There’s not a clear way to describe Joan of Arc.
In the late 90’s they were a pop band singing personal songs about not being a pop band. In the early 2000’s they were an experimental band who wrote concept albums mirroring Pink Floyd, Guy Debord, and Truffaut. In the late 2000’s they were dancey, somewhere in between they stripped down, releasing records about divorce, and death.
They’ve scored a film, released an improvisational guitar duets album, changed lineups, broke up, and regrouped. They’ve shared members with Califone, Love of Everything, Aloha, Owen, Ghosts and Vodka. In 2010, the “dust bowl lineup” is their smallest yet.
Editor’s note: Joan of Arc, which has a new 7″ titled Meaningful Work out now on Polyvinyl Records, will be in Fayetteville this Thursday, Nov. 4 at Dickson Theater. Also playing are locals Perpetual Werewolf and The Counterlife, who are releasing a new CD soon.
Roger Barrett: Did the Cap’n Jazz reunion shows affect the way you operate JOA?
Tim Kinsella: It didn’t really affect the way JOA operates, but it did enable JOA to operate at all. That was largely the point for the Cap’n’ Jazz shows from my perspective. JOA isn’t exactly a cash-cow and everyone knows how hard it is to summon the energy and will to tap into one’s creativity when you’re beat from work. So Cap’n Jazz afforded me the time to devote to JOA and we hired some other JOA folks as the Cap’n Jazz crew. So those shows were largely benefit shows for JOA to be able to exist at all for the next year or so. Beyond that we’ll see. We have a year to get a song in a car commercial.
RB: JOA is now a trio? How’s this going? How do you decide what old songs to rework?
TK: We’re actually a foursome now after writing most of the new record as a trio and playing shows last year as a trio. It’s really interesting to me to be the only guitarist. As many different line-ups as we’ve ever had that’s never been the case before. So I’m suddenly much more in control of when I always for years would say ‘too dense, needs more space,’ about every song that came together. And I’m a decent guitarist in certain regards, but the dudes I’ve played with over the years are real shredders, so I’m not a very confident guitarist at all. I’ve always felt pokey and stilted by comparison, but we’ve often placed a lot of emphasis on some elements of trickiness in our playing. I like having the ratio of technique’s influence within my control as technique as an ends in itself doesn’t interest me at all. I think of this new record as a pen drawing on white paper compared to like the digital psychedelia computer paintings of The Gap or the soaked paper water colors of Eventually all at Once. This is very much line drawings, black and white. Old songs it’s the same as always whether there’s 3 of us or 7. We look at the track-lists on records, make big lists, re learn things, try things, throw a lot out.
RB: How has your approach to the band changed as you’ve gotten older?
TK: I don’t know if it’s changed so much as refined. The experience of inspiration itself feels like one continuous experience to me from Cap’n Jazz starting at 15 til JOA now at 36. Of course the motivation and effective discipline to express this inspiration wanes at times depending on circumstances, maybe for a year at a time even and now I understand that’s nothing to worry about. Maybe one big difference has been realizing the importance of down time between JOA activity and how much that nourishes each of us.
RB: Does it ever feel like a job?
TK: Sure. A year at a time it feels like the best job ever. And I still bartend at times and I taught a Freshman English class at the Art Institute for a year, so JOA may not be the job that I can always live off of, but it’s my real job. I’m sure it’s over 40 hours of work in any week and it’s hardly a living wage and there’s no benefits and it’s humiliating at times to be a grown man living out some teenager’s idea of cool and other people don’t really understand. And it’s hard a lot of the time. It’s exhausting to hate yourself every afternoon that you don’t come up with some way of surprising yourself, which means accessing some new experience of the world and man, I don’t care how good you are, that’s what songwriting requires and it is hard to do it every day. And I’m not particularly one to wait for motivation. I don’t know if I’d notice it if it crept up on me. We start working as a group and see where things go or I sit by myself and see where things lead, and motivation comes from the process itself, but it doesn’t start the process each day, discipline does. I’m working on it by around 9 a.m. every day and still working on it well into the night and I can’t take a day off, leisure makes me anxious. So yeah, it’s the job I was born to do and I’m the luckiest ever to have always known what that is.
RB: What non musical art has influenced you the most?
TK: I don’t know. I can’t distinguish very well between what is or isn’t art.
RB: What are you reading right now?
TK: The last couple weeks I haven’t been reading at all because I was writing a lot and I’m always very aware and cautious of what I’m taking in when something I’m working on is in a delicate formative phase. Don’t want to disrupt or upset the balance of a thing emerging on its own as it should. Before that, August I guess, I was liking some Raymond Chandler stories I’d never thought about much before. I liked this novel The Possibility of An Island by Michel Houellebecq and I liked Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and I guess those books are pretty similar actually. I don’t keep up with new fiction too well. Not really interested in doing so, I guess. I really got fixated on these Gary Lutz stories last year. Non-fiction, Derrick Jensen’s Endgame and Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine are both terrifying life-changers. Walter Benjamin is my favorite guy ever now, even though about 85% of it is over my head.
Joan of Arc, The Counterlife, Perpetual Werewolf
Date: Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010
Time: 9 p.m.
Place: Dickson Theater, Fayetteville