If you’re missing the radio vibes from the late 1990s and early 2000s – Arkansas-based pop duo, joan, just might be the ones to scratch that nostalgic itch! Fusing together retro sounds with modern pop sensibilities, Alan Benjamin Thomas and Steven Rutherford have spent the past 4 years building a dream-pop empire that has taken the world by storm.
This time around, we’ve been lucky enough to grab some of their time for another Swee Lee AMA. You’ve asked and they’ve answered! Without further ado, here’s joan with their replies to your burning questions.
Also, be sure to check out our story highlights on our Instagram page to see their video replies!
P.S. joan has been cool enough to share with us a playlist for their hi’ & ‘bye’ EPs. Head over here to listen to their bops right now!
Is there a story behind the name joan? How did you guys come up with it?
Steven: Okay, yes, there’s a story! So when we got together to write for the first time, we were talking about our lives all this stuff might and turned out both of our grandma’s names were Joan. And we’re just like, we’re like “What? That’s crazy!”. And so anyway, yes, we named the band after that.
Just kidding! I just liked the name. And Alan liked it, too. So we named it joan.
Who are your favourite musicians?
Alan: Who are your favourite musicians? I would say Jacob Collier is my favourite musician.
Steven: I really like this drummer named Aaron Sterling.
Do you have advice for anyone who wants to go far with music and the music industry?
Alan: Okay, to those that are wanting to go far in music – just keep going. That’s the biggest thing. You’re going to hit a ton of walls and you’re going to, you know, you’re going to start out and honestly, a lot of your songs aren’t going to be that great yet and you need to just work on it. You need to work on your craft – get better at guitar, piano or songwriting, whatever it is, and it can take years. For some people, it takes overnight. For most people it takes years. So just keep going.
What were the other options for your ep’s title? Also, please come to Singapore soon!
Steven: Other options for our EP titles… I’m trying to think. I know “Happy Head” was one of them.
Alan: Oh, “Frowny Face”.
Steven: “Frowny Face”. We’re also we’re thinking like “Sweet and Sour”. I don’t remember all of them. But the whole idea was to have a contrasting kind of idea of the two. Those were, I think, our other top favourites though.
Did y’all set goals for yourselves at the beginning of 2021? Did you achieve them?.
Steven: Yeah, we set goals. I think our goal at the beginning of the year was to figure out what we wanted to do release-wise. And then later, we decided that we wanted to do a song a month for eight months and then make it two EPs – and we did that.
Alan: Goal achieved!
You guys are really bringing back ’00s POP. So Backstreet Boys or NSYNC?
Alan: We’re going on basic, basic looks alone – NSYNC. It’s JT (Justin Timberlake). You can’t beat him. If you’re going on songs, it’s a toss-up.
What’s the story behind your EP – partly cloudy?
Alan: So for “partly cloudy”, we honestly loved cloudy was so much fun to make. And then we had a bit of time before moving into the next cycle that we were like, let’s see how these songs exist in other ways. And we were like, if it’s a great song, it can exist however with an acoustic guitar with a piano or whatever. And so we started exploring and we came up with some really fun stuff and we just fell in love with it. So we did “partly cloudy”.
What is one piece of (music) gear you can’t live without?
Alan: The most important piece of musical gear for us would have to be our MacBook Pros, because without them we literally couldn’t record music.
What’s the inspiration behind ‘I loved you first? I’m obsessed with the massive choruses!
Steven: Have you ever seen the movie Top Gun? That’s what our main inspiration was. Hair flying in the wind, big solo, plane on top of the mountain.
Steven: There you go.
Will you ever do a video where you dive into the production of your songs? Love the podcast!
Alan: Great question. We have also really loved doing the podcast, it’s been really fun to kind of unveil what’s behind the curtain a bit of our process. And yes, we’ve had a lot of interest on doing some videos. We’re trying to figure out how the best way to do that is but I would say keep your eyes peeled – that will happen at some point in the future.
What’s your songwriting method?
Steven: Okay, so it’s a little different song to song. But usually, it’ll start with a voice memo, just an initial idea with guitar and vocal or something. And then if we really like it, we’ll get into the studio. I’ll be sitting in a chair and Alan will be at the desk – Alan’s really good at production and kind of takes the lead on production.
And then I’ll take lead on lyrics usually. And by the end of the day, we have a pretty good idea of what a song looks like. So that’s kind of the idea.
