If you’re not familiar with The Low Joy Ceiling I strongly encourage checking them out. A side project made up of members of the Karpinka Brothers, Library Voices, and Rah Rah, the band has a fun, poppy sound that takes the music seriously, but not too seriously. The band has released an EP, Crooked Bangs, and a joint EP with Surf Dads, and recently covered the Billy Bragg song, A New England, which they graciously allowed Our Basement to debut. We were also given the opportunity to interview band members Michael Dawson and Aaron Karpinka about motivation, inspiration, and balance. Check out my interview below, and of course, their cover of A New England.
Our Basement: There are so many great Billy Bragg songs out there, what prompted the decision to cover A New England?
Aaron Karpinka: Michael Suggested covering it and I’m a fan of Billy so I thought that song in particular would be so fun to cover. It’s very high energy with some real relatable lyrics.
Michael Dawson: You’re absolutely right that there are so many great Billy Bragg songs out there. I don’t even know how or where I originally heard A New England but it’s just been a song that’s always stuck with me and that I always thought it would be fun to cover. We had actually booked some studio time to record a few others songs and the session was going surprising smoothly so we decided to take a stab at it on the spot. I hope our rendition captures that spirit of spontaneity. The session happened just after I’d had the opportunity to see Billy Bragg perform and speak in Kansas City. I was feeling particularly inspired by him and was reminded of how I’d always loved that song. We’ve been sitting on it for a little while and had started to second guess if we should do anything with it and then a couple weeks ago Jeffrey (drums) texted me from Iceland Airwaves that he had just saw Bragg perform and that it was life changing.
OB: Did you use the version of the song with the extra verse written for Kirsty MacColl? Why or why not?
MD: I know that following her death Bragg has added the extra verse to his live performances of the song, which I think is a beautiful sentiment. With that said, for our version we stuck to the original. It’s been said that MacColl’s motivation to extend the song was that she felt it was too short. The truth is that a lot of what I love about the song is its incredible efficiency. Mostly of the LJC songs stumble in around the two or three minute mark but I don’t think any of them will ever do it as effectively as A New England.
OB: I know all of the band members also play in other bands, how do you all manage to balance making time for The Low Joy Ceiling with the responsibilities of your other bands, plus families, and other responsibilities outside the band?
AK: I’m still trying to figure out how we’ve been pulling this off but we look for little pockets in space and time where we can all chip away at the songs. A lot of times we haven’t been in the same room while recording these. It’s interesting that way though.
MD: Family first. Always. I think Aaron’s exactly right though that a lot of it comes from trusting each other and being able to work on stuff with whoever is available, which in most cases means we’re never all in the same room at the same time. Most of the song skeletons come from Aaron and I bouncing text messages back and forth. The motivation for the project from day one has been to keep things loose and fun. It gives us a reason to exorcise some demons and create something without any external pressure that usually comes along with being in a band.
OB: What are some of your biggest inspirations in your approach to making music?
AK: I was drawn to writing songs by people like Vic Chesnutt, Mark Linkous and Tom Waits. I wanted to craft my own songs with my own style. Show my own personality and just play from the heart. However it came out sounding like.
MD: This might be the hardest question any has ever asked me. I actually have no idea where inspiration comes from, I just know it hits when I rarely expect it. With the LJC I had definitely been feeling in itch to make some music that was loose and noisy and didn’t take itself too seriously. Like Aaron, I love Mark Linkous so much. Sparklehorse is one of my all-time favourite bands but those records sound like an exercise in patience. By contrast there’s a long list of songs I love by bands like The Replacements, Sebadoh, Guided By Voices, Archers Of Loaf, etc that are very guitar driven and were a big part of the motivation behind our band. Of course given the nature of Our Basement I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge some important Canadian bands of my youth like early Sloan, Eric’s Trip, The Inbreds, The Killjoys, Hayden, and The Weakerthans. I recently finally had the chance to see Alvvays. They’re a perfect band.
OB: What is next for The Low Joy Ceiling? Any plans for a full album, or another EP? And selfishly, any chance for a tour that includes the northern Virginia, Washington DC, or Baltimore area?
AK: I believe another ep will be coming out soon. We’ve felt very encouraged by the response people have had to our music and I think what’s exciting about this project is how little I over look ahead. I’m just trying to come up with the best songs I can as I get each Mike Dawson Lyrics email.
MD: At this point it seems unlikely the band will ever make a full album. With the short little burst we have to work on stuff I think we’d all rather just keep putting stuff out as we finish it than sit on it long enough to accumulate an LP. We’re just putting the finishing touches on an EP today and have already started in on a follow up. There’s no touring plans for the time being. We’ve been flattered by some very kind offers for shows since our first release, but being based in three or four cities and dipping our feet into so many projects it just hasn’t felt like the right time. Aaron just completed an extensive tour and album release with his real project The Karpinka Brothers and Jeffrey has spent the last little bit on the road sitting in on drums for Rococode.
OB: This last one is from my husband after checking out your website: Guided by Voices – great band, or the greatest band? (He says there is only one right answer 🙂 )
AK: The greatest band.