Portland indie-pop sister trio Joseph are back with their fourth album The Sun on April 28 with nearly a decade together as recording artists. Following tonight’s special sold-out show opening and performing nine songs with James Bay at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Natalie Closner and twin sisters Meegan and Allison head back to the U.S., headlining San Francisco’s The Fillmore on April 27 before hitting LA’s The Belasco on the Friday, April 29th. The Joseph women have turned a page following a rough breakup for Meegan and have stuck together, stronger than ever with a collection of bright and effervescent songs, leaning into their hopeful optimism and lovely harmonies that have become a sort of signature. On Joseph’s follow-up to 2019’s Good Luck, Kid, they are perhaps channeling something that has been rooted in their music all along: a deep sense of self-worth, love, community and acceptance.
It’s on songs from The Sun including the title track that their hearts beat as one, realizing their own potential is greater than themselves, and exponentially more powerful together. “The Sun” is a true confidence booster and started off as a dramatic tune that has since taken on a bouncier production, helmed by producer and frequent collaborator Christian “Leggy” Langdon.
“He kind of created it as a bit of a surprise for us,” shared Natalie. “He went out on this limb and when we went to his studio one day he was like, OK you guys, bare with me. I know we can do it in this epic, you know dramatic, theatrical way or we can do this summery, triumphant, kind of victorious kind of feeling. He was just like hear me out and he played the rough vibe of it for us and we all started tearing up and dancing. It was just this moment that Meegan was later able to later articulate; this song should represent the result and the victory and the stepping into your moreness, instead of focusing on the dark moment of not recognizing that. We were a little concerned that people who had heard the trio version on tour wouldn’t like it as much because it was more sunny and kind of like more of a bop. But it’s been an amazing response and I feel like people are connecting with that feeling of I am more, I am more than I thought.”
A standout track on the new record is the organic, acoustic guitar-led “Slow Dance”, with the Joseph talents delivering so much raw emotion through lovely three-part harmony and delicate storytelling. “Slow Dance” is the type of song that Joseph craft that completely stop time in a live setting.
“That song came about in a really interesting way because it was extremely last minute,” said Allison. “We had written a bunch of songs that had been about a relationship of Meegan’s that had been really difficult and after seeing the batch of songs that we had going into recording, Meegan was like you know what, I don’t want to focus so much on that. I wish we had time to write a song that sort of basically acknowledged the part of herself that decided to stay in that relationship and the reason why she was in that relationship in the first place, even though looking back it can be really difficult, you know it’s easier to think about the hard things. So that one came about I think a day or two before we went into the studio and that one I think just sort of was what it was going to be right from the second that it was made. We reached out to one of our collaborators who we love named Trent Dabbs, and we were like this is insane, I’m sure you’re not even free right now but is there any way you can help us bring this song to life? And he sent us over an idea and again we all started crying so we just knew it was right. The emotion of that one just sort of was what it was the second that we made it, I think it just hit immediately and then just going into the recording we just kept it exactly how we had it in the demo.”
Another single that has made an impression with listeners is “Nervous System” with a driving guitar groove and a surefire track to listen up for at a show. Like “The Sun”, both songs have accompanying music videos that illustrate the joy and unbreakable bond that the three sisters have together. The energy of both is infectious, playful and sincere.
“We actually had a really special time with these music videos, particularly with “The Sun” and then we have one coming out for our next single (“Fireworks” —out yesterday),” shared Natalie. “We actually did two videos in one-and-a-half days and it was pretty nuts; the time constraint of that ended up being really special because it was very low budget, last-minute, not a lot of time and so the girls and I did all of our own styling, and we just wore clothes that we own. It was with our friend Justin Frick who is just a dream and a joy and he works really quickly and under stressful circumstances with so much energy and lightness and it’s really fun. I think the situation was what it was when we were making “The Sun” and the “Fireworks” video but also because we’ve been doing this for 10 years and in this album release, we are just closer than we’ve ever been and we are having way more fun than we ever have because it feels like we are going in with just the joy of doing it and not with high stakes of expecting any particular outcome and so it’s been really fun in that regard. When we saw “The Sun” we were tearing up because that’s like us, that’s not us putting on a show, he managed to capture just us being us together.”
