab two spots in the Hottest 100. But, two, because the voice that howled from the radio was immediately memorable. JOY. was already creating buzz on the internet but the way she curled her airy voice around Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head was masterful. She managed to woo the whole country including Kylie herself who tweeted the link.

JOY. is a great representation of the modern-day teenager. She’s a DIY, self-taught producer and singer who’s got an acute vision of how she wants everything to look and sound like. Despite that drive, her Facebook is filled with “lol’s”, “brb’s” and “tbh’s” making her just as likely to be your best friend as your idol.

In the past week she’s signed a global publishing deal with Universal Music after just three official singles and performed once again with Peking Duk at the A-League Grand Final. This year she’s played Groovin The Moo and Laneway Festival and has played support for the likes of Tkay Maidza and George Maple. It’s fair to say that 2015 is the year we introduce JOY. to the world.

McCarthy called us after a long photo shoot with a friend. On-the-go, she was naturally open, endearingly nonchalant and most importantly clear of what she wanted for her music. We talked being obsessed with the internet, real jobs and generally being chill.

We were most impressed that she decided against doing paramedics at uni to pursue music because, “YOLO.” Drizzy would be proud and in 2015 isn’t that all that really matters?

What were you like before, at school? Were you quite out there or were you shy? Does it feel new to you to be performing in front of people?

I went to a couple of schools. I went to this private girls school and I was kind of like one of the …I just hung in the corner and did my own thing. But then I went to music school and was like over-the-top I guess. I’m pretty outgoing. But, playing live…it depends who you’re playing to I guess. It depends how they’re reacting.

Because you’ve obviously had to play a few gigs now; you did Like A Version with triple j, you’ve supported people and had your own shows. What have been some of your favourite to do so far?

I played Laneway and I had a couple of my friends come on and play as a band, like a drummer and guitarist, so it was super fun. Playing with a band is soo different than playing by yourself. You actually get into it because you’re vibing and you can kind of be an idiot and pull it off. It’s just like less pressure, I guess.

Yeah, I actually wanted to ask about that. Because I’ve read that you’re quite set on doing a lot of the live performance yourself in terms of singing, then doing the keys and stuff like that, what’s your live setup like at the moment?

At the moment, it kind of changes up, but I’ve got my laptop running into my keyboard, and and then I’ve got keys and sometimes like a guitar and a bass and a couple of loop pedals.

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Can you see it expanding in the future with more people on stage?

Yeah, definitely. I already have a band but they have jobs so I can’t be like, “Hey, come play this show.” Who even has jobs? That’s so weird.

You’ve been skipping around the country for the better part of the last few months, supporting people. How does it feel? Does it feel like a whirlwind going from state to state?

It’s super fun. I guess it does feel different but not really because of music school. The transition wasn’t that weird ‘cos I did a lot of that stuff already. I’ve never been to Adelaide and Perth so going there is fun. You see how different people react and that’s pretty cool.

Was there a point where you were thinking, ‘Okay, this is moving from a bedroom hobby” to “actually something I could make a career out of?”

I just got to the end of high school and wanted to go to uni and do paramedics…and I just preferred it and was like, YOLO. Kind of tried to figure out how it could be sustainable but then it started going alright and opportunities were coming up, so I was like, “cool”.

Quote 2 JOYSo how do you go from being trained in classical piano to venturing in this world of electronica?

I do a lot of compositions with piano and just record them myself, and I was like, “All these people are doing electronic stuff so I’m going to try and do that”. And I just sat in my room and tried to figure out how they made sounds. And then mixed the two. I play a lot of the stuff live or on MIDI and then put it into the track and make the beat around it. I think I just got bored of playing Beethoven all the time and so I just did that instead.

Were there any artists you were listening to which made you head in that direction?

