Band Interview: Jouska discuss their latest EP, comic book tie-ins and recording live sessions

Shortly after the release of Topiary, the Albany quartet Jouska took a tour that brought them to Christmas Island, a Houstonian house venue known for its amiable tenants and proprietors Izabella and Jonathan. In the warm light of the cozy living room, Doug Dulgarian belted an earthshaking performance a few steps to the right of a failing microphone, the band not missing a single beat. Shortly after, every visitor-turned-friend mingled in the kitchen and hall, hearing about the origins of Topo Chico from Jonathan, talking conspiracy theories, and absorbing our collective joy to be sharing such a unique moment. It felt as if Jouska were always a part of our little community.

Upon the band’s most recent release of the EP from Elson to Emmett, Jouska returned to Houston, this time at the downtown venue Notsuoh. Between drinking cups of coffee from Minuti, marvelling at the charming downtown nightlife, and discussing the band’s exciting SXSW schedule, Doug and I agreed that it’d be fantastic to chat about all of the good that Jouska is doing. Over the course of a couple days, Doug took time between long drives to new cities and performances for new people to chat with me in a way I can only describe as deeply kind and caring. A year after our first meeting and miles apart, it still felt like we were sharing space in that sweet, little living room.

Jouska released from Elson to Emmett twelve days ago, roughly two-thirds through your thirty-seven day tour. What’s it been like seeing the responses to your new EP arrive while on the road?

It’s been beautiful! We’re almost sold out of the comics; and it’s weird to me how many people have already checked the EP out or come out to see us based on having already checked it out.

Speaking of your comic—”sunk entry” is such a cool book to receive with from Elson to Emmett. Could you tell me a little more about how your illustrations and story tie to the EP?

Hmm… They kind of don’t, really. The comic’s just a goofy little route to have taken to describe a modern yearning for people to like you. Like, “what if somebody told you exactly how to get people to like you, and what is that really worth?”

It seems like you enjoy exploring different ways to express yourself. You’re also very good at uniting your different creative outlets. Your VHS collaboration with Apostrophe S as They Are Gutting a Body of Water comes to mind. Do you like to look for different ways to express yourself, and do you think that  your visual art and music have helped uplift each other?

I one-hundred percent believe with every fibre of my body that music and visual art (aside from just what I’m making) not only complement and help one another develop, but they use pretty much the same mental muscles. I absolutely like to use all outlets to make things. Sometimes I get stuck taking one avenue; and by stuck, I mean that it begins to feel unnatural or forced. Using separate avenues keeps it all fresh and easy. I get so stoked and fulfilled on the idea of a completed project. It’s like a high to me. I thought of the VHS or the comic book each in their entirety, and that’s the feeling that keeps me going: completing it.

That’s a really insightful way to look at creating art! As for your most recently completed work, Jouska’s been performing songs from from Elson to Emmett while on the road. For folks that might not get to see those songs performed on this tour, you also just completed an excellent Daytrotter live session. In the Daytrotter session, much like when I saw you perform in Houston, you all seem to mesh so well; not just in performance, but also in spirit. What’s the secret sauce all of you use to work together so well, and would you say that your relationships have grown on tour?

First of all, thanks for your kind words! Our relationships have definitely grown on tour. We’re at a point where we mesh better than ever before, and that is relieving. The special sauce we use is copious amounts of VHS and hummus.

Do you have a go-to hummus flavor and VHS?

The hummus is Greek olive or Sriracha, and the VHS is ever-changing.

So, tell me a bit about the Daytrotter session. What was it like recording live video with the folks at Horseshack Studio?

It was tight! They were wonderful and incredibly professional. It was easy-going.

I’ve never done anything quite like a Daytrotter session, but I know that some of the easiest things become nearly impossible for me when a camera turns on. Try to film me chewing gum and breathing at the same time. It doesn’t work. Are you all really comfortable in front of a camera, or do you have any methods to relieve that stage fright?

I definitely feel that, and I don’t know if I’m completely comfortable. Something about being recorded feels strange and forced, but also, sometimes it doesn’t. For instance, Daytrotter did not. That was comfortable. It’s always dependent upon the day, and the stressors of that day, too. Sometimes everything is peachy. As far as stage fright, I kind of don’t really get that anymore, unless (strangely enough) there are less people than usual. That’s when it’s hard. A room packed full of people is easy to play in. The energy is already present.

So you’re about to wrap up your thirty-seven day tour, you just released the EP from Elson to Emmett through Tiny Engines, you’re nearly sold out of your comic book “sunk entry”, and you performed a stunning Daytrotter session. Is there anything else exciting happening in the Jouska world? Anyone you’d like to shout out?

LP2! Tiny engines fam! Uhhh, John Mongonia! Jan Švankmajerr! And thanks for this!

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Kyle McCoy

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