ALBUM: The Just Joans – ‘The Private Memoirs And Confessions Of The Just Joans’

January is no-one’s favourite month: you’re skint, you’re cold and you’re pretty sure you’re over the hill. Fortunately, Glasgow’s own The Just Joans feel much the same, and this January brings their fourth album: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of The Just Joans.  The title alludes both to James Hogg’s gothic novel The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (a depiction of Calvinist Christian fanaticism, published in 1824), but also the memories, however vague, of songwriter David Pope, and his increasing awareness of “the onset of middle-aged ennui”.

Thematically, the latter pretty much sums up the theme album’s opener ‘Hey Ho, Let’s Not Go’ with David sounding perfectly justified in wanting to just watch Match of the Day whilst fellow vocalist, his sister Katie, reminds the album’s narrators of the old times and nights out in the battleground of town. If the song’s lyrics are negative and insular, however, that’s a counterpoint to the bold brass that opens the album – a deliberate choice by the band to open up their sound, by roping in multi-instrumentalist Arion Xenos and keyboardist Alison Eales (from fellow Glaswegians, Butcher Boy). 

Second track ‘Who Does Susan Think She Is?’ is hilariously cynical, focusing on that one friend who suddenly decides to go to art school and turn vegan, whilst ‘Wee Guys (Bobby’s Got A Punctured Lung)’ contemplates acts of violence involving lads on the street.  

The album’s middle section contains its most heartfelt tracks, dominated by Katie’s winning vocals. Ranging from ‘Dear Diary, I Died Again Today’ – a lush string-laden ballad, and ‘When Nietzsche Calls’ – a sort of twisted torch song with a growing brass section, to ‘The One I Loathe the Least’, a minor key lilt whose stand-out lyric refers to the population as “subhuman scum”. 

So far, so sophisti-pop, but there’s C64 cred here too, with the squelchy synths and guitar wash of ‘My Undying Love For You Is Beginning to Die’, the dating disaster synth-pop of ‘Another Doomed Relationship’, until the album closes with the echoey Visage vocals of ‘Like Yesterday Again’, which sounds like the album sweetly expiring under the weight of its own efforts. There’s also pop-rock in the form of ‘The Older I Get The More I Don’t Know’ and the Ben Folds-y ‘Holiday’, whilst the album still has space for a nostalgically baroque tune in the shape of ‘People I Once Knew’.

Named for the agony aunt Joan Burnie, and her ‘Just Joan’ column in The Daily Record, it’s appropriate that The Just Joans may not necessarily tap into your best emotions – but they certainly make you feel a lot better about having them. For a band whose lifespan now stretches to four albums, it’s impressive that the cynicism, the bitterness and, most damning of all, the optimism of life as an outsider are still felt as strongly. It may say more about this writer’s age than the album, but there’s something reassuring about knowing you’re not the only one having a tough time and The Just Joans capture that feeling just so.

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of The Just Joans is out now via Fika Recordings. Listen/buy on Bandcamp.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

Photo Credit: Allan Whyte Photography

Introducing Interview: Galileo’s Fan

Set to release their new album next month, Scottish duo Galileo’s Fan have previously received acclaim from the likes of Folk Radio UK and BBC Radio Scotland, and played at festivals such as Edinburgh Fringe and Yes Festival. Delivering cinematic alt-folk soundscapes with twinkling electronics and soaring emotion, they look to set to charm ears a plenty with their upcoming release.

We caught up with Galileo’s Fan to find out more…

Hi Galileo’s Fan, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about the band?
Hi! Thanks for having us. We are brother and sister, Martin and Fi Vass, from the Scottish highlands. We play guitar and piano/keyboards, respectively. We both write the material for Galileo’s Fan, so we each contribute (and lead) 50% of the songs, so it’s an interesting mix! The music is predominantly indie-pop with some electronic themes and textures, but I think our northern roots can be heard throughout as well. 

How did you initially all get together and start creating music?
We used to play Scottish folk music with our other siblings, Mike and Ali, when we were all very young. Then, as we grew up listening to indie, electronic, pop and everything in-between, we began composing ourselves (separately, as adults). Music has been a hugely strong common bond for us and we have always loved sharing our songs with each other. Eventually, as we began to jam more and arrange the songs, we decided to try some recording and we made a demo in a studio on Loch Fyne, with our brother Mike at the desk. We had a lot of fun doing that, so I suppose the idea of Galileo’s Fan was conceived then. 