Not really. I think I was just hearing it a lot on the radio and I’d played in a couple of bands and had never done electronic stuff, so I was like, let’s try this. I don’t think there was a specific person I was listening to, I think there were a whole load of people I was vibing off. And just being obsessed with the internet or spending all my time looking up stuff instead of studying.

Your music taste seems to be quite eclectic. I’ve read everything from Enya to Drake. Is there anyone in particular that you really think defines your sound the best? Or do you like switching between a number of things?

Yeah, I don’t know. My iTunes library is pretty mixed, vibe-wise. I try to get inspiration from all types of stuff. There’s elements of each genre I admire or different artists that I like and I try to combine them. But I wouldn’t say I just listen to one person and try to channel them. I think I was brought up on Enya so that’s where the ethereal vibes came from and then, Drake, I just like his beats. So I kind of mix them.

So you’ve worked with Young Franco and quite a few other Australian producers. Are there any you’ve been working with at the moment? What have been your favourite sessions?

I’ve been doing lots of stuff with The Kite String Tangle and Peking Duk. A lot of bedroom producers that I’ve been friends with for a while, like really talented. I do a lot of collabs on the internet. People send me stuff and I’ll produce it or sing on it. It’s all so different so I like doing all of it.

Have you always been a singer? Or did that come from after learning the piano?

It came after. I played the piano for a lot of years and then I’d accompany friends that were singers. Then I’d just learn how to do backing vocals. If I was making a composition, if I was putting it on the internet or if it was for an assignment, I’d just sing on it because it was convenient. And then I ended up running with it.

Where are you writing most of your music at the moment? Are you still doing it mostly in the bedroom or do you have a studio set up?

I’m kind of on the road a lot so it’s pretty much wherever I can find headphones or speakers. I do a lot of it on planes, like make the beats, and then go to the studio and record vocals. My studio’s just my laptop and my headphones, I don’t really have a setup. I have a lot of friends who have studios so I hit them up if I need to record something.

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Lame question, I know, but how did you settle on the name JOY.?

It’s my middle name and I didn’t want to put it out on my real name because it’s not very cool. I was putting out stuff under Olivia but I wanted to start again because it was really lo-fi, weird stuff. I thought this name could be cool if it ended up turning into a group or if I end up singing solo it kind of works. And then it’s kind of completely contradictory to the stuff I write about.

Yeah, exactly. And it also makes for great headlines, like one I recently read. I think it was Sydney Morning Herald: “Joy to the world as Kylie Minogue tweets praise”.

Yeah, there’s so many puns and you can make fun of yourself.

So I wanted to ask a bit about your release strategy, in terms of songs you’ve chosen to put out. In terms of your original material, you’ve gone ahead and just put out one every month. Do you have to hold yourself back from releasing everything you’ve written all at once?

Yeah, it’s really annoying because I’ll make a new track in a night or a week or whatever and will want to put it out as a single. But you can’t! You kind of have to schedule everything to the time that is right. So you can’t really put out everything. But it is scheduled so I want to do a new single soon. I want to put out a proper EP but it depends on when everything is happening and when I can sit down and do it.

Have you got an album in your sights?

Probably. I’m a chill person but as a musician I’m a perfectionist so it’s going to take me a long time so if I’m producing it myself I’m gonna spend way too much time doing it. So maybe in a year or…seven.

Is that the good thing about releasing single tracks? Is that you can kind of work on it and perfect it and put it out without having to focus on a lot at the same time?

I guess so. I probably have an album of material at the moment but I have to just sit and listen and think which one would would work best with the next single. I do everything so last minute so I kind of need a deadline and someone to pick what I should put out and then I’ll finish it.

I love so much how you’ve used some of those brassy sounds in some of your songs, particularly in the Drake cover, it’s really awesome. How did you figure out that that kind of thing worked for your music?

