What is your name?
Joshua Grant Powell. My mom calls me Yeshua sometimes. No one’s called me Josh since I left Florida. I left that cicada shell back down there in the palmettos.
What is your genre of music?
Currently? Some amalgamation of indie rock, dreampop, and psychedelia. Our pitch email says “psychedelic indie rock.” We started as a straight folk band. I’m hoping the next record is more of a neo-soul / doom hybrid. I’m only like 30% kidding.
Give us a little bio about you.
Super charmed childhood in the Florida woods and beaches, splitting my time between the Church of God and the church of punk. Or I wished. Not too much punk in Vero Beach. I played Blink songs at church and church songs with punk beats at the skate festivals. Had a brief and passionate love affair with the DIY hardcore scene while serving in a certain conservative chicken restaurant. Liberal arts education in a little post-industrial Indiana town. A few years of minivan sojourning around the country playing 7 shows a week in every hamlet that would take my emails. A giant dose of cultural education and friend-making coupled with a swelling anxiety and too much beer. Then I moved to Indianapolis, got a side gig teaching college, adopted my cat, got healthy, and recommitted my life to rock ‘n roll on a different set of slopes–ones more gradual, more targeted–ones that let me pursue this God dream with a fitter vessel and a quieter mind.
What made you go in to music?
Maybe it was my cool older cousins coming to town with their band and me wanting to impress them with my pawn shop Peavey Rage 158. Maybe it was hearing “Ohio” by Neil Young in a Starbucks and thinking it must be the hippest newest thing in the world. Maybe it was New Found Glory records my drum teacher gave me. Maybe it was my folks’ mandatory piano lessons. There was never really a way out.
Are you a signed?
Not for lack of trying. But as long as we’re independent, there’s an existential security there. If this thing takes off, we’ll know it’s because we put in the work. And we’ll take the help if it ever comes along, if the deal is right. But it hasn’t yet and we’re not letting that stifle our young furious worth ethic.
Your released your new Abum ‘ PSYCHO/TROPIC’ tell us more about it.
Press writer Joel Oliphint described “PSYCHO/TROPIC” brilliantly when he said “the bracing, psychedelic sound is all the better for it as Powell uses surrealism to interrogate his former reality.” This record was me freeing myself from expectations and setting a new zero point for my artistic career. I got tired of the sonic limitations of folk music and the sterility of lyrics I was deciding to censor for other people. Putting the LP out under my own name (without the & the Great Train Robbery) was me taking responsibility for my actions. Before, I had plausible deniability: “That’s the band, I’m the person.” But when I looked at the artists I loved most–Neil Young, (until recently) Kanye West, David Lynch, Virginia Woolf, (as of recently) Nicolas Cage–there was none of that. They’re all profoundly unapologetic for their individuality, and I don’t want to copy any of them. But I want to sculpt my own persona into a spirit of which I can be proud. “PSYCHO/TROPIC,” aside from being I think just a really solid dreamy rock record, was a way for me to de-compartmentalize my soul.
Describe each track in two words.
Black Lodge (water) – death dream
Arrowheads or Worse – Peter’s denial
Bright deceiver! – utopian waterworld
Econoline – haunted roller-rink
Bliss is a Flak Jacket – punk Floyd
Ascension – family history
Spirit of the Trailer Park – southern forgiveness
Supercareful – sonic cuddling
Manda in Reverse – Tinder doom
‘59 Tomahawk – war protest
chakra #6 – going blind
What was the writing process like?
I build skeletons alone at home. A hurricane of free-associated poems get harrowed into cohesive drafts. Then most often a guitar is employed to find some chordal harmonization. So far I have no insight into melody. I know a few movements I like, but usually the words found a way to nestle against the chords without too much purposeful thought. This record I used a lot of different tools at home though, particularly drum machines and synths. I know every rock bands goes electronic eventually, but for me it was important to learn how to integrate these elements without going too far away from electric guitar. I love guitar. It’s the main best one.
What was the recording process like?
After culling through 30 demos, the producer and I picked 11. We recorded with my brother Jacob on drums and my brother Adam and me on guitars. Jonathan Class provided all the bass and keys and we brought in other friends for strings and flutes and things. The four of us dressed up the skeletons in all their psychedelic orchestration in a pretty improvisatory idiom. We didn’t have time constraints in the studio so we tried everything. We harmonized guitar solos and recorded the rhythmic static of plugging and unplugging cables. We played things as half speed and reversed just about everything ever reversible. Pure play.
What is the message you want listeners to take from the album?
Eh, I’m a hippie. I just want everyone to love and take care of each other. Every different track has something to say. I’ve always tried to write about ideas rather than feelings and so there are persuasive arguments being made across the entire record. But the primary theme of the record I suppose amongst all the morass of family, self-actualization, spirituality, and mind expansion is the idea that I love myself today as a shifting, fluid, flawed person and that’s how I’m able to pour love back out into the world. I experience the universal God love that we all suspect out there from the brothers and sisters around me, and whether or not anyone thinks I’m going crazy, I aim to keep trying to create beautiful things and treating other people with kindness and heck, let’s all do that you know? That’s the message I guess. At least today it is.
Where can we buy the album from?
iTunes. Amazon. Bandcamp. Stream it on Spotify. Come see me at a show and I’ll put one in your physical hand. That’s the most exciting way.
Who did you work with on the album?
Adam Shuntich, my rock n roll associate, slung his guns in perfect stereo. We worked very hard to record a million guitars that sound nothing like guitars. My brother Jacob, who lives in this small Chicago studio, wrote all the drum parts on an electronic kit at a nearby Guitar Center and recorded them all in Indy in one weekend. Jonathan Class has been my longest collaborator. The first record I ever wrote was the first record he ever produced and I can never overstate his imprint, sonically and relationally, on my life and work.
