As seen from the inside out

Under a magnificent, sprawling tree, there is an unusual house on a mysterious street in Nashville. On this funny little street the weather is never quite like it is in the surrounding neighborhood, sun shines through rain clouds and snow falls from the clear blue sky, sometimes only on the extraordinary little house. The light there, day, night or dawn, always seems slightly purple. The grass is scraggly and pathetic but gigantic flowers bloom all around. In this house lives a mysterious little family, The Joiners. Does the odd little house on the peculiar little street make the Joiners different from everyday people, or is it the Joiners that make the street strange?

No, people, I haven’t completely lost my mind. It’s just that on stage or off The Joiners seem, to me, like characters from a book. A novel I read as child when I was too young to understand exactly what was going on. When I close my eyes and imagine them, I see the scene above. You see, the Joiners are my friends. It’s like old home week on HCT sure, but the truth of the matter is, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface. I live in a mystical, magnetic center of music talent (East Nashville) and I know a lot people. I can’t cover them all, because, honestly, I don’t like all the music my friends make, or it just isn’t the HCT groove. But every now and then some things come along that can’t be passed over, they are just too good.

A few weeks ago I was in a brightly colored, well-loved, neighborhood bar watching The Joiners play. I was completely thrown over by their music. I don’t know what I expected, but lovely moody, emotionally complex, musically simple songs was what I got. After the show I told Mr. Joiner that those were some of the saddest songs I’d ever heard. “Sad?” he replied, “but they are full of hope!” No, I maintained, sad sad sad. Fast forward a couple weeks and those crazy kids have finished their album, Olives & Oil. I listened. I listened again. I made a copy for my car. I listened a lot. I played it while I cleaned house. While I worked. While I sat around on my porch, drinking and watching traffic go by. The songs are sad, but truthfully, they are full of hope, in their own strange, crooked little house on a shady lane kind of way. Yes, full of hope, sadness, a little twang here and there, a lot of moodiness, and a bunch of love (for the world, for stories, for people), it’s all packed into 10 little songs.

A little known secret about me is that I am a helper. Or I try to be (it doesn’t always work out for me). So right now I’d like to help The Joiners and I’d like to help you, dear readers. It turns out I can do these things simultaneously. You see The Joiners are giving away their album in a free download. And you need good music. So if I hook y’all up, right here, on this blog, then everyone wins!! You get good music, they get more exposure. It’s genius, really. And more than that, I have badgered these lovely kids into giving a mini interview, so you’ll know a little more about them (although after reading some of this, you may wonder why you though you wanted to know more).

The Joiners are Rachel Joiner – drums & vox, Taylor Joiner – guitar & vox and Joe Bidewell – harmonica, accordion, bass & vox. They make me happy, both with their music and just being who they are. They are all great kids. I want to be just like them when I grow up.

Here’s a few questions answered by our (mine and now yours too!) pal, Taylor Joiner:

- So who are you anyway?

We’re the Joiners. I thought you knew that already. You really should’ve done your research before you started this interview.

- Oh I know who you are! You are the guy who is clearly never going to return the book he borrowed months ago.

I’m Taylor. I used to have a band in Athens, GA called Cafeteria. We were poised on the edge of greatness until I lost it and hauled ass. I’m better now. My wife and drummer Rachel is from Birmingham, AL. where she used to play ice hockey on the boy’s team and pursue her love of writing. Our bass player Joe Bidewell used to live at the Chelsea hotel in Manhattan and play keys for Velvet Underground alum John Cale.

- Tell me a story about how you’d imagine your Best Day Ever.

I’d rather tell you about my worst day ever.

- Of course you would.

I was ten and really in need of a Transformer (the toy that turns from car to robot). I called my mom at work and pleaded with her but to no avail. Thinking on my feet, I decided to clean the house from top to bottom before she got home.

Arriving home from work, she was so happy with what I’d done that she rewarded me by taking me to the mall to get the coveted toy. On the way out of the garage we ran over my cat, Mr. Kitty. It was quite violent. My older brother scooped him up in a towel and drove with my now totally freaked out mother to the vet.

They returned twenty minutes later with Mr. Kitty’s blood stained collar.

- Jeez, man, way to bring the room down. Did you bring me tissues for this story too? Or at least a beer to fortify me afterwards?

