By Graeme Wiggins
VANCOUVER — It’s been quite the couple of years for noisy pop group Joanna Gruesome. Their debut, Weird Sister was met with rave reviews, a speedy, loud album filled to the brim with as many hooks and riffs as humanly possible, and due to their impressively chaotic and well-received tour, they were left with a pretty strong cult following. But rather than sit back and relax, they went quickly to work on the follow-up, Peanut Butter, released in May to equally rave reviews. But shortly thereafter, in June, singer Alanna McArdle left the band for personal reasons, and the band were joined by new members Kate (formerly of Pennycress) and Roxy (formerly of Two White Cranes, Grubs, and TOWEL), both on vocals and are back on tour already.
From there, it can be a difficult task to get clear details. The band is playful in most of the promotional interviews, with an occult theme being pretty consistent in explanations given. Explains band member Owen Gruesome, “we met them both in an occult bookshop.” As to how the new members and band have adjusted to playing with each other on a tour so soon after the release of the album, he claims, “It’s a fact that Kate has a peanut allergy, which makes performing songs from our album Peanut Butter a chore.” With two members taking over vocals in place of one, other adjustments were clearly required. “There is less room on stage and there are more pre-show pagan rituals. It’s been completely fine.”
Apparently also, these additions forced them to actually practice, which may shake the faith of their devoted fan-base who live off the shambolic appeal of their noisy live shows. As Owen explains, “We had to bring them to Wales and practice. Traditionally Joanna Gruesome has been a band that practises about once a year (every 13th lunar cycle) but in 2015 we have practiced about six times. Hopefully we do not resemble a rehearsed rock band.”
If one was concerned they’d taken the traditional route of sophomore albums and added significantly more elements and really pushed towards new sounds, one needn’t worry. “I wanted the songwriting to be leaner and I wanted to bridge the gap between sonic violence and pop melody a little more. Making the album was quick and relatively similar to the way in which the first album was recorded.” Yet while the first album was written in the “hell house” hotel, this album was written on a wine tasting holiday. Wine-tasting recording aside, the album clocks in at under 30 minutes and if anything it’s more focused on Joanna Gruesome’s strengths than ever before. “It’s strange, after I had written the songs I assumed the album would clock in at like 35 minutes or something, but after we had finished recording it we realized it was about 25. But we’ve consulted experts and have been assured that there are as many vocal hooks and guitar solos present in Peanut Butter.”
It’s getting great reviews, and their new live show should be an exciting thing to watch. They were already well known for a killer live set, add the power of two new vocalists and pagan rituals to fuel their fury, and everything seems to be coming up Gruesome. As Owen describes it, “For an album chiefly concerned with the radical possibilities of peanut butter spread, I think it has been received surprisingly politely.”
Joanna Gruesome performs at the Cobalt on November 15.BC, British Columbia, Cobalt, Joanna Gruesome