The saxophone? I don’t even know! Wow, I’d never even thought about that. I think I was probably just playing around with MIDI saxophones on my laptop and I was like, “this could be cool”. I got bored playing solo so I thought, what can I bring on that’s totally random? And I think I was just listening George Michael and went to cover the song and was like, maybe saxophone will work on this song and just got my friend Pat in to pretty much improvise the whole thing and then we just recorded it live and I put it in the track and people vibed on it. And I was like, “cool”.

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Cool. So it sounds like you don’t overthink your songs too much in terms of being like, “I want it to sound like this” and “I don’t want it to sound like this person”?

Yeah I guess in post-production I’m kind of like, “I don’t want this”. You can do that. I think I just miss jamming with other people so you just vibe when you have other musicians with you and you kind of just roll with it and it usually works out. You can direct it but it’s not super controlling.

Do you find it weird reading back on blogs and websites and how they pick apart your songs and pull out the different influences that they think went into it?

Not really, I’m like, that kinda make sense. I feel like I should be listening to these people that I sound like! But it’s kinda cool getting other people’s spins on what they’re hearing. You know what they think is interesting and you can use it again, or like what doesn’t work. It’s cool to get feedback on that.

I know you have, like I have, grown up with social media and the internet. But does it still surprise you how quickly a song can spread when you put it online?

Yeah it’s super insane. I’d never really put anything up on the internet and I put up the first single and, it was a school night, and I put it up in the middle of rehearsal, and I was just sitting on my phone, and I was like, “It had 10,000 plays and it’s been not even five hours”. I nearly shat myself. It was so weird. I was like, “woah”. The internet’s the biggest thing at the moment with music. You have such a massive audience on the web.

I feel like, years ago, it was this massive thing that you could make a band off Myspace. And now it’s hard to imagine even creating a band by not starting on the internet.

Yeah!

It’s a crazy world and the amount of stuff you scroll through every day, it’s obviously a massive honour for you to have people listening to your stuff over everything else, and people picking it up and raving about it. It must feel good?

Yeah, it’s awesome!

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Last year a then 17 year-old girl took to the triple j studios to perform Like A Version with Peking Duk. It was a notable Like A Version. One, because it was the act that eventually went on to nab two spots in the Hottest 100. But, two, because the voice that howled from the radio was immediately memorable. JOY. was already creating buzz on the internet but the way she curled her airy voice around Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head was masterful. She managed to woo the whole country including Kylie herself who tweeted the link.

JOY. is a great representation of the modern-day teenager. She’s a DIY, self-taught producer and singer who’s got an acute vision of how she wants everything to look and sound like. Despite that drive, her Facebook is filled with “lol’s”, “brb’s” and “tbh’s” making her just as likely to be your best friend as your idol.

In the past week she’s signed a global publishing deal with Universal Music after just three official singles and performed once again with Peking Duk at the A-League Grand Final. This year she’s played Groovin The Moo and Laneway Festival and has played support for the likes of Tkay Maidza and George Maple. It’s fair to say that 2015 is the year we introduce JOY. to the world.

McCarthy called us after a long photo shoot with a friend. On-the-go, she was naturally open, endearingly nonchalant and most importantly clear of what she wanted for her music. We talked being obsessed with the internet, real jobs and generally being chill.

We were most impressed that she decided against doing paramedics at uni to pursue music because, “YOLO.” Drizzy would be proud and in 2015 isn’t that all that really matters?

What were you like before, at school? Were you quite out there or were you shy? Does it feel new to you to be performing in front of people?

I went to a couple of schools. I went to this private girls school and I was kind of like one of the …I just hung in the corner and did my own thing. But then I went to music school and was like over-the-top I guess. I’m pretty outgoing. But, playing live…it depends who you’re playing to I guess. It depends how they’re reacting.

Because you’ve obviously had to play a few gigs now; you did Like A Version with triple j, you’ve supported people and had your own shows. What have been some of your favourite to do so far?

I played Laneway and I had a couple of my friends come on and play as a band, like a drummer and guitarist, so it was super fun. Playing with a band is soo different than playing by yourself. You actually get into it because you’re vibing and you can kind of be an idiot and pull it off. It’s just like less pressure, I guess.