“Do you still want to go the mall,” my mom asked, pale from the experience and probably pretty worried about me. Looking up at her from the pillow I had buried my face in, I managed through my tears to answer. “Yeah.” We got to the mall only to discover every single store had sold out of Transformers. Not even a GoBot to be found. Dejected, we made our exit, but not before passing my dad eating dinner with his new family in the food court. “We ran over the cat, Dad.” I mumbled, hoping for a little credit for having gone through such a horror. “That’s too bad,” he replied. We turned and left, toy-less and sad. Today, when Rae asks me to clean the house, my reply is simple, “Two words babe: ‘Mr’. and ‘Kitty’.” I think she understands.

- Okay, I think I need a shot of whiskey or something before we go on. You must be trying to punish me for saying your songs were so sad. Okay, next question: There’s been a lot of talk lately about the EVILS of file-sharing. By giving away your new release you are basically going against the entire crazy machine of the industry. Do you think as an artist this hurts you or helps you?

Definitely helps. It costs so much to make a CD to sell, whatever level you’re at, it all gets recouped by whoever paid for it unless you sell a ton. If you’re lucky enough to sell a ton, you had to pay for radio promotion, press promotion, and all the other stuff that goes into it.

Manufacturing for digital release, promotion on the internet, distribution, all that stuff, is much cheaper than making a CD now, so why not give it away? At this point we just want people to hear it. I read somewhere that the philosophy used to be “give away 300 CDs to sell a thousand,” but now is “give away a million CDs to sell a thousand”. We’re lucky if folks download our record, cause after that, they come to the show, buy shirts, and just might plop down a little extra for the vinyl version. Free digital music aides the return of vinyl.

People who like the music enough are happy to pay a few bucks for the version they can use two hands to hold. The art is bigger and the sound is something you can’t digitally recreate. Digital music is convenient but not the best sounding and there are other ways to make a living off of the art. The idea is to make it as easy as possible for folks to find us and get turned on. When we’re Madonna, we’ll see what the milieu looks like then. In the meantime, wanna buy a shirt?

- Who are the bands that you’ve played with or seen recently that you think deserve more attention, either from fans or record labels?

The entire Trey Deuce club. These are East Nashville guys who play in each other’s bands, help each other out by playing shows together, record each other’s music, and basically just support each other however we can.

What’s the best thing about Nashville? The worst?

The best thing here is definitely the talent pool. The best players in the world are here, all genres, hands down. The worst: the air quality. The Indians that lived around the area back in the day used to hunt in the Nashville Basin but never resided here. The name they gave this area meant loosely “Valley of Fever.” I believe they were referring to the havoc this place wreaks on one’s allergies.

- What songs (besides your own) can you not get enough of right now? Does what you are listening to influence the music you are making?

I let Rachel pick the music and then tell her I think it’s terrible.

Honestly, this question always gets me and I’ll tell you why. A couple of years ago I applied for a job at a fancy bistro here in town. The application asked me to name my favorite foods. Of course, they were expecting me to name a bunch of fancy stuff to show off my knowledge of fine food. Knowing this but wanting to be both unique among applicants as well as honest, I wrote “pizza and sandwiches.” Now, I can cook whatever I’m asked to but they wanted to know what I liked to eat, so I told them.

Disappointed in my response, they didn’t hire me (maybe not the only factor but nonetheless, it didn’t help). I mention this cause your readers might want to hear of obscure bands that they might like that they’ve never heard of but I’m not really the audiophile that say, Rae or Joe are. Having said this, I’ll give it a try. Vic Chestnut’s Little had a particular hold on me for awhile. Will Oldam’s brother has a band called Anomoanon and they sing a song called “The Night is So Uncertain” that I like to sing to guys named Frankie who like to party. Rae turned me on to Superdrag the other day and I really like their song “Sucked Out.” I’m sure there’s more but like I said, pizza and sandwiches.

- How do you go about writing songs? / What is your creative process?

When I was in Athens and just getting started, a guy I knew told me to write every song that came to mind down on paper until it was done, or I couldn’t get any further, regardless of how good. Most of the time the song writes itself and I just decide whether it’s any good or not. Keith Richards once likened it to being a radio receiver, dialing around till something good comes in from the ether. I like the way that sounds but let me be the first to say, I’m no Keith Richards. He’s got a longer antennae.

If you were going to die tomorrow and you could only send one last message out into the universe, what would it be?

Drink apple juice cause OJ will kill you.

The album, Olives & Oil, is available for download at the Joiner House. Please, if you take it, go back and leave the Joiners a comment, show them some love and pass the word to your friends who also like good sad songs full of hope.

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