joan, an Arkansas music duo, are making the 90’s sound cool again.
Steven Rutherford and Alan Thomas artfully take the era’s signature beats and rework them with a 2020 mindset. The result is dance worthy modern bops that conjure visions of crop tops and cassette tapes.
In their latest single, “Ease Your Mind,” the band utilizes an electronic piano to make tracks that are reminiscent of nostalgic boy and hip-hop bands. joan cleverly weaves just enough 90’s elements into their modern songs to make every one fresh and worthy of a spot on today’s contemporary playlist.
ECHO had a chance to chat with this retro style band about growing up in Arkansas, music and their first ever headlining tour!
You’re about to go on tour. What song are you looking forward to performing?
ohh yes! this is our first headline tour, so we’re really excited about all of it. it’s our first time to have our own production and a show that really feels like ours so it’s going to be special for us.
What do you hope fans take away from your live performances?
Steven: We’ve always just wanted people at our shows to enjoy themselves. If our show can put a smile on their face, make them dance, or give them an opportunity to meet new friends, we’ve all won.
You released your newest single, “Ease Your Mind” in October. What inspired you to write the new single?
Steven: We wrote “Ease Your Mind” pretty early on last year, and it just immediately felt like the biggest song we had ever written. The song is basically about taking things to an extreme in your head which is probably something everyone struggles with from time to time; especially in a relationship. It was fun to go to that place to write that song.
What does your song-writing process look like?
Steven: The bulk of our writing process is generally in Alan’s home studio. We’ll start with a voice memo of a hook to a song or just a melody or whatever and sort of go from there. We do melodies and overall vibe of the song together, but Alan usually handles the production side of things and I (Steven) handle the lyrics. By the end of the process, we have a really good idea of what the final product will be like.
If you could set your fans up in the perfect environment to listen to “Ease Your Mind,” what might it look like?
Steve: Haha, Alan and I say different things.
Alan: I always imagine this song being sung by friends at a party, drink in hand, arms around each other having a jolly ole time
Steven: In your car at 2 am under city lights on a rainy fall night
How did joan form?
We were both in separate bands, and we met and became fast friends from those bands playing shows together in little rock. I was graduating school and wanted to do music full time – Alan had been out of school for a few years already and was already doing music. We sat down together to write music for film and tv, and ended up writing “Take Me On” the first day. We wanted it to be musically inspired by the people we grew up listening to, but having a modern twist as well so it could fit in today’s world. We’ve pretty much kept that same philosophy in all our songs since then. At the end of the day we looked at each other and said “woah, this is a band.”
When did you first realize you wanted to do music?
Alan: My dad handed me a pair of drum sticks when I was like 10 and taught me how to do a “paradiddle”, this drum rudiment that every drummer learns. He had bought a little table top drum machine that you could play a full kit on, and play along with different styles of music. I was absolutely obsessed and stopped caring about school and everything else. Music was singular focus after that.
Steven: I watched this movie called “school of rock” when I was kid and from then on Ialways knew music was what i wanted to do. I remember coming home from that movie and immediately creating an imaginary drum set from pots and pans dreaming about playing on stage.
You both grew up in Arkansas. How do you think growing up there influenced your music?
Steven: Great question. the music we create is completely different from what most people that live in arkansas write, and we’ve always liked that. I think when we were growing up there was always a “big city” sound in music so when we went to create our own music, that’s what we went for.
joan has a very 80s/90s vibe. What is your favorite thing from those two decades?
Steven: Music and movies were just insane in those two decades. It’s probably safe to say things from those two decades totally shaped who we are as far as art direction.
Steven, have you had the chance to utilize your background in marketing and design with joan?
Steven: Definitely! I basically do all the visual things for joan. we run our own socials, we create our own artwork, etc. We’ve known from the beginning exactly who we wanted listeners to see us as and I think we knew what to do to make everything visually match what we were doing musically. I would definitely say my background in marketing helps us with that.
Steven, you and your brother both do music full-time. Do you ever find yourselves giving each other advice?
Steven: Yeah, we do! He’s a killer musician who tours a lot as well, so we swap stories a lot and learn from what we’re doing on the road as well as musically.
What is one quote or lesson that you’d like to ECHO out to the world?
Steven: Support your friends!
What can fans expect in 2020?
Steven: A lot of new music. we’re working on so much music right now and we’re sooo excited to get it out to the world. 2020 is going to be a super special year for us.
See joan in a city near you! Get your tickets here.