What is your favourite thing production-wise that you did on your latest EPs?
Alan: My favourite production thing, or one of my favourite (I have several), was for each gang vocal (a group of vocals) we did, we would basically record several takes of just us two in the room in different spots and then like affect the vocals to where it sounds like a bunch of different people. But everything vocal was just me and Steven.
Steven: And mine was on “not over you”. Going into verse two is just crumpling up a piece of paper if I remember right, and I went into the verse from there.
Will there be vinyls in the works for “hi” & “bye”?
Alan: Yeah, yes, there will be vinyls in the works. They’re (actually) in the works. Everything in the world is on backorder right now. So it’s just taken a while to get everything lined up. But keep your eyes out.
Steven: Yep, 2025! <laughter>
How did you two meet?
Steven: We met long ago. We went to the same school but at different times – so we kind of knew each other from that. And we also played in separate bands, kind of in-school and after school. Little Rock (Arkansas) doesn’t have a huge scene music scene. So we ended up playing shows a lot together and kind of became fast friends through that. Then (we) ended up writing together and became good buddies.
What is each of your favourite joan songs?
Steven: I think mine right now is probably “waiting on nothing”.
Alan: Hmmm nice! Mine overall, it’s probably “brokenhearted” – feels like a timeless song. But right now it’s “not over you”. All ballads, might I add.
Steven: (We’re) Ballad boys.
What are your favourite foods?
Alan: You put anything Italian in front of me. I’m scarfing it down.
Steven: That’s what I was gonna say. I think like a Tortellini is <both make Chef’s kiss noises>.
How has it been adjusting to the dad life? Any major changes in everyday rhythm?
Alan: Dad life absolutely rips. We love it! We love our little girls! It’s been a huge adjustment. Probably the biggest adjustment is time.
Alan: It’s just like there’s not enough time in the day to do everything needed. So we’re kind of getting back into the normal rhythm of life, which isn’t really fun , but they’re (daughters) beautiful and lovely. And we we just love them.
Steven: Mmm hmm.
What’s next for joan?
Alan: What’s not next?
Steven: We’re going on tour. And we are trying to tour as much as possible, depending on what COVID stuff looks like – so that’s fun. We’re also working on new music, but we don’t exactly know what that looks like right now. But we’re working every day on it.
How did y’all start playing music?
Alan: I grew up playing sports. First, my dad was a musician. So he handed me my first pair of drumsticks around age 11. And everything else stopped mattering to me, including school. And I’ve been doing that ever since.
Steven: My mom forced me into piano lessons – I hated them. And then I found the guitar. And then I found drums. And I fell in love with drums and have been playing ever since. That was that five (years old).
Any plans to tour Asia? (Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, etc)
Alan: Yeah, we’re coming.
Alan: For sure! Soon!
Favourite city to perform in?
Alan: My personal favourite city that we’ve performed in thus far – I love them all, hear me say that first. But I really love Singapore a lot. Beautiful city. Absolutely beautiful. A lot of fun.
Steven: Yeah. Singapore is great. We were in Bangkok last time. That was amazing.
Alan: And Manila.
Steven: Manila is also awesome.
Alan: It’s all good
Steven: Wherever we are really just the best city ever. So see you there!
Which artists inspire you the most?
Alan: For me right now, at this current moment, the Weeknd. I’m really digging everything he’s putting out.
Steven: Yep, I think mine would be Kanye (West), like not only his music, but fashion stuff (too). All the worlds he’s got his hands in is really inspiring. So I think he’s killing it.
What decade of music do you guys like the most?
Alan: For me, it’s the 90s. You got Oasis. You got Sheryl Crow. You got Natalie Imbruglia.
Mine (would) probably be the early aughts because that’s what I grew up with. You know, we got Backstreet Boys, Aaron Carter, you know, other boy bands and stuff. So, so, so cool.
Favourite song to play live?
Well, there are so many songs that we haven’t really played live from “hi” & “bye” but I think currently the favourite that I have would probably be “all the way”. There’s something cool that happens because there’s a little tiny bit of silence in it and it like – feels so cool live!
Alan: I would say “something special” and that’s all that she wrote.
Huge shout out to our friends at Tande-Music Services and Virgin Music for making all this interview with joan possible.
Read more: Inspiration and Artist Features