On Tuesday, October 18, the Funzone welcomes Vancouver’s Jo Passed, the project by songwriter/vocalist/producer and multi-instrumentalist Joseph Hirabayashi. Joined by Swooning, Cave Babies, and Fuss, Jo Passed offer indie rock with ethereal vocals melded with comforting distortion. I spoke with Joseph over e-mail about music, Canadian music scenes, and pet crows.
How has the new Jo Passed venture been since leaving behind the Sprïng project? What new frontiers have opened up for you? I guess I have had the new frontier and burden of full independence. Having a solo project grants me the freedom to be available for things as long as I am personally available, but it’s also lonely. It’s allowed for creative control, but also more uncertainty. It’s chill, though. Sometimes running a band makes me feel like Steve Jobs or something, not a great feeling to be honest. I guess the frontiers are my prison so to speak.
I like the vocals a lot and their relative ethereal quality to the harder guitars. Vocally or production-wise, what are the inspirations here? I appreciate you listening and glad you like it! I think my vocals are probably the most directly ‘60s psych band inspired, although I’ve always liked higher-voiced singers like Jeff Buckley, Thom Yorke, etc.. I like the air quality of the vocals on that one Gandalf record, or Colin Blunstone from the Zombies.
I had a screamy weird post-hardcore band before and got really tired of yelling at my friends, so I kind of found a voice through that rebellion. In Sprïng, we wanted to focus on melody more, and I wanted to kind of lay back in terms of vocal extremeness to allow for more instrumental angularity. Jo Passed is no different, although I think I’m trying to widen that contrast.
The song “Pet Crows” has a pretty inventive and unexpected structure. Tell me about the writing process for this one, and if you had a pet crow, what would you do with it? I guess my brain is all scrambled from the Internet, but I thought that song was pretty verse chorus, verse chorus bridge kind of thing. I had a roommate in Montreal who was a video game addict, he would either be working or living in his room playing, I think it was DC Justice League Online or something? I don’t know. He came upstairs one day and started talking about how you could domesticate crows and that they make great pets because they are pretty smart. I started reading about crows and wrote the song, playing guitar and singing, y’know, the usual. When I wrote it, I was thinking of it being kind of a Sprïng-esque song, pastoral and somewhat ballad-y, but then when I went to record and arrange it, it ended up going in this more grunge-y rock area. Sometimes it’s a challenge for me to let songs go where they want to go. I feel like this was a case where it really just took me there. If I had a pet crow, I’d probably set it free.
What are the best and worst aspects of Vancouver and Montreal music scenes, respectively? Which feels more at home? I’m weird and feel most at home when I’ve finished a song. Other than that, life is pretty much doing stuff between finishing songs. Montreal is cold, Vancouver is rainy. Montreal is more affordable but harder to find a good job, Vancouver is expensive but employment (for me at least because I grew up here) is easier. Musically, those factors come into play in terms of the time people have to focus on music.
I think if I do an epic touring year, I’d like to spend more of my downtime in Montreal. I don’t know, it’s hard to say. I don’t really wanna dish out dirt, but Vancouver does function a little independently from a lot of the music scenes around North America, just because of it’s weird isolated, tucked-away kind of thing from a good portion of major cities. I think the city of Vancouver has produced its own kind of mountain town indie pop industry, which I’m not really apart of. I think the DIY scene in Vancouver is super rad and seems strong these days.
Best drive you took on 2016? I went to test out my bud Mac’s car for a tour I was going on in April from Montreal. I took it on a highway going north from Montreal and left the island and drove for an hour or two into a wintery farmland area of Quebec. It was pretty desolate and cool. No billboards, very few gas stations even, very flat. Growing up in Vancouver has made me feel interested in sparse and flat landscapes.
What will you be for Halloween? I don’t want to give it away. We’re doing a Fugazi tribute band set for Halloween and we’re dressing up like a certain politically relevant figure from the American election who is not Hilary or Drumpf. Let’s just say we were undecided until after the last debate whether we would dress up as this person.