An Interview with JOLLY: Congratulations, You Are Now Happy

From the first of the righteous, pummeling strains of “Firewell,” the opening song on JOLLY’s The Audio Guide To Happiness, Part Two, it’s apparent that the band remains well-attuned to the magic that brought about such electrifying progressive rock tunes as “The Pattern” and “Where Everything’s Perfect.”

On the whole, “Firewell” is Part Two’s heaviest song, but the journey it takes from hefty riff-rock to airy prog ambience, quirky piano-swing and then mastodonic metal thrashing is reminiscent of the many twists and turns throughout the band’s ambitious double album. And it’s an agreeable foreshadowing of the looming cathartic conclusion of The Audio Guide To Happiness.

The album’s first single, “Dust Nation Bleak,” is an earworm if there ever was one. Bookended by a furious metallic riff, the song is held together by an impossibly catchy chorus. Singer/guitarist Anadale belts out the words “dust nation” with such conviction, you won’t really even care what a dust nation is because you’ll be too busy singing along.

It’s fitting the band shot the video for the first song in the gutted remains of their Brooklyn studio (drummer Louis Abramson’s home), which was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy; just like JOLLY will never forget removing the rotted furniture, ruined appliances and waterlogged gear from the house, no one who hears this song will ever forget that chorus.

“While We Slept In Burning Shades” is an upbeat, alternative-sounding tune that would make another worthy single with its melodic chorus and memorable bridge. “Despite The Shell” gradually picks up steam before unleashing a crushing, locomotive-sized “Oh, shit!” riff with about 90 seconds to spare.

Louis had been working on his house when he took a break to talk about finally completing The Audio Guide To Happiness, getting on the road after the Hurricane Sandy disaster, the new part of his brain called “Dust Nation” and more.

What’s the timeline from Audio Guide, Part One to Part Two?

You could say that [Part Two] had been in progress this whole time. It was very difficult to resist the temptation to go back and change things. That’s unavoidable. It’s been in conclusion in some form since Part One came out.

Okay, because I thought JOLLY posted a picture of a box of Part Two digipacks a while ago…

Yeah, I remember that. That was Part One. I remember a lot of people thought that was Part Two, but really we just ordered more copies of Part One and they just arrived. That confused a lot of people.

[For Part Two] we never dared to actually have everything mastered and printed and all that until it was time to release it. Those final steps didn’t make sense because they would have painted us in a corner if we wanted to add or change anything.

How much planning went into the musical direction for the two records? Did you have a rough idea of the arc you wanted to take over the two albums?

We outlined the emotional blueprint of this album in a very abstract, rough sort of way. As we were writing and playing together, we just kind of confirmed with each other what made sense and what works. The reason this whole idea came about, was to reflect how we write music.

We didn’t write music to fit into this concept. The way we write music is just everyone throws in ideas and we put it in a blender and see what happens. That’s the way we wrote this album. It’s just a matter of tweaking things and putting the puzzle pieces together. We naturally write in a very dynamic, chaotic kind of way. One song can sound completely different from another. But that’s just how I imagine it to other people. I have a hard time really understanding what it’s like to listen to JOLLY from the outside because I’m so involved. I don’t really know. I feel like it probably seems all over the place. That’s how we write. That’s why this concept makes sense to us.

How did you maintain perspective on this material having had so much time between the two records?

Well, who knows if we did? Changes were made. As we changed and felt things could be adjusted or added or subtracted, so did our take on the entire vision. I guess if we released the album two years ago, that would have been our snapshot of our concept of The Audio Guide To Happiness at that point. But since it came out later, it has a much broader feel and it makes more sense to us because it includes a broader scope of feelings and experiences for us as individuals.

It’s all subjective. It depends which version of me you’re asking. Right now, the changes we made and the album that [is going to be] released, that was the album that’s supposed to be released. That wasn’t me two years ago. If you asked me two years ago, I would have said, “It should be out right now!”

Do you typically demo sections as you go or do most of these songs come out of jam sessions?

Both. A lot of it is with jamming and recording with one microphone. We’ll go listen and things will jump out to each of us. There’s any number of ways that could go. That could turn into demoing a riff over a recording of us jamming. Or sometimes one of us will have something that we started from scratch. There’s so many different ways that songs come about with us, we usually forget where things come from. That’s what’s weird about being in this band.

The presence of Joe Reilly’s keyboard playing is felt more, I think, on Part Two. Can you tell me how you arrived at that?

You know I’ve actually only heard that from you, Andrew. It would be impossible for us to say, “On this album we want to feature more Joe.” It just so happened that “Aqualand” called for more synth and “Grand Utopia” is a piano-based song. It’s just by chance. If you go song by song, what each song is asking for, we give it. That’s how our songs go. We don’t know what a song is going to sound like until it’s done. It’s a very strange thing. When a song is finished, it’s finished being mixed. Then it’s like, “Wow, this seems like an electronic song!”

