Just Enough Turmoil: Day Joy, March 8 at Rozz-Tox Print
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Saturday, 02 March 2013 13:36

Day Joy

The vibe of Day Joy’s debut album is undoubtedly dreamy. The Florida-based band intends that literally – but not quite in the obvious manner of gentle, mild, peaceful sleep.

Yes, it has cool cello, some warm organ, and spare banjo and guitar in wispy, atmospheric, reverb-heavy arrangements. There are lovely harmonies articulating what Michael Serrin – who founded the band with Peter Michael Perceval III – called “soft-spoken melodies.” It usually moves at an aimless pace toward no clear destination.

But the opening track, with the appropriate title “Animal Noise,” closes with an aggressive cacophony from nature. The next song is “Bone & Bloody,” followed by “Talks of Terror” – which teeters on the edge of a climactic cliff but never leaps off, denying a catharsis that had seemed inevitable. The penultimate song is “Splattered Like Me.”

Sweet dreams might dominate, in other words, but they’re swirled with nightmares.

Day Joy, on its way to South by Southwest later this month, will perform at Rozz-Tox on March 8, and Serrin said in a phone interview that these contradictions were intentional. The tantalizingly titled Go to Sleep, Mess – released in February on Small Plates Records – was crafted as a concept album. “The idea of it was the mental turmoil that you may have when you can’t sleep at night,” he said, also comparing it to “that contrast between that beautiful dream and that terrible nightmare you have right after it.”

The record was re-sequenced and trimmed for its release, but the narrative conceit remains, he said: “It’s just a little more obscured.” The result is similar to the fragmentary recall of our nighttime narratives: “If you think about a dream that you had the next morning, you don’t necessarily have a sequential nature to it all the time.”

He added that beyond trying to mimic a busy mind unable to see the path to repose, Go to Sleep, Mess can work as an antidote to that problem. “It’s really a great record to quiet your mind ... ,” he said. “There’s enough turmoil in it that it can take you outside your own head.”

Named by Paste magazine last year as one of “10 Florida Bands You Should Listen to Now,” Day Joy started as a simple folk outfit with just Serrin and Perceval. The college friends recorded rough versions of their songs and later decided to flesh them out.

That process included adding cello to “Purple,” which Serrin said “was really where the door for string arrangements on the record was opened.” They realized that to do the songs live, they’d need a band, and Day Joy now performs as a five- or six-piece ensemble.

“A lot of the songs stayed in their original format, but where they really changed was in the layering,” he said. “They really are all folk songs at heart, but that gets obscured by a lot of the atmospherics.”

Despite the careful, rich construction of its textures, the album was home-recorded, with the band learning as it went along. “There’s a lot of the room in that record,” Serrin said, including accidents both happy and not. The muffled, distant, somewhat agitated talking underneath a section of “Purple” had its genesis with a foreign-language film playing in the background when the cello was being recorded – an idea drawn from an overly sensitive microphone.

And if the bright certainty of the band name Day Joy seems at odds with the liquidity and ambivalence of its sound – a successful depiction of nocturnal unease – that’s okay with Serrin. “That’s kind of what we like about it,” he said.

The moniker was left over from his solo project and was a fall-back when the band couldn’t agree on something better, but Serrin said the group has embraced it: “I like it when you are surprised by a band’s sound after hearing their name.”

Day Joy will perform on Friday, March 8, at Rozz-Tox (2108 Third Avenue in Rock Island, RozzTox.com). Admission to the 9 p.m. all-ages show is $5.

For more information on Day Joy, visit Facebook.com/DayJoyMusic.

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