Last spring I had the honor of accompanying one of my friends to a concert by a band called Joseph. I knew very little about the band beforehand, but I love concerts so I was excited to attend. In my excitement, I didn’t even think to say hello when I passed the band members unloading their gear from their tour van. All I could do was stare in awe as the women I’d seen on the posters plastered up against the windows of Iron Horse in Northampton walked past me one by one.
When we finally sat down at our table I realized this concert was going to be unlike any other I had been to before. Our “seats” were chairs at a table in the middle of a makeshift dance floor. A pair of older men asked to join us, one of whom promptly ordered a cup of coffee to enjoy while the band played their set. While I’m sure everyone there enjoyed Joseph and their opener, Liza Anne, in some capacity, I was shocked by not seeing any stereotypical “fangirls.” That is to say, no one was decked out in all Joseph gear, nor did anyone scream incessantly throughout the show. There were some other college-age kids, but the crowd was mostly older. Regardless, everyone gave off such a relaxed vibe that was unfamiliar to me. I’m more acquainted with the concert that makes you wonder if your hearing will be the same again — the concerts that leave your body pulsing hours after it has ended. But despite what I have come to think of as “true concert” attributes, I still think about the show that Joseph put on to this day, and probably will for many months, if not years to come. It was a new type of concert for me, one that left me far more introspective than the usual fare.
Most of the songs the band performed that night came from their most recent album, “I’m Alone No You’re Not.” The album was released on Aug. 26 of this year under ATO records (ATO is home to musical artists such as The Alabama Shakes, Kaiser Chiefs and Jessica Lea Mayfield). It is the first record label backed release from Joseph, but I’m sure it won’t be their last. In fact, even though The Alabama Shakes are the most recognizable band on ATO’s label, Joseph could very well be on their way to taking the second place spot. To date, they have performed on “Jimmy Fallon”, “CBS This Morning” and “CONAN”. They have also completed a supporting stint on tour with indie-darling James Bay, as well as their own headlining world tour with the aforementioned Liza Anne.
Comparatively, “I’m Alone No You’re Not” is not altogether different from the band’s first album, “Native Dreamer Kin.” In both, the sisters rely heavily on their interesting and delicate three part harmonies and deeply personal lyrics. However, having heard the explanation of many songs directly from the women’s mouths during the show, I feel as if “I’m Alone No You’re Not” is much more personal that “Native Dreamer Kin” proved to be.
One song in particular really wowed me during the show because of the way the sisters explained its meaning. In “Sweet Dreams,” the band sings: “Sweet dreams my love, I love you, goodnight.” This was a phrase their mother used to say to them every night before they went to sleep. Of course, many artists turn to their actual lives for inspiration, but the way in which Joseph blends their mother’s words with their haunting melodies and heavy use of string instruments creates a song that builds and fades back down in the most perfect way. As the last song on the album, it leaves you thinking long after its last note has played.
So too does the song in which the album takes its namesake, “Honest.” The album’s title comes from the chorus of this song, in which the sisters attempt to dispel the negative thoughts that often creep up in everyone’s mind at least once. “There’s always two thoughts, one after the other. I’m alone. No you’re not. I’m alone, no you’re not,” they sing with essentially no background music behind them. They truly drive home the thought that no one is alone in the world, and even if they feel like they are, they should know that they aren’t. “Honest” is a very short song relative to the rest of the album — it comes in as second shortest at two minutes and 48 seconds. Even with the brevity of the song, anyone who listens is sure to feel better about life after listening.
Some readers might be thinking that they would rather just listen to the music without deeply analyzing the lyrics. Some may prefer not to have deep lyrics at all. To that, I say you might want to stray away from Joseph. They aren’t really a band that you can dance to, nor are they a band that you can play in the background without thinking. Other than their signature harmonies, the band’s other mainstay is their ability to render their listener pensive. If you are interested in that type of music, then look no further. Joseph is the band for you.