It has been a long wait and they are now reduced in numbers to a 3-piece, but the second Jouis album, “Mind Bahn”is finally here and it is great. In order to celebrate its release, we here republish and interview made in December 2015 with Louis Pavlo about the first Jouis album.
The article was written by Michael Björn and originally published in Japanese music magazine Strange Days #196, pages 80-83, March 2016. (Yes, it was a long struggle to get it published, but it got there in the end!)
Copyright © Michael Björn 2016
With debut album ‘Dojo’, Brighton 5-piece Jouis delivered one of the most outstanding progressive rock albums of 2014. Recorded directly to tape in the band’s own dojo – an abandoned office block converted to studio – the sound is uniquely organic and relaxed despite an abundance of complex time signatures and spaced out lyrics. The music combines poppy jazz tones from Canterbury with harmonised Crosby, Stills & Nash vocals into a remarkably groovy whole. This is one of those rare prog rock albums that makes you want to dance the night away. Jouis is French for enjoyment and their music is certainly something to enjoy.
In order to find out more about Jouis, we got in touch with Louis Pavlo who is vocalist and keyboardist with the band.
Your new album ‘Dojo’ is fantastic, one of the best of 2014!
Louis: Thank you so much, that’s amazing.
How did the album come about?
Louis: We always wanted to record an album, but we were never able to find the space for the right money. It is so expensive in England to record. But we chanced upon an abandoned office block in June of 2013. It is great, because we’ve got so much space and we were able to basically set up our own studio there.
Are you renting or squatting? A squat studio, ha ha!
Louis: It is as close as you can get to squatting I suppose. We live there on the grounds that we would stop other people from coming in that aren’t allowed to be there; it’s called a guardian scheme. And we pay a small licence fee.
You recorded the album live to tape in the studio.
Louis: We had a room that we wanted to be the main live room. Our friend and producer Rhys Andrews helped us sound proof it all and helped us get all the good gear and stuff in, which was very handy. We basically have this MCI 70s 24 track tape machine, really nice.
We then essentially spent about a week and a half tracking, and then we spent about another week doing vocals, therearelots of harmonies on there. Then we took the tape to Miloco’s The Engine Room in London and mixed it with Phil Brown for three days, which was amazing.
How much was Phil Brown involved in the making of the album?
Louis: We got in touch with Phil through Rhys actually. Phil came around and really liked the vibe; he kept popping back once every three or four weeks and seeing how we were doing on setting it up, giving us little bits of advice, lots of little techniques that he has used over the years. He came round and helped us calibrate the tape machine and things like that. Made sure we were using the right stuff in the right place.
There’s a lot of vibe on this album.
Louis: Thank you! Yes, that’s something we always try to get down into the recording, because we are all about playing live really and getting into the vibe, getting into the “pocket”as we sometimes say.
Many bands now focus on making analogue and live sounding music, bands like Magic Bus, Syd Arthur, Schnauser…
Louis: Absolutely, yeah. We’ve played with Syd Arthur many times over the years actually, and they’ve helped us out a lot in Canterbury. There’s a great scene there and they are sort of our portal into the progressive world, I suppose.
There is also a Canterbury connection in your sound.
Louis: The bands we play with there have this sort of mastery of music. So, although we didn’t necessarily listen to much of the old Canterbury scene, we sort of played with other bands locally in Canterbury and absorbed their vibes.
One difference is how you sing – harmonies a bit like Crosby, Stills & Nash. Why?
Louis: By the time we were finishing off the album we were all just completely writing it together. We are all songwriters in our own rights, really. And I think that in itself meant that we didn’t really feel that we had a need for a lead singer.
Lets talk about the songs. The album starts with ‘All That Is And Is One’ and it sets the groove that is then maintained throughout.
Louis: It took us a long time to get it to that groovy sort of place, because of the time signatures…it throws me anyway! Ha ha!
Conceptually, side A is about the sun and side B is all about the moon.
The song title is a hippie sort of title and if you look through the titles they are all sort of wide-eyed.
Louis: We have a lot of friends that are definitely hippies, and hippies come to our gigs and absolutely love it. But also, we maintain a professional view on things. Lyrically, we are all about philosophy and questioning things – and science is a big influence in it. So although we may seem like hippies, we are not really of the old hippie sort.
‘L∞p’ – with its quite funny pun using the infinity mark for the two ‘o’s – is a bit scientific I suppose.
Louis:‘L∞p’is one of the oldest songs of the record. It feels almost frantic – but then there is the loop aspect of it. I really like playing and singing that song.
‘Hyperception’ seems to be about always being on the road, going somewhere without getting there.
Louis: It definitely started from that. It was one of those days when we were not really happy with consumerism, capitalism and stuff like that. We had one too many joints in the car, and came up with some lyrics like “mass production hypes perception”– so we are having a massive go at the current state of things.
‘New Moon’ combines space travel and mind travel somehow.
Louis: Yeah, absolutely! It is probably my favourite song on the album. It’s got a really nice vibe to it. We started visualising all the satellites and all the rubbish going around the earth, and saw this metal moon, the new moon that is made of all that rubbish.
Then there is‘Misty Maker Stomp’, which also has a great video.
Louis: The song is originally about the Maker Festival in Cornwall. We played there a few years ago and band member Joe Woodham wrote the lyrics for that song just sort of in the morning on Sunday looking down from the hill. It’s a really special place with great vibes.
The guys who did the video, Lucky Bozu (George Johnson and Tommy Norm), made their own interpretation. So the video is about the Misty Maker Mountain, sneezing out a really evil mist that is killing all the village people, and the two main characters go on a journey to fix the mountain.
On the album’s final track you take on a big perspective. A really big perspective.
Louis: Yeah, ha ha! We put on our ‘Universe Goggles’and travel through space and time and look back on the journey we’ve just taken. And then look forward to the next.
That’s not pretentious at all, is it?
Louis: Absolutely, massively! Very dangerous, ha ha! I suppose we get very much into it, we do love it. That song was an amalgamation of different riffs that we had. It became 10 minutes long, and we thought: “Wicked, let’s write some ridiculous lyrics!!”I really like the song, it was one of the last ones we wrote, and it is great fun live.
What happens next?
Louis: We want to start playing new songs live for the next tour really. We want to move quickly. Because we’ve got the studio, we feel like we can’t wait around forever because of the nature of the guardian scheme; so we need to take advantage of that and get as much music done as we can. At the moment we are doing it all ourselves, unsigned, and we want to maintain that level of control. To do that, we need to keep the momentum up.