The Eastern and Western halves of Washington can seem like two different states; one dry and pastoral, the other overcast and lush. Indie singer-songwriter Rob Joynes is one such artist whose music captures these two contrasting landscapes.
Raised on the east side of the Cascade Mountain Range, Joynes often invokes his home town of Spokane directly in his lyrics. Pairing themes of queer identity, abjection, family and aging with piano-driven melodies and sentimental guitar riffs, he is influenced by artists like Red House Painters, Jason Molina, Carissa’s Weird, and Kath Bloom.
In September of 2020, Joynes dropped his latest full album, Back Forty, which was followed by the raw and personal collection, phone demos, in 2021. He is the former front man for the band Creech, and since, he has mostly preferred to write, perform, and tour solo. As with Back Forty and his brand new single, “Died For Love,” Joynes songs emanate indie charm, harness lush instrumentation, and his lyrics are evocative and poignant.
We got the chance to chat with Joynes to learn more about him as an artist, the new single, and much more.
So how did you get into songwriting, and how has your Washington upbringing influenced your sound?
I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember. I don’t recall an exact genesis moment of “Eureka! I will be a songwriter now.” But it probably has something to do with getting cut from the basketball team and hearing Death Cab for Cutie for the first time in middle school. As for Washington’s influence, I think when I first started making music I was just trying to imitate everything that I thought was cool, but now I just try to sound like myself. And so the sonic vibe of my music is probably more a reflection of where I come from rather than a genre I’ve chosen to pursue.
You’ve got your new single, “Died For Love,” out now. It’s a pretty dramatic title. What’s the inspiration and backstory behind it?
I was listening to a podcast called Been All Around this World that showcases the field recordings of Alan Lomax via the collection at the Library of Congress. There was an episode in which I heard a song called something like, “So that the world will know I died for love” about a maiden who dies of a broken heart. My song doesn’t have anything to do with the plot of the original, but I liked the title and worked it in. It’s dramatic as you say, but more than that I thought it was kind of ‘bratty’ or ‘petty,’ which is what I was going for in the tone of the song.
Where was it recorded and who helped it come to life?
Dylan Wall engineered and produced this release at 7 Hills Studio here in Seattle. I first became aware of him because of his work on an album called Deserve by the band Weed. He’s done other great work with a multitude of different kinds of acts in Seattle, and I had always had him in mind as a producer to work with but weirdly enough he hit me up first, one day out of the blue, even though we had never met. So I figured it was meant to be. After tracking with him for a few days, he sent me the first mixes and they were already very close to being the final mixes. If you’ve ever recorded music, you know it almost never happens that fast. He’s got the vision and the sauce.
Can fans expect to see it on the upcoming EP or LP?
This track is part of a three song release that will be out on cassette later this month. There’s a local label here in Seattle called Den Tapes that has put out a lot of cassettes with some of my favorite Seattle artists. Collaborating with them has always been a local music bucket list item for me.
What messages or feelings do you typically try to convey in your music?
Whatever pain, frustration, joy, love, heartbreak, death that myself or my friends are going through; I try to get that across. I have loved-ones who lean on me and share the best and worst parts of their life with me. It’s my goal to broaden and heighten these different points of view in an attempt to empathize with whoever might be listening.
What does a day in the life of your songwriting process look like?
Messy notes on my phone, unlistenable voice memos, chicken scratch handwriting scrawled across notebook pages. I write everything down. When I sit down with a guitar or at the piano, I putter around until I have a melody or idea, then I see if any words or lyrics from my notes fit with the cadence of that rhythm and I go from there. Hopefully by the end of a tedious few hours, I’ve got the foundation of something that will connect with a listener.
What does a dream gig look like for you?
A house show somewhere I’ve never been before with friends I met on the internet. It’s a Sunday in September, there’s 27 people sitting on a carpeted floor listening intently to that night’s performers, and we’re all really feeling the music and having a moment together.
If you could open and tour for any present-day artist, who would it be and why?
Kath Bloom. But I don’t think she tours. I don’t know if she’d even want to tour, and if she did, I’m not sure how well it would go. But in this fantasy, every show on the tour is well attended and she gets all the love she deserves. She’s probably my biggest influence as a songwriter and I reckon her work is criminally overlooked and underrated. She lives in Connecticut. I’ve always wanted to play a show with her out there, but have been too cowardly to hit her up. Check out her music.
What are some of your goals – whether musically or otherwise – for the rest of the year?
I’m in a new band called Fell Off that is releasing our first album later in the summer and touring in September. It’s a different type of vibe than the Rob Joynes outfit, so I’m excited to share it with everyone. The next ‘Rob Joynes’ release is going to be less band oriented and more orchestral, with more of a slowcore vibe, less drums and rock guitar. Hopefully I’ll be back in the studio to begin tracking those new songs by the end of the year.
Photo by Dan Zadorozhnyy