Joy on Fire have today released their new video for the track titled ‘Selfies’. Sonically decadent in all the right spots with that quasi ‘jam band’ feeling reflecting the ‘gimmie gimmie gimmie’ culture of our current society. Nuvo-narcissism searching for another ’15 minutes’ now has a core for that never-ending scene. Nice to see that some people get it. The rest should while the getting is good because we’re only collectively getting worse by the soundbyte.

If you want to call this music edgy, best to describe it as being on that edge and pissing down on the rest of us, hoping someday we will understand what we are doing. This is music as a lesson. Beautiful.

‘States of America’ will be released in full via Procrastination Records on June 11th, 2022.

“Selfies” began with a riff I had hanging around for a while, a riff that has a bit of a Stooges vibe, especially with the reverse delay on it, and when lyricist / vocalist Dan Gutstein joined Joy on Fire, I arranged it for vocals. Dan has some great lines in it, displaying his edgy sense of humor: “Happiest,” goes the refrain, “we were happiest / Lying to each other”.

The piece is a critique of narcissistic culture, with “Love is like gazing everywhere / Catching an echo with your hands…Why not, why not, why not selfies!” The impossibility, emptiness, and sadness of trying to catch an “echo with your hands” is (not) relieved by taking selfies, would be one interpretation. Often in Joy on Fire songs, saxophonist Anna Meadors begins the song or at least jumps in pretty quickly. This time, she lays out for the body of the song, and then just kills it over a vamp that drives to the end of the tune, with Dan then sneaking back in, like the sax has driven him mad: “La-la-la-la-la Selfies!”

The wild saxophone is a further Stooges connection. The acidy vibe that Iggy Pop asked for from Stooges saxophonist Steve Mackay — Anna certainly has it here, and then some”.

John Paul Carillo

About Joy on Fire

'States of America' cover.
‘States of America’ cover.

Now based in Trenton, NJ, Joy on Fire began in the Baltimore art scene, where guitarist and bassist John Paul Carillo met saxophonist Anna Meadors and the two started writing songs together. Describing the influence of that time in Baltimore on the sound of the band, John writes “Baltimore is a city where musicians of different stripes come together quite readily. With the art college (MICA) up the road from The Peabody Conservatory, trained jazz / classical musicians come together, in the city’s Station North Arts District, with self-taught musicians who bring other artistic disciplines into their music, a Talking Heads vibe. In my case, while Anna was at Peabody, I was at The Writing Seminars at The Johns Hopkins University, getting a degree in fiction writing. Anna and I met in a basement jam session, and the band began then. We still play the first song we ever wrote together, “Red Wave,” which finally appeared on 2021’s Unknown Cities.”

Immediately, Anna’s background as a classically trained saxophonist collided with John’s love of more experimental art rock and punk, and creative sparks flew. As Anna describes it, “I knew pretty early on that a career in classical saxophone wasn’t for me; I met John during my sophomore year [at the Peabody Conservatory], and the world of weird rock music opened up for me. I had been listening to this Terry Riley album for saxophone quartet and vocalist, Assassin Reverie, and fell in love with it, and John introduced me to the music of Steve Reich and Philip Glass, as well as the bands Morphine and King Crimson. There is this saxophone solo on King Crimson’s “One More Red Nightmare” that changed my life, it is so visceral, and it starts with just a long trill that is so simple and so perfect for the part. When Joy on Fire started, I was able to use the techniques I learned from jazz improvisation over this big chordal electric bass sound that John has, and it was such a thrill”

Since those early jam sessions, Joy on Fire have expanded to a quartet, adding a drummer and spoken word vocalist / lyricist Dan Gutstein to the mix. The songs that make up States of America were initially concocted in a joint writing session between John and Dan, which quickly “grew into monsters” over the process of turning these loose song structure and lyrics into full songs. The majority of the album was recorded at Studio B on the campus of Princeton University, where Anna is a PhD student in Music Composition. John and Anna are the producers of the album and Anna is the engineer, with additional mixing done by Mat Leffler-Schulman at Mobtown Studios in Baltimore and mastering done by Dan Coutant at Sun Room Audio in upstate NY.

Previous album releases for Joy on Fire include the self-released 2015 debut The Complete Book of Bonsai; as well as a number of release on Procrastination Records, including Fire with Fire (2017); Hymn (2019); Unknown Cities (2021); and most recently Another Adventure in Red—which was # 7 on Concrete Islands Albums of the Year list for 2021. The band has toured the eastern seaboard in support of these releases, from Vermont to New Orleans, and played repeat engagements at venues and festivals such as The Burlington Jazz Fest, The Middle East Café in Boston, Baltimore’s Metro Gallery, The Asheville Music Hall and Shapeshifter Lounge in Brooklyn. The group plans to tour again in July and August in support of States of America.