“We tried to record ghostsin the stu­dio…”

ALEX BABIN­SKI

Kerrang! (UK) - - Kerrang! (uk) -

In 2017, the spirit of DIY punk feels more vi­tal than ever. Not only have some of the best bands around come from a move­ment founded on four chords and a do-it-your­self men­tal­ity, but with the so­ciopo­lit­i­cal bal­ance of the world tee­ter­ing on the brink, many are find­ing sanc­tu­ary in a scene that gen­uinely gives a fuck. Right now, Joyce Manor and Martha, two of the great­est bands to have been cut from that par­tic­u­lar cloth, have joined forces.the former are a scrappy pop-punk group from sunny Cal­i­for­nia, while the lat­ter are a queer punk band who ply their trade in tune­ful in­die-pop and hail from Durham, which is a bit cloudier. Sit­ting on so­fas at Lon­don’s Scala, mid-way through their joint UK tour, Barry John­son, gui­tarist and vo­cal­ist of Joyce Manor, and Martha’s singing drum­mer, Nathan Stephens Grif­fin, are re­flect­ing on how their two bands, one with its devil-may-care Cali-slacker de­meanour, the other who out­wardly cel­e­brate queer cul­ture and are staunchly anti-cap­i­tal­ist, be­came in­ter­twined. In 2012, Nathan’s other band, po­lit­i­cal folk-punks ONSIND, toured the west coast of the U.S., where they met Barry at a house show in Pomona, CA. “I think that was ac­tu­ally be­fore Martha was even a thing,” Nathan re­calls.“after that, we saw that you guys were tour­ing the UK and we begged a pro­moter to get Martha on the bill in Glas­gow.”

“I re­mem­ber that,” Barry laughs. “every­one was su­per-hyped on Martha be­ing added. I was blown away.”

The two bands quickly re­alised that they had more in com­mon than just mu­sic. De­spite the dis­tances be­tween them, the two had sim­i­lar roots and de­sires.

“Tor­rance, where we’re from in Cal­i­for­nia, is ac­tu­ally a lot like Durham, I’m guess­ing,” Barry starts.“it’s not very glam­orous and bands never tour there.we knew that if we were gonna do this, we’d have to work hard to get out of there.”

“There are def­i­nitely sim­i­lar­i­ties,” Nathan agrees. “The dif­fer­ence for us is that we’ve stayed in Durham, which has prob­a­bly been to our detri­ment, but it im­bued in us a de­sire to make things hap­pen there.”

Martha, and other mem­bers of the DIY col­lec­tive that they formed in their home­town, have been putting on shows for years now. It’s their way pay­ing for­ward the op­por­tu­ni­ties that they’d been given and en­sur­ing that the next crop of bands formed in Durham have a scene to get in­volved in.

“It’s so im­por­tant for us to do that,” Nathan says. “There are ways to mea­sure suc­cess as a band that aren’t rooted in record sales.this is one of those ways.”

“I’ve never been good at Diy-ing,” Barry ad­mits. “Other peo­ple in the band are far bet­ter at that stuff. But I re­mem­ber see­ing the Against Me! and Bounc­ing Souls doc­u­men­taries when I was 16 and it just looked so doable – get­ting in a van with your friends and do­ing it for the fun of it. It just seemed like a great way to live.”

But it’s not just a shared love of DIY they have in com­mon.there’s also a de­sire to make punk in­clu­sive again. In 2014, as Joyce Manor were tour­ing third al­bum, Never Hun­gover Again, their shows were seem­ingly a hot­bed for ex­cess testos­terone and some of the youngest peo­ple in their crowds were be­ing in­jured as a re­sult of ag­gres­sive and re­peated stage-div­ing.

“Ev­ery show on the tour, some­one was leav­ing in an am­bu­lance,” Barry says.“i knew I had to say some­thing… And it fully blew up in my face.”

At the Hous­ton,texas date of the tour, Barry spot­ted some­one get hurt as a re­sult of a dive.the band stopped play­ing and Barry ad­dressed the is­sue, call­ing out the ag­gres­sors.the re­sponse was, as he puts it,“nu­clear”, and Joyce Manor lost a lot of fans. Com­pas­sion isn’t al­ways the easy op­tion, it would seem.

“Peo­ple don’t like to come to a show and be told what to do,” Barry says.“and I don’t like telling peo­ple what to do, but it got to the point where it was just ir­re­spon­si­ble if I didn’t say some­thing. you’re a 25-year-old man front-flip­ping onto a child who’s come to see their first show – what are you do­ing?!”

“That’s one of the many rea­sons why I love Joyce Manor,” Nathan in­ter­jects.“to have the courage to stand up in a place where peo­ple don’t want to budge from their per­ceived norms of ac­cept­abil­ity, and tell these peo­ple that they’re do­ing some­thing wrong is great.and the way you were pil­lo­ried for it by peo­ple act­ing like pe­tu­lant chil­dren to­tally vin­di­cated you.”

Though still clearly un­com­fort­able dis­cussing the is­sue that has fol­lowed them around ever since, Barry seems to be truly heart­ened by Nathan’s anal­y­sis of the sit­u­a­tion.after all, this is praise com­ing from some­one whose band are set­ting an ex­am­ple in pro­mot­ing in­clu­siv­ity.the shows Martha put on back home aim for di­verse line-ups and they make sure that when they tour, the venues pro­vide gen­der-neu­tral toi­let fa­cil­i­ties.

“We just want every­one to be able pee and poop and feel com­fort­able do­ing so,” Nathan says.“the most im­por­tant thing for us is that we’re a band who ex­ist to make mu­sic. But if you’re a queer per­son, as I am, that be­comes in­nately po­lit­i­cal in a world that skews to­wards het­ero­sex­u­al­ity. If you start singing about fancying a boy, as a boy, that’s seen as a po­lit­i­cal act, whereas if it were het­ero­sex­ual, it wouldn’t. So, my view is that ev­ery­thing is po­lit­i­cal. It feeds ev­ery­thing we do.”

That view is one that unites both bands, even if Joyce Manor might be a lit­tle less forth­com­ing about it.and later tonight, whether it’s Martha ded­i­cat­ing songs to the NHS, or Barry pro­claim­ing that they’ve re­named their band to the far less catchy ‘Jeremy Manor’ in re­sponse to Cor­byn chants be­tween songs, there’s a tan­gi­ble sense of love and com­mu­nity that fills the Scala.

The world might be a dark place some­times, but you can rest as­sured that, as long as you’re not be­ing a dick, bril­liant bands like these have got your back.

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