JUNIUS are masters of combining emotional guitar music with intellectual lyric concepts. We met the band from Boston during their tour with KATATONIA and had the opportunity to see their impressive live appearance before the interview. Afterwards we had a very pleasant chat with a humble and inspiring band about the hardships of touring, the tortures of intellectual songwriting and about what happens between life and death.
Not all our readers are familiar with you, so would you please introduce yourself?
We are a band from Boston and playing epic rock’n roll and are touring and making records for the last 7 years steadily.
The Rolling Stone wrote that you are “the perfect hybrid of NEUROSIS and THE SMITHS” – would you sign that?
We were super flattered about that and well if they say it, we are happy to take it. It’s always better to have others say nice things about your band than doing it yourself.
How is touring with KATATONIA?
It’s awesome, the best tour we’ve ever did. We met before on tour and are already friends with them. They are really normal nice guys hanging out with us. No egos actually. And musically it makes a lot of sense to tour together. We are making new fans and friends and that’s everything you can ask for on a tour.
Every time you go on tour you
essentially ruin your life back home.
We are very lucky to do this as a band and travel around but it’s getting harder and harder also financially. That is really stressing as we tour a lot and put our whole lives in there. Every time you go on tour for two months and more you essentially ruin your life back home. Then you come back and you have to put together the pieces of your private life again and hope the people at your job hire you again. On top of that, you did not make any money with touring. Probably people coming to the shows don’t realize that and might complain about high prizes for t-shirts and tickets. But please try to put yourself in our place for a second. If you are the support band like we are here, people of course get the merch from the headliner first, so not really much is left to buy our stuff. So we can cover the expenses and that’s it. We don’t complain and doing this is the best thing in the world, but the economic situation endangers the existence of a touring band even if you love what you do and play those rather big tours.
How would you describe your audience?
It’s very mixed. In the past we spent so much time in the post-rock scene, so we got a lot of fans there. But we wanted to get out of that later, which doesn’t mean we have anything against that scene but in adding vocals it’s a different theme we wanted to push. We can emphasize our intension better with lyrics because as a band we have a pretty directive approach. We’re not an abstract band. We say what our songs are supposed to be about not letting the listener interpret too much. Our first record concept was about Immanuel Velikovsky and with such a concept there is no second guessing about the content.
We tried to understand the ideas of Velikovsky, can you explain how you came to the idea for that concept?
I was reading a monthly magazine about esoteric subjects, anything about Aliens and alternative history. They released a book with essays and I remember reading that essay about Immanuel Velikovsky. That immediately hit a nerve and I felt that something is going on here with me. I never heard of this guy before and what he says is pretty profound, poetic, beautiful and crazy. So I started to read his books while we were in the midst of writing an album. We wanted to make a nerdy and conceptualized album anyway so we brought that concept into the writing process. You know we always had also pop songs and wanted to release easier stuff, but we always skipped it for the nerdy, conceptualized pieces. That’s just more us.
Time wise we went over the top a bit with the record and so it took three years to finish it. We wrote it together not bringing any ideas in the studio. We just started from scratch. Together with the concept the whole process took forever because we also had to do it in between all the touring. We wanted to get away from any distractions when writing so after 6 weeks of touring we spend another 2 weeks in the studio away from our friends and families for several times. We chose a lot of weird places to write just to be isolated and focused. It was kind of torturous and we will never do that again in this extreme way. But anyway it was a good experience and we learned a lot.
We kept a conceptual approach also for the following album because we are really happy with this way of structuring the content.
Talking about the current album “Reports From The Threshold Of Death” – The title already says a lot about the concept. Is this about near death experience?Reports From The Threshold Of Death (2011)
The idea of the album before, The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist, was that the first track represents birth and last track death. A logic continuation for the next album would be the question what happens after death? But if you want to learn about that who you gonna ask? Obviously someone who has died. People who were diagnosed dead with no brain activity anymore and came back. So I read and watched as many interviews I could to learn about it. The first track is the theme of the album, second track about hovering above the body until the last track about the unknown. There is of course a certain border you didn’t cross when you come back to life and did not stay there. It’s all about those steps in the death process. In 80 percent of the cases the experiences are all the same. So that’s basically the concept of the record.
What is the main experience of those people? A hopeful or rather negative one?
It’s always very hopeful although there are some negative aspects as well but only in a small percentage of people. They always come back changed for the better and even if there were negative experiences, it motivates people to change afterwards. Of course no one really knows and the whole subject is pretty vague.
How about your intension as band? Is it a positive or rather fatalistic one?
No we definitely want to spread hope and positive feelings while knowing that not everything is easy in life. It’s about a balance and not always happiness of course. And even darkness can be enriching.
Would you even agree having a kind of therapeutic approach?
I met people who hate music.
They are very few, but they exist.
Well that’s what most music is about right? I think music was invented and created in a way that it has positive impact on people. There is something you want to get out of it and maybe put the finger on which can lead to a therapeutic effect. That’s what it is in our lives at least and we also want to touch people. If you like you can call that therapeutic. You know, I met people who hate music and don’t listen to music at all. Those are very weird creatures I don’t understand. Believe it or not but that exists, people not liking music or movies and the like. They are very few, but they exist. They call themselves pragmatic and ask for what they get out of things. I don’t know why but they seem to get nothing countable out of art. But for the rest of us there is usually some sort of relief and value in music.
Your last album is from 2011, are there plans for a new one?
We probably release an EP pretty soon with the extra songs from the sessions of the last album. That will come in spring. And then we start working on a new album, we have a bunch of ideas already and the concept gets form also. That took over the last year to think about a concept as we want to stick to that form of writing the lyrics. We are so used to it now and doing an album without concept seems so boring to us.
We covered that a lot already, but I’d like to know, what do hope and passion mean to JUNIUS?
You need to develop the right brain first
and then pragmatism follows behind.
The heart should be leading.
Well that’s the point of being here, it’s for passion and hope. Maybe that doesn’t apply to people who don’t like music, but I think we are here to serve others and approach everything with passion. You know I’m a big fan of logic but you have to have heart. Maybe you need to develop the right brain first and then pragmatism follows behind. The heart should be leading.
postrock / art-rock / shoegaze
from Boston, Massachusetts, USA