The crowd sparks and fires, rising as one to the beat. The people at the periphery wheel away with childish exuberance before lunging back towards the centre, so that it looks synchronised, pre-ordained almost, like a firework going off. Up on stage, Ned is slouched low over his kit, the machine-gun fire of drumsticks eventually proving too much for the snare, which topples and rolls away from his despairing reach. Jasper’s bass weaves through the spaces between the violent, pop-tinged thrusts of Luca’s guitar like mortar between bricks. Up front, George is up on his toes, whirling like a prizefighter before a bout, dancing back and forth across that thin line between self-assurance and arrogance. It’s chaotic, up on surface, but Joy Room don’t stop.
It’s quiet outside the Green Door Store – a robust, compact little venue tucked away under the railway station, its brickwork stained almost grey by age and industrial-strength smog – but not for long. We’re sat at a broken picnic table, ashtray overflowing with dog-ends, half-drunk G&Ts leaking from plastic cups, when Joy Room bound over to meet us. These four old school friends from London are obviously comfortable in each other’s company. Their conversation is rowdy, inflated by alcohol and high spirits, laughter bursting from the sides like steam from an old locomotive. However, as we settle down to chat, beneath the veneer of wayward mayhem, we meet a group who are polite and friendly, grateful and humble in the face of the attention they receive and more than willing to discuss the inner-workings of a band on the rise.
Starting 18 months ago, from the ashes of George and Luca’s previous band, they stole Jasper from another group and started searching for a drummer:
George: We just wanted to get some songs together… We tried Ned out and we were like… He’s the best because he just had this kinda groove.
Luca: I got an old reel-to-reel tape player that my Dad gave me and we recorded to it… and it sounded so sick.
This rough, lo-fi sound is the most distinctive element of Joy Room’s early work, including their compelling catchy first single Late At Night that got them attention from BBC Introducing:
Jasper: It was funny how Late At Night came out… just us and our instruments, this kinda basement garage vibe, loadsa amps everywhere and we just smashed it out in a day.
Is this their song-writing process, helter-skelter and rough? Is their sound purposefully unsophisticated?
George: Me and Luca smack ’em up and then we smash ‘em around like a pinball machine.
Ned: Then the band come together and it’s formed.
George: I have to believe in the lyrics but other than that, it’s the musical idea that’s best that wins.
The belief in the lyrics is important. During the live set there are brief interludes where George tells us the stories that lie behind their songs. There is a naked honesty to these tales that are at the heart of the band’s relationship with the audience. These everyday recollections are also our own and this gives their music a cathartic edge:
George: Yeah, the lyrics are fun but just straight up. If I don’t really believe that, if I’m not like, this has happened to me then… I have to know that I’ve gone through it… Every lyric that I’ve written, Luca has been there beside me as I was having a beer, thinking about or crying about it, whatever it’s been. We’ve been through everything we’re singing about, you know.
This story-telling urge implies a deeper well of artistic ambition than is initially obvious. As they themselves admit, the early material wears its influences on its sleeve. There is a dash of The Strokes, a sprinkle of the Queens of The Stone Age and a fair scattering of the Kings of Leon. But, how do they grow beyond this?
Luca: We’ve slowed down our songs a bit because Jasper’s got this amazing slinky bass style and recently we’ve been finding a way to really play into his strengths.
Ned: It’s still got the older style feel but we’re breaking into something else.
Jasper: We’re still experimenting with everything, you know.
Luca: I never wanna feel comfortable, I always wanna move.
So what does this mean in terms of recording? How will they take this ambition and put it onto record?
Luca: We’ve had a bit of a weird experience with a few producers where we’d go in and record these tracks and, just like, nothing come of it.
George: Recording is so important… You can record a song and it doesn’t come off as cool, but it’s a cool song. You can record a song that’s not very cool but comes off as so cool because of the recording. It’s about getting that balance and we’re trying to figure out how to do that for ourselves.
Luca: You meet producers… A lot of them don’t keep up with the moment and they can make it all a bit naff. Like ‘Yeah, I can do The Strokes sound. You like The Strokes? I’ll do that.’ And then you’ll come out and it’ll sound like The Strokes but, it’s confused, we want it to sound like us.
This is the essence of Joy Room. There is a wide-eyed, raucousness to their approach which can hide the utter belief in their ability and the ambition not just to be another band but to be the band:
George: We hold ourselves up to our idols and our idols are really good musicians. So we always try to be the best musicians we can be and that sometimes is fucking hard for us and quite a stressful, rocky road cause we’re pushing ourselves.
Luca: It’s about having a unique feeling. Like, if I have a select emotion and attribute that with a band then I would like to be someone’s select emotion… I want to be like that kinda of band.
George: We’re checking off influences. We’re starting to get through the Kings of Leon and The Strokes. I mean, at the very end of the spectrum, we’ve got a long way to get there, there’s like Radiohead, David Bowie and Prince. If you can end up there, you’re killing it.
And with that, Joy Room bounce away, seemingly without a care in the world. They may not have outgrown their influences yet. They may roll into town shouting along to Ophelia by The Band like students on their way to a festival. They may burn the night away dancing to Faithless, Orbital and Underworld only sleeping to the first stirring of sunlight. But, their energy is infectious, stretching out to encompass passers-by who come to share their love and their anecdotes of all things Joy Room. And this energy, allied with a tireless musicality and serious ambition, marks them as group we should expect big things from.