Over-doing it right: An interview the Generationals’ Ted Joyner
During an extremely frigid trip to New Orleans a couple of years ago to produce a piece for State of the Re:Union about the music of the city, we made our way to the vaunted local music store, Louisiana Music Factory. The store is pretty amazing and the staff is frighteningly knowledgeable . . . name the genre, the year . . . they have someone with encyclopedia like knowledge about it. After making good on a Meters and Little Freddie King recommendation, I asked them who the indie rock hot shot was in the area. Without a moment of hesitation, they grabbed Con Law by the Generationals. From the booming horns of the first track, “Nobody Could Change Your Mind” to the most infectious song ever recorded, well san Herman’s Hermits “Henry the VIII, I Am (but wouldn’t we be better off without that one?), “When They Fight They Fight,” it was hook, line and sinker.
Oh I’m sure I’m often guilty of overdoing it. I guess you just have to go with your gut. Often my gut says JUST DO IT!
I wondered if anything else would come from the duo (Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer who were in the band Eames Era together) after Con Law. And sure enough, they released Actor-Castor in March of 2011, on Park the Van Records like their debut. The album picks right up where Con Law left off, infectious nods to music past with a fresh, indie rock accessible bent. These are well-crafted songs that have a chameleon like ability to fit into any rotation.
We had the opportunity to speak to Ted Joyner about their old school inclinations, jacuzzis and pop sensibilities.
Synco: Were you and Grant forming song ideas during the Eames Era?
Ted: Oh yeah definitely. I think the majority of the Eames Era songs started with Grant or myself.
Synco: Your songs, despite sounding fresh, have this old school complexion, maybe attitude. Is that a product of influence or being a New Orleans based band?
Ted: Not sure. I don’t think so. But I guess its hard to say sometimes where specifically something comes from.
Synco: Was the idea behind calling the band Generationals a blueprint of sorts to explore the sounds of past generations that you have an affinity for or is it simply coincidence?
Ted: No it wasn’t a blueprint at the time for our sound. But it does sort of make sense in a way. I’m sure alot of artists draw from different things that span several decades and we certainly are inspired by things from the 60s and the 80s. But it was never our stated intention to be a band that explores generational sounds or attitudes. We more just thought it sounded like a decent enough band name at the time. I am interested in generations as an idea though. Like how when you were born sort of affects how you see the world. Like how people might say the Ethan Hawke character from Reality Bites sort of embodied a generational attitude of the 90s. Or that a certain artist can be called the voice of his or generation like Dylan or Cobain or whoever. Its funny because its at once interesting to think about, but also must be entirely taken with a grain of salt. How could you ever make such a sweeping generalization of people based on which span of years they were born within?
Synco: There’s a wide variety of sound coming out of both Actor-Caster and Con Law with varied instrumentation. Can you talk a little about the multi-instrument approach to your songwriting and the recording process?
Ted: With Con Law i think we were just going for broke and throwing in a lot of stuff and really having fun doing whatever we wanted while recording. I kind of feel like, if i thought of anything it ended up going in the song. Whereas Actor-Caster is maybe a little more reigned in in the instrument department. We still did whatever we wanted, but I guess we had sort narrowed our palette a bit and maybe paired things down as we recorded them rather than slather stuff on. But all this is sort of how I see it in retrospect. It was never really that much of a conscious effort to make it differently. For instance, horns. It wasn’t really until after we finished Actor Caster that I realized there were no horns on it. It just never came up.
Synco: Fill in the blank: Actor-Caster was a _________ album, whereas Con Law was a _________ album.
Ted: Actor-Caster was a Frasier album, whereas Con Law was a Home Improvement album.
Synco: What did you listen to while recording Con Law versus Actor-Caster?
Ted: During Con Law I was listening to some Irma Thomas and the Zombies. Actor Caster, I was listening to ELO and Television.
Synco: Some critics have suggested that at times the music of The Generationals gets dangerously close to ‘overdoing it’ as far as pop sensibilities. How do delineate that during the songwriting process or do you even bother?
Ted: Oh I’m sure I’m often guilty of overdoing it. I guess you just have to go with your gut. Often my gut says JUST DO IT!
Synco: Is there a place for you in the local New Orleans music scene where jazz seems to rule and there is a serious underbelly of sludge metal fans?
Ted: Hard to say. I think New Orleans is open to whatever even though it is obviously more known for certain things like jazz as you say. I wouldn’t say there are a lot of bands in New Orleans really doing what we’re doing, but I often feel that I prefer that. Its more challenging to try to win over a bunch of people who are not trying to hear some poppy sounding stuff, you know? I think I’ve become happy with being the outsiders down here.
Synco: How big of an influence was New Orleans R&B and Funk on your music? Meters? Eddie Bo?
Ted: Meters have definitely been a big influence on both Grant and I basically since we started playing guitar. It’s obviously not something you hear in what we play, but as players growing up we most definitely studied the hell out of Meters stuff. No doubt.
Synco: The buzz around you guys is really growing. Did you have any expectations set out in terms of popularity or where the Generationals would be at this point?
Ted: We are way fucking behind by my schedule. I really thought we’d be spending way more time in jacuzzis by this now. We are not there yet. And I am PISSED.
Synco: What would be your dream collaboration?
Ted: Kanye! If you’re reading this we’re avails!
Synco: Are you and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. BFFs now after touring?
Ted: Yeah those guys are great. They came up for a few songs on our last show in Austin. I would love to collab on something with those guys at some point. We briefly discussed doing something.
Synco: What have been a couple of your favorite albums of 2011?
Ted: Floating Action – Desert Etiquette.
Generationals – “When They Fight They Fight” off Con Law