Years back Joseph opened for James Bay on a U.S. tour and they join the singer-songwriter for a special show tonight at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The origins of their friendship happened organically and the upcoming gig will go down as one for the history books.
“Meeting James was really special ‘cause the girls and I were on our first little tour through Europe and our first time playing in London at this place called The Slaughtered Lamb and there was like a pentagram behind us and we were all fighting, it was just such a weird day,” remembered Allie. “Our mom was with us that time, it was very cute but we played the show and we had been fighting before but after we were like that was a great show, glad we did that. What we later found out was James asked us to open for him and we were like how did he even know about us? It turned out his partner Lucy had been working with Communion, this group that had put our show on and she had been at our show and she was talking to our mom at the show the whole time. She had told James later, you should check these girls out, I think you’d really like them. He had us open up for his U.S. tour which was insane. It’s that feeling where you never know who is in the room and you never know what’s going to happen. But we just became buddies then and then he asked us out on a couple, like a little random Europe tour and we just sort of stayed in touch with him here and there and we just adore him and Lucy and the whole crew. We cannot wait to do this, it was honestly really special when he asked us to do the show too because Natalie had just been telling her partner that her dream day would be to wake up in London and go to Borough Market and then play a show at Royal Albert Hall. We had sat down a couple days after she said that to kind of write up our dream list and what we want to manifest in this next year and it was right when we sat down that James texted us and was like, hey this is crazy, we’re not that far away from this but is there any chance you’d want to come to open at Royal Albert Hall for me and sing some songs with me and we were all just freaking out. The whole thing felt very serendipitous.”
With years on the road and four albums deep into their careers, Joseph have enjoyed the experience of major festivals over the years like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits and Glasonbury to name a bunch. It’s a welcome moment this time around for Natalie, Meegan and Allison to just focus on Joseph, just with their fans and their own sets following a powerful reawakening.
“It’s been three years since we played as a trio and as much as we love that format, it’s so thrilling to get to be back with a band again and playing shows inside where everybody —like at this point the people who are coming to see our shows, they’re just so incredible,” said Natalie. A lot of them have been on the journey with us for quite some time, and so the feeling in those rooms is like something that’s really hard for me to describe, like everybody has really shown up with their full presence to have an experience together. I cannot tell you how excited I am for that feeling and to get to play some of these songs that are some of my favorite that we have ever written, like about declaring you know what, I thought I was this small thing but I’m actually this whole thing and oh I can call myself with my nervous system, and I’m more than the things that I provide to other people. Getting to sing those kinds of songs every night both for me individually and for us as sisters and then in rooms with all of those people, it’s just such a stunning gift and love that we get to do that and I just know that we’re all just really thrilled and chomping at the bit for these shows.”
Folk-pop and indie-pop are experiencing a massive resurgence, with Haim coming up around the same time as Joseph, with fans’ hunger for real storytelling, real instrumentation and harmonies. In more recent years acts like Phoebe Bridgers, Larkin Poe and Waxahatchee have been making an impact and now there are others popping up like Tiny Habits and Trousdale. And with the passing of Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie and David Crosby of Crosby Stills Nash & Young, perhaps the legends in these genres are also top-of-mind for fans.
“I love that collection of writers because I feel like they each bring something really unique but a throughline of all of those people,” said Natalie. “I just feel like me as a listener, I want to hear something honest, and I want to hear something visceral. And I think all of those bands do that in that way and I think part of that is just because everything feels a little chaotic to be honest. I’m not personally looking for music that puts on a major smoke and mirrors kind of show, I’m looking for human beings saying something true and I want to be nourished by that. As far as the sonic aspect of it, you have these other legacy bands that are in their sunset moments so people are looking for something fresh that’s along those lines.”
Words by Michael Menachem