Your new album I Won’t Be Found is out in September – can you tell us what it’s all about? Are there any themes running throughout the album?
Yes, that’s right. The album is a collection of some of our favourite songs that we’ve written to date. The songs are stories about love, loss, political dismay and life experience, told from both a female and male perspective.

 

You’ve been compared to the likes of The Frames and The Cranberries, but who would you say are your main musical influences?
Ooh, such a tough question. I think it changes so much over time and we’ve been writing these songs for years! In our younger years we listened to a lot of indie bands like Biffy Clyro and Jimmy Eat World and I think they are still a big influence. Also The Frames, The Cranberries, Sigur Ros. There are lots of bands we have enjoyed more recently too, like CHVRCHES, Dry The River and Kiasmos. Too many to name actually! 

How is your local music scene? Do you go to see lots of live music?
We are based in Nairn (near Inverness) and St Monans (Fife) just now, and we both travel for gigs regularly… Every time I (Fi) see a live gig I vow to try to see more because each one is inspiring in its own way. In the central belt, you’re really spoilt for choice. There’s the Edinburgh fringe festival in August, Glasgow’s Celtic Connections in January and loads in between. I saw Olafur Arnalds (Kiasmos) in Glasgow recently and First Aid Kit in Dundee. Inverness always has plenty on too. There was a new festival run by the Feis in July called ‘Under Canvas’ and we’ve been along to the songwriters’ circle at Magregor’s Bar a few times now. 

And what can fans expect from your live shows?
It depends! We love playing with the full band when we can – it’s always loads of fun and high-energy but we also enjoy a wee acoustic gig. The stripped back, more intimate performances are great in the right setting. We recognise that audiences will have a definite preference so we’re happy to offer both. 

As we’re a new music focused site, are there any new/upcoming bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
Absolutely! Wee bit of nepotism here for you but it is a truly outstanding album… Our brother, Mike Vass, is a well known instrumental composer but he has just released his first ever song album. It’s called Save His Calm and is stunningly clever and beautiful. Well worth a listen. 

And how do you feel the music industry is for new bands at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
There is so much good music available just now. The industry is incredible. It’s a steep learning curve, but there are definitely little tricks you pick up along the way. The internet offers a wealth of information for new artists, so you just have to be willing to put in the work and have realistic expectations to begin with. It’s also been really helpful having Mike (Vass) as a sort of mentor. We can always rely on his expertise when we need a bit of guidance. 

Finally, what does the rest of 2019 have in store for Galileo’s Fan?
I’m hoping the rest of 2019 will provide a little respite… Hopefully just some time to decompress and get back into writing a bit more. There is a huge amount of work that goes into releasing an album, so we’ve had the blinkers on for a while. We have such respect for the musicians that are churning them out! It’s been an illuminating process. I’m not sure I’ll ever leave a gig without buying a CD now… 

Huge thanks to Galileo’s Fan for answering our questions! 

I Won’t Be Found, the upcoming album from Galileo’s Fan, is out 16th September via GF Records.

 

Track Of The Day: The Van T’s – ‘Bitter Sweet’

Glasgow band The Van T’s have previously wowed us with tracks such as ‘Blood Orange’ and ‘Fun Garcon’, and they’ve now made a welcome return to our ears with their raging new single.

Filled with the band’s trademark surf-rock vibes, ‘Bitter Sweet’ showcases everything we’ve come to love about The Van T’s. Propelled by reverb-strewn riffs and raw, impassioned vocals, it instantly immerses you in its swirling, feedback-filled atmosphere, and leaves you longing for more of the band’s utterly infectious, raucously uplifting offerings.

Having supported the likes of Wolf Alice and The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Van T’s are fast becoming one of the most exciting bands around.

Watch the brand new video for ‘Bitter Sweet’ here:

‘Bitter Sweet’ is out now via LAB Records, and you can catch The Van T’s live at the following dates:

11th November – North Britain Festival, Stockton
21st November – The End Festival – The Social, London
22nd November – Jimmys, Manchester

 

Mari Lane
@marimindles