“Aqualand” is a good example of that. If you listen to the first half of that song, it’s a pretty organic, atmospheric song and then it goes in this strange electro-pop—I don’t even know what you’d call it—direction. That’s not a conscious decision by anybody. That’s just where the song took us. As a side effect, that led to more Joe because the song asked for more Joe.

Some people say [Part Two] is heavier, but we have not had any consensus as far as what [Part Two] is more or less of than Part One. So it’s interesting that you say it’s more Joe.

That’s interesting.

Yeah, it is cool. The grand idea of this whole thing is that it’s a subjective experience for everybody and everybody’s interpretation of it is so different. It’s very strange.

Who does the screams in “Firewell?” It sounds a lot like Devin Townsend. I know you guys have a relationship with him, being on the same label and so forth…

It’s not Devin Townsend. It’s me, actually.

Really? You sound great. Are you performing the screams live?

Hopefully (laughs). We’re working on it.

That does sound like Devin Townsend. I agree with that. That is definitely Devin Townsend-inspired. Especially the Alien album by Strapping Young Lad. That to me is the greatest metal album ever. That album blows me away, so I have to admit that was inspired by Devin. It’s extreme.

I feel like your audience and Devin’s audience have a lot in common (or is maybe even the same people), fans who are very welcoming and encouraging of exploration in music.

Yeah, I agree. That’s why I’m such a big fan of Devin Townsend. I get the same feeling from Mike Patton. That’s another person that I love. It’s like, they’re not a joke, but they can joke. There’s humor [on those records], but it’s a very serious thing. It’s fun and it’s epic and it’s heavy and it’s silly, just all of those things.

How hard was it waiting two years to release The Audio Guide To Happiness, Part Two? Did you feel like you were, kind of, prevented from moving on to the next thing for the band?

So hard (laughs). The fact that Audio Guide Two is finally being released and that stage of our musical composition is done is very, very relieving and exciting! Especially, timed with the hurricane, it’s a very strange thing.

The slate has been wiped clean so ultimately. We’re all just excited. Our studio is being rebuilt. We’re working on new material. We get to go out on tour. This is also going to be the first time we get to legitimately promote an album with a tour. We’ve never done it.

That’s why the wait to release this album was driving us crazy. After we released Audio Guide, Part One, we didn’t do any touring for it, really—we did a tour last year where we headlined in Europe, but that was not the right move financially. It was a great experience, but it was not the right move; it was too little too late and then we couldn’t put out Part Two until we had a worthwhile tour to support it. So finally, the stars have aligned and we were able to get the mix done and everything was in the right spot so we could release the album, get on the right tour, meet new fans and rebuild our studio and move on.

We are so excited to discover the next stage of JOLLY. It’s totally a new beginning for us.

How is the studio being rebuilt? Is that a result of the Indiegogo money and contributions from the fans?

Yes and no. Unfortunately, the cost of this kind of stuff is just overwhelming. The Indiegogo money is going to help with some of the equipment, like getting microphones and getting equipment to play live, like guitar heads and stuff like that. Then there’s just the cost of me rebuilding my home.

The fans have helped us so much. It’s just a beautiful thing that they helped us. The studio will be largely thanks to the Indiegogo contributions. But even with that it’s really rough. We’re really thankful for what we’ve got. The fans really came through for us. We had support in a way that we never really knew we had.

I told you a while ago that I hear “Dust Nation Bleak” in my sleep sometimes. Since you helped write it, surely you have experienced that?

I hear it in my sleep every day and every night, and especially after editing the music video. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song as many times as I’ve heard “Dust Nation Bleak.” It’s in my sleep. I hear it when I’m awake.

First I loved it. Pre-Audio Guide Two release, I was anticipating it being one of my favorite tracks, even before it was really recorded and developed, even when it was in its infant stages. I was so excited about “Dust Nation Bleak.” Then it finally came to the recording and it became the anthem song that it is and I still loved it.

Then there was all the time spent getting the mixes tweaked and perfect while being homeless and living in Joe’s apartment, waiting to submit the songs to mastering and I hated it. I hated the whole damn album. I was sick of it. I was second-guessing myself on everything and I was under a lot of pressure.

Working on the video, I heard it so many more times that it made a loop around and I started to like it again. Now, it’s just a part of my brain.

What’s the plan for the rest of the year beyond the European and U.S. tours with Riverside?

After the European and U.S. tours, we’ll be back here. We’re definitely going to be working on releasing more videos for Audio Guide Two. We’re planning to release a good amount of videos this year. Then it’s whatever tour opportunities may come up for the fall. As of now, we’re not actively looking because we also want to really sit down after the dust is cleared and work on new material. We want to regroup. There’s been so much chaos recently, we’re all excited to lock ourselves in a room and write together and discover the new JOLLY.

JOLLY’s album release show is March 1 at Arlene’s Grocery in NYC. The Audio Guide To Happiness, Part Two will be officially released on March 5 via Inside Out Music. For more information, go to