Yeah, I actually wanted to ask about that. Because I’ve read that you’re quite set on doing a lot of the live performance yourself in terms of singing, then doing the keys and stuff like that, what’s your live setup like at the moment?

At the moment, it kind of changes up, but I’ve got my laptop running into my keyboard, and and then I’ve got keys and sometimes like a guitar and a bass and a couple of loop pedals.

Quote 1 JOY

Can you see it expanding in the future with more people on stage?

Yeah, definitely. I already have a band but they have jobs so I can’t be like, “Hey, come play this show.” Who even has jobs? That’s so weird.

You’ve been skipping around the country for the better part of the last few months, supporting people. How does it feel? Does it feel like a whirlwind going from state to state?

It’s super fun. I guess it does feel different but not really because of music school. The transition wasn’t that weird ‘cos I did a lot of that stuff already. I’ve never been to Adelaide and Perth so going there is fun. You see how different people react and that’s pretty cool.

Was there a point where you were thinking, ‘Okay, this is moving from a bedroom hobby” to “actually something I could make a career out of?”

I just got to the end of high school and wanted to go to uni and do paramedics…and I just preferred it and was like, YOLO. Kind of tried to figure out how it could be sustainable but then it started going alright and opportunities were coming up, so I was like, “cool”.

Quote 2 JOYSo how do you go from being trained in classical piano to venturing in this world of electronica?

I do a lot of compositions with piano and just record them myself, and I was like, “All these people are doing electronic stuff so I’m going to try and do that”. And I just sat in my room and tried to figure out how they made sounds. And then mixed the two. I play a lot of the stuff live or on MIDI and then put it into the track and make the beat around it. I think I just got bored of playing Beethoven all the time and so I just did that instead.

Were there any artists you were listening to which made you head in that direction?

Not really. I think I was just hearing it a lot on the radio and I’d played in a couple of bands and had never done electronic stuff, so I was like, let’s try this. I don’t think there was a specific person I was listening to, I think there were a whole load of people I was vibing off. And just being obsessed with the internet or spending all my time looking up stuff instead of studying.

Your music taste seems to be quite eclectic. I’ve read everything from Enya to Drake. Is there anyone in particular that you really think defines your sound the best? Or do you like switching between a number of things?

Yeah, I don’t know. My iTunes library is pretty mixed, vibe-wise. I try to get inspiration from all types of stuff. There’s elements of each genre I admire or different artists that I like and I try to combine them. But I wouldn’t say I just listen to one person and try to channel them. I think I was brought up on Enya so that’s where the ethereal vibes came from and then, Drake, I just like his beats. So I kind of mix them.

So you’ve worked with Young Franco and quite a few other Australian producers. Are there any you’ve been working with at the moment? What have been your favourite sessions?

I’ve been doing lots of stuff with The Kite String Tangle and Peking Duk. A lot of bedroom producers that I’ve been friends with for a while, like really talented. I do a lot of collabs on the internet. People send me stuff and I’ll produce it or sing on it. It’s all so different so I like doing all of it.

Have you always been a singer? Or did that come from after learning the piano?

It came after. I played the piano for a lot of years and then I’d accompany friends that were singers. Then I’d just learn how to do backing vocals. If I was making a composition, if I was putting it on the internet or if it was for an assignment, I’d just sing on it because it was convenient. And then I ended up running with it.

Where are you writing most of your music at the moment? Are you still doing it mostly in the bedroom or do you have a studio set up?

I’m kind of on the road a lot so it’s pretty much wherever I can find headphones or speakers. I do a lot of it on planes, like make the beats, and then go to the studio and record vocals. My studio’s just my laptop and my headphones, I don’t really have a setup. I have a lot of friends who have studios so I hit them up if I need to record something.

