Just like cracking open a cold one first thing in the morning, or doing an aerobics class after having your pacemaker fitted, Spread Joy is an intense rubber-band ball of organised chaos. Even with the distance between us, I can still feel the distressed performance from lead singer Briana Hernandez seeping into my soul.
It's quite scary, but cool nonetheless.
They're one of these bands that you're really proud of discovering, nobody's ever gurned at you at the pub and said "hey, you heard of that Spread Joy band?" or waved a Spread Joy autobiography at you, or tried to sell you a Spread Joy 3-disc compilation box with a signed poster and a free plush toy. They're just genuine, purveyors of good, soul-wrenching, hard-hitting punk, and they've very quickly claimed my number one spot as America's next big thing.
The Chicago based four piece released their self-titled LP through Feel It Records in April this year, at the final peak of the COVID outbreak in the states. According to their interview with Melted Magazine, was a "plan B when it became clear that gigs were no longer an option". If there's one good thing that's come from the coronavirus pandemic, it's this album. Give it a listen here.
In the meantime, I managed to get in touch with the band over Instagram to ask a few questions, and they very kindly offered me some of their time. Now watch as I make a fool of myself with Spread Joy, that's Briana (vocals), Nick (bass), Raidy (guitar) and Tyler (drums).
If you had to pitch Spread Joy to a board of evil corporate executives, how would you do it?
B: I go full on dominatrix--like with a bull whip I say “listen up!” press play and just sit down in one of those leather boardroom chairs, but it’s just field recordings of interstate traffic.
N: Probably through PowerPoint, emphasising synergy.
T: I would probably just add them over LinkedIn.
R: I have no idea what I’d do.
Where did the name Spread Joy come from? Does it have anything to do with the cute "Mike Strickland" song?
R: It came from a sick British porno mag!
B: I checked the internet for any other cool “Spread Joy”s out there, I did see that song (laughs) that’s when I was like ‘ok, so we’re fine.’
It's a beautiful song. I'll link it below, anyway - how did the band come to be?
R: I think me and Nick jammed out first. Then--
T: Then you got a hold of me on LinkedIn…
R: Then we did some stuff together before you, Briana
B: Ah yes the lore…
N: Then Raidy said ‘I want to make her the lead singer of my band’ and I said ‘I wanna make her my wife.’
B: (laughs) so that’s the story!
R: I said “Stick with me, I’m gonna make you a STAR” I do that friendly nudge on the jaw “you got a lotta moxie kid” (laughs), just went full Earnest Bourgneone on Briana.
What can you tell me about your latest, self-titled album? What inspired you, and were there any obstacles along the way?
R: Well I guess the main obstacle was the COVID pandemic, the obvious thing to navigate. As far as inspiration goes, I don’t know, I guess we inspired one another.
B: I finally got to channel all the post punk ladies I’ve always loved. I got to feel The Raincoats and Lilliput, Mars, Y Pants… it was fun to have a real place to put that energy.
R: I think the George Floyd protests were more inspiring than anything.
T: We did it cause we didn’t have to work for a little while (laughs)- that stimulus money! This is how I’ve always wanted to do a project--it’s a whole different style of music making. First practicing and collaborating together and recording without all the shows. It’s always tempting to just play shows but that wasn’t an option.
If you're all vegan, this is a shit question, what's your dream cheeseboard?
T: Wow, that’s really good.
N: That Allgäu champignon cheese with the mushrooms...
R: I got mine. I think the board isn’t so much about just cheese--some kind of stinky bleu, some kind of french creamy cheese, some simple shit. But I want the crostini, I want the mustard seeds, the olives, the fucking chicken liver mousse--honey with the comb, you know? The baguette. The cornichon--
B: --We call them gherkins.
R: This is my dream charcuterie, I want cornichons.
N: OK, probably like a 10-15 yr Manchego, maybe another goat cheese with some kind of fruit. That’s enough, like a hard and 2 soft.
T: Um, man, what are the salt crystals that form in cheese? Extra-mature white cheddar, hard, crumbly… anyway. And some Wheat Thins, some Bonne Maman blueberry preserves, it’s just what’s in my fridge right now. And maybe some, oh, Nutella (laughs).
B: I do love brie and jam! I get really into the meat-cheese combo. I want sopressata and Spanish chorizo with a harder cheese and I love that herb crusted goat cheese with, like prosciutto. Of course mustards and GHERKIN!
Are there any plans for the next release? Maybe a Spread Joy 3-disc compilation with a signed poster and a plush toy?
R: Well we got a new record coming out.
T: Mixed and mastered...
R: At the pressing plant, going to be ready for early next year.
T: We’re talking ready to spread that joy!
Can you all recommend any books, records or films?
B: I’m reading Kathy Acker who I never heard of until a few months ago for some reason!! It’s amazing, like, what punk is in literature form, totally wild, free form, nuts. About to finish “Blood and Guts in High School” by her and I highly recommend.
T: For music, that morning show ‘Wake and Bake’ on WFMU New Jersey. If you get up at 5 AM CST you can listen. That’s where I get a lot of new music. It’s one of the last free-form radio stations in the USA.
R: I’m reading Noam Chomsky right now which everyone knows. It’s one of his newer books “Consequences of Capitalism”, listening to Spllit--just next level music. My movie, I’m going say, fucking…. I wanna say Dune. (Laughs) everyone knows about that one too.
Tell me about your experience of being a band during COVID! It was tough for a lot of people.
B: I thought it was kinda cool. No pressure, the practice space was empty all the time, we got to know one another and there was really time to dedicate to the project. I’d never been in a band before so I got to fuck around. Skipped all the nervousness of playing shows too early cause that wasn’t happening.
Are there any future plans for releases yet? Anything you're working on?
T: Maybe a plush toy ;)
B: Me n my best friend Elyse are making a little Spread Joy music vid for the new album… Should be weird!
Anything you want to tell your British fans?
N: “Go Man-City” No do not say that. Don’t say I said that.
B: Hahah Tyler!
R: Shout out to West Wemyss Scotland
B: I wanna say “Hey Zad, the work you’re doing on affordable housing in London is awesome!”
T: “Thanks for the Brother’s Gibb”
B: Also, I remember last time I was in London I kept trying to order hot toddys but no one knew what that was, so I hope that’s a thing over there cause bourbon is definitely supposed to go in tea.
Lastly, will you play my birthday party next year? Please?
B: When is your birthday? Let’s do it!
R: How many candles?
T: What are the party favours?
B: I know! I’ll make a bunch of my ‘lil’ buds’--just handmade art objects I throw on the merch table along-side the usual t-shirt or record (laughs)
Thanks to all the folks from Spread Joy for making my day and answering all of these puny, meaningless questions which will eventually dissipate into the void of the web.
If you fancy a listen, which I do highly recommend, I'll leave some links down below - and if you want to send me your best shot at a dream cheeseboard my email is email@example.com x
Photos taken by Alexa Viscius!