Prove your humanity

On the record with Joan & the Giants: New tunes, inspirations, and music in their blood

Fresh off the high of releasing their latest single, Hold Me, Aaron Birch and Grace Newton-Wordsworth from Perth’s own Joan & the Giants found time to grab a coffee and share some musings with Grok.

So, you guys used to be called Platform 2, how did the change come about to Joan & the Giants?

GNW: To be honest, I never really felt passionate about the name Platform 2. We were Platform 2 for a year and a half, and for so long I was trying to find a name that sort of struck something in me and the name Grace and the Giants kept coming into my head. I didn’t really like that because it doesn’t have a flow, and also, it’s not my band, it’s our band. And then we just started thinking what rolls off the tongue with something and the giants. And then we came up with all these different J names like Jenny, and then suddenly the name Joan hit and it just struck something. I just felt really empowered by the name and then that was it—Joan & the Giants—and straight away the visuals came into my mind, we started designing ideas.

How did you both get into music originally?

AB: I grew up—my dad’s a musician, he plays guitar—in a house full of music all the time. Went to school in Year Seven and we had this really awkward teacher who used to play guitar really badly and I decided I wanted to play guitar and show him how to play it. [Laughs] So I started playing it and I really got into it. I got into bands like Blink 182 and Metallica. I’m from a little Indigenous community and music is huge up there, but it’s more reggae style; I like rockier, punkier stuff. But my dad’s an amazing musician, he really inspired me.

GNW: I started probably before I could even start talking to be honest. I was that annoying kid who wouldn’t stop singing and I sang at all the school shows. I’m from a farm down south so I sang all over the country towns and I also lived in Germany—my mum’s a singer-songwriter—so I followed her around the world a little bit, singing with her. It’s just the first thing I ever wanted to do and I remember being three years old and just wanting to be a singer. I’ve been doing it forever and my family are musicians—I’ve got music in the blood.

Grace, you said you came from a farm and Aaron you’re from Beagle bay, do you find that where you’re from influences your music at all?

AB: I think it’s more the people I listen to. My dad has influenced it a lot and my brother has influenced it a lot just because they listen to music so often, even my mum, but it’s more the people that I listen to. It’s not so much the environment that I’m from because if I played the music where I’m from I’d be playing reggae or something. I love bands that make me feel something, bands like Daughter and Florence + the Machine, that’s where I get influence from.

GNW: I think I’m the same. I’m influenced by what’s around me, my surroundings, by what I immerse myself into, by experiences. I think I’ve been writing a lot lately from things that have really affected me over the last few years and might be something that’s really troubled me, just like human emotions. I think the most amazing part of music is being able to connect with someone who you don’t even know and them have the exact same feelings as you had.

How do you feel since your single, Hold Me has come out?

AB: I’m just excited to play live shows. We’re going on a WA tour which is awesome, playing Bunbury and we just played Geraldton and stuff like that. I just want to get out and play live, and I want people to come and see us play live.

GNW: I think with Hold Me it was such a beautiful track to release first because it’s kind of bringing people into our new sound, which is very much alternative kind of indie pop-folk. I think Hold Me is a song that when we wrote it I just felt so immediately connected to it. I feel like it’s a song that can really connect to people and I hope it does. I think it’s one of the first songs that we released that I’m actually really proud of.

AB: We’re really happy and we’re so grateful for everyone’s responses online. A lot of people seem to like it.

GNW: That’s the coolest part—we don’t know the people listening to it but if someone can listen to it and feel something and feel connected that’s all we want.

What’s your writing and recording process like?

AB: I’m sitting down and playing around with a guitar and I come up with a melodic riff and then Grace will sing a melody, or I’ll record a whole demo and we’ll sit down and come up with melodies and lyrics, or Grace will hear me playing guitar and come up with a song and write all the lyrics at once—there’re many different things.

GNW: Or I’ll be in the car on my way to Coles and a melody will just come into my head. It happens a lot! I went to Coles months ago and this melody just came into my head and I got back and I was like ‘Aaron can you play this melody?’ and it ended up being one of our best songs.

AB: Inspiration just strikes whenever really, but a lot of nights I just sit on the computer and wait for something to happen. I think if you throw enough stuff at the wall something’s got to stick eventually.

GNW: Lyrically, sometimes it can take so long to write a song. Other songs come in about ten minutes—Hold Me we wrote in about ten minutes. It literally just poured down straight away. I think the best part with recording Hold Me was it was such a magical process. We were all in the studio together, our drummer, Aaron, myself and our engineer Lance, and it was such a beautiful space. It was like there was magic in the air and we all just worked so well together giving ideas. As a female in the space, I felt so listened to. Apart from live shows, being in the studio is one of my favourite places in the world.

AB: There’s so much energy in live shows, but there’s so much focus when you’re in the studio. When we went into the studio on that Monday and Hold Me wasn’t there and when we left on the Wednesday it was—it’s the coolest thing.

What’s your favourite thing about performing live shows?

AB: People. I just like the energy. I come off stage and always talk too fast to people because I’m so buzzed. Seeing people watch and listen is the most intimidating and exciting thing all at once.

GNW: My favourite thing is the fact that I don’t care. I’m quite an anxious person sometimes in my daily life, but as soon as I get on the stage it’s like something hits and I just completely forget about everything. I love that the audience are connecting with music but at the same time the worries in my head about what everyone is thinking just disappear, and it’s just about the music and the song and giving 100 per cent to the song and the audience.

What can we expect next from you?

GNW: We’re going to do a national tour in June and release a few more tracks in the next few months.

AB: Maybe four singles maybe an EP—we’re seeing what works really. We want the songs to be their own. They’re such a big part of us. I think one thing one of our favourite artists John Mayer did was release his whole album on separate EPs, and we’re kind of thinking of doing that but differently and releasing the songs as singles and then an EP. It gives people time to live with the songs rather than breezing through the EP and maybe picking their favourite and only listening to that. Our next song is going to be out late April.

GNW: Awesome shows coming up, loads of Perth shows.

Catch Joan & the Giants at The Bird for their single launch on March 21.