Lame question, I know, but how did you settle on the name JOY.?

It’s my middle name and I didn’t want to put it out on my real name because it’s not very cool. I was putting out stuff under Olivia but I wanted to start again because it was really lo-fi, weird stuff. I thought this name could be cool if it ended up turning into a group or if I end up singing solo it kind of works. And then it’s kind of completely contradictory to the stuff I write about.

Yeah, exactly. And it also makes for great headlines, like one I recently read. I think it was Sydney Morning Herald: “Joy to the world as Kylie Minogue tweets praise”.

Yeah, there’s so many puns and you can make fun of yourself.

So I wanted to ask a bit about your release strategy, in terms of songs you’ve chosen to put out. In terms of your original material, you’ve gone ahead and just put out one every month. Do you have to hold yourself back from releasing everything you’ve written all at once?

Yeah, it’s really annoying because I’ll make a new track in a night or a week or whatever and will want to put it out as a single. But you can’t! You kind of have to schedule everything to the time that is right. So you can’t really put out everything. But it is scheduled so I want to do a new single soon. I want to put out a proper EP but it depends on when everything is happening and when I can sit down and do it.

Have you got an album in your sights?

Probably. I’m a chill person but as a musician I’m a perfectionist so it’s going to take me a long time so if I’m producing it myself I’m gonna spend way too much time doing it. So maybe in a year or…seven.

Is that the good thing about releasing single tracks? Is that you can kind of work on it and perfect it and put it out without having to focus on a lot at the same time?

I guess so. I probably have an album of material at the moment but I have to just sit and listen and think which one would would work best with the next single. I do everything so last minute so I kind of need a deadline and someone to pick what I should put out and then I’ll finish it.

I love so much how you’ve used some of those brassy sounds in some of your songs, particularly in the Drake cover, it’s really awesome. How did you figure out that that kind of thing worked for your music?

The saxophone? I don’t even know! Wow, I’d never even thought about that. I think I was probably just playing around with MIDI saxophones on my laptop and I was like, “this could be cool”. I got bored playing solo so I thought, what can I bring on that’s totally random? And I think I was just listening George Michael and went to cover the song and was like, maybe saxophone will work on this song and just got my friend Pat in to pretty much improvise the whole thing and then we just recorded it live and I put it in the track and people vibed on it. And I was like, “cool”.

Cool. So it sounds like you don’t overthink your songs too much in terms of being like, “I want it to sound like this” and “I don’t want it to sound like this person”?

Yeah I guess in post-production I’m kind of like, “I don’t want this”. You can do that. I think I just miss jamming with other people so you just vibe when you have other musicians with you and you kind of just roll with it and it usually works out. You can direct it but it’s not super controlling.

Do you find it weird reading back on blogs and websites and how they pick apart your songs and pull out the different influences that they think went into it?

Not really, I’m like, that kinda make sense. I feel like I should be listening to these people that I sound like! But it’s kinda cool getting other people’s spins on what they’re hearing. You know what they think is interesting and you can use it again, or like what doesn’t work. It’s cool to get feedback on that.

I know you have, like I have, grown up with social media and the internet. But does it still surprise you how quickly a song can spread when you put it online?

Yeah it’s super insane. I’d never really put anything up on the internet and I put up the first single and, it was a school night, and I put it up in the middle of rehearsal, and I was just sitting on my phone, and I was like, “It had 10,000 plays and it’s been not even five hours”. I nearly shat myself. It was so weird. I was like, “woah”. The internet’s the biggest thing at the moment with music. You have such a massive audience on the web.

I feel like, years ago, it was this massive thing that you could make a band off Myspace. And now it’s hard to imagine even creating a band by not starting on the internet.

Yeah!

It’s a crazy world and the amount of stuff you scroll through every day, it’s obviously a massive honour for you to have people listening to your stuff over everything else, and people picking it up and raving about it. It must feel good?

Yeah, it’s awesome!

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