Do you have any shows coming up or a tour in planning?
Yes! Always! Follow us on social media to see those dates.
If so where will you be heading?
Our next run is in April where we’ll be co-headlining with The Outside Voices from Ohio in Chicago, Milwaukee, Appleton, Indianapolis, Columbus, and Kent.
What can we expect in 2019?
Tons of shows. Our fans just raised $6,000 to put us in a new tour van, so we’re gonna do our best to do right by them and tour the ever-living shit out of this record. We have several new music videos in the works with some super talented video artists in town I’m very stoked on. We’re at some festivals this summer that will be announced soon. We’ll be releasing a follow-up single to PSYCHO some time real soon but don’t tell anybody. I’m just kidding. I’m telling you. And by year’s end I’m hoping to become a monk again and write a follow-up. Just bury myself in my bedroom cave and make a weirder, broader, more spiritual record to swim in after the next calendar flip.
Do you have any collaborations coming up with any up coming artists?
Yep. I just recorded a verse on a hip hop track with Indianapolis rappers ODDITY and Jeremiah Stokes. I’m playing guitar in ODDITY’s live band this spring, including an appearance at Steadfast Fest in Columbus, OH. There are a couple other hip hop features in the works. We’re working with directors Fred Miller (of the band Saint Aubin), Thom Newell (card-carrying Hollywood director/editor and all around badass), and Matt Panfil (visual artist and curator at the venue Healer) for our next series of short films.
Would you be up for collaborations if other musicians wanted one with you? and who would they have to contact?
Probably not! Besides doing all the management, booking, promoting, press, socials, etc. that running a band presents, I also juggle five gig-economy day jobs. When I work on my solo music, it’s very much a pursuit of my own individuality, and the musical collaborators I have today (previously mentioned band plus Josh Townsend on bass, Colin Oakley on drums, and Ricky Olmos on keys) I have because we’ve built a shared creative and interpersonal lexicon. They prove their chops all the time and understand my vision and always seek to serve the song. So I don’t usually flirt around with other folks, I have a very particular cosmic vision. HOWEVER. Suppressing my silly ego to give those cats some creative margin on this record is what made it so much better than my previous work. And so I say all that to say yes, I am open to collaboration. It is super important for me in personal, human interaction to practice holistic non-judgement and thoughtful, meek respect for all. The flip side of that is that I have a deep respect for art too, and I think it’s important to have standards. This is long-winded, eh? I’m just saying yes I’d collaborate but we’d have to have that spark, for real.
Do you play any instruments?
I consider myself primarily a writer, and then a guitarist and singer. I also play drums, bass, and keys, at least well enough for teaching kids at the School of Rock and jamming at late-night post-show parties.
Who are your influences?
Recently? The Chances with Wolves mixtapes. Anais Nin. The band REZN. The band Moonchild. Panos Cosmatos’ films. Dali. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s policies, grit, charisma. Michael Pollen’s studies. Thomas Pynchon’s prose.
How do you get inspiration to write songs?
I usually don’t. Inspiration is lazy. If you want to make songs, make songs. Practice the discipline. It’s just like anything else–someone can be lucky and strike gold with a one-off, but making yourself sit down and do the work? Whipping your hysterical mind into productive shape? That’s where my good material comes from. Practice.
That’s one answer. The other answer is: read a lot of books, travel whenever possible, watch weird movies, listen to music you don’t think you’re going to like, and keep a journal. But I like the first answer a lot better.
Where do you see yourself now in 5 Years?
Mars colony. Figure it’s the next untapped market for a good indie rock band.
When you’re not doing music, what do you do?
I go to shows and try to support local art. I read a lot. I love hiking and running. I try to skate. This year I’ve gotten a lot more into visual art–I built a series of paper-mache masks that we used in our music video for “Arrowheads or Worse.” I’ve started collaging recently too.
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Love the process.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians not about the industry and just as an artist?
Trust your artistic impulses, but rarely is your first idea your best idea. It takes, in my opinion, a copious amount of time to create quality art. Look at Fleet Foxes: at the height of their success, they gapped six years before making another record. Pecknold went back and got his degree. They did some living. So much of our art is just a synthesis of our life experience, and you can’t have a good output if you haven’t gotten any good input. It takes experience, practice, and creative rumination to get to the good stuff. Don’t let anybody rush you. You write your own prescriptions.
What quote or saying do you always stick by?
My dad’s wisdom: when you finish a job, go to the person that gave you the job and say, “I’m finished. Would you like to inspect my work? Is there anything else I can do?” Pay now, play later. Love what you do and never work a day in your life.
Where in your hometown is a must go to visit?
Indy is a treasure trove, man. I love seeing the Pacers at Banker’s Life. Fountain Square is the arts hub. Basically any night of the week you can walk in any building in that neighborhood and see some dope art or music. And I tell everyone to either eat at Kuma’s Corner (black metal themed burger/beer place w/ great vegan patties) or Three Carrots (vegan mecca with unholy good mac n cheese.)
Your coming off tour;
1/ Where do you go first? Home.
2/ Who do you see first? My cat Tiki.
3/What do you eat first? La Parada for the crunchwrap with grilled fish.
When you are at a gig, what are 5 things you cannot forget?
My vocal processor, my blacked out Shure deluxe 55 mic, a bunch of picks because I’ll drop em, the skeleton ghost that I hang on my mic stand at every show, and a positive damn attitude.
Do you have social media accounts so your fans can follow you?