Enter the kaleidoscope with psychedelic pop outfit Joy As A Toy, whose latest release, Mourning Mountains, stands as something of an enigma in the modern surrealist scene. Dash Majesty speaks with multi-instrumentalists JP De Gheest and Gil Mortio, uncovering the concepts and stories behind this eyebrow-raising third album.
Dash Majesty: Who exactly are Joy As A Toy?
JP De Gheest: Gil Mortio on bass and vocals (Pierre Vervloesem, Anu Junnonen); JP De Gheest on drums and vocals (Mark Lanegan Band/Lyenn/Piloot); Clement Nourry on guitars and vocals (Nicolas Michaux) and Alice Perret on keys and vocals (Lunatic Toys, Jane added).
Joy As A Toy started seven years ago as a free improv trio with Clement Nourry (guitar), Gil Mortio (bass) and myself (drums). We met for a couple of days in Gil’s basement. As is often the case in these kind of exercises, one tends to repeat oneself – we did at least! – so we decided to start singing and came to writing songs.
We grew up listening to 90s alternative rock, noise and experimental music, before studying jazz and classical music in our early twenties. Our influences are tainted by a broad and vast variety of genres. In our minds, we write pieces for sixty musicians. Being a trio, we had to compensate with energy. After a few changes, Joy As A Toy became a quartet, which has allowed us to nail the music without overloading the songs.
DM: Why the choice of name? Is there a particular story behind it?
JDG: It was inspired by Kevin Ayers’ Joy Of A Toy. The other option was Instant Pussy, another Soft Machine song, but we thought Joy As A Toy was more suitable.
DM: Tell us a little about the video concept for Hipsters of the Apocalypse.
GM: Joy, love, hope… and mountains! Love especially – hope there’s no need to explain in more detail.
DM: No need. We consider mountains very dear to us. The harmonies on that track are so tight – how long did it take you to perfect them?
GM: Technically, there’s nothing more to say about it. We just write and play what seems natural to us.
…it’s a cowboy attitude, don’t you think?
DM: Where did the idea for Ghost Train come from?
JDG: From a weird dream. Still don’t really know what it’s all about. I just woke up and started writing exactly what happened in my dream. I’ll probably sleep better now.
DM: Could you tell us a little about the artwork for Mourning Mountains?
JDG: It’s a collage from a patient of French psychiatric institute Laborde. It refers to the two previous records and of course to the album title itself. A very strong and beautiful coincidence, also echoing the surrealism of Joy As A Toy’s music.
DM: Speaking of which, why did you choose this title for the record?
JDG: Mourning Mountains is about the ambiguity between us mourning the mountains and the mountains mourning humanity. The duality between ‘poetical’ and ‘political’.
DM: You say that this record is in part inspired by the Mexican Día de Muertos festival – could you elaborate on this?
GM: We started a mood board together – pieces from wherever and whatever we could find. The whole portrait looked polychromatic and, as usual, full of dead characters. Mexican masks drove the same impression as our work. Lovely minor colourful pieces.
DM: Tell us a little about your track Cowboy Mode – where did the inspiration for this song come from?
JDG: Cowboy Mode was the working title for the song. We got attached to it and started writing lyrics from there.
GM: We’re always challenging crossover experiences. Here we mix sugar pop melodies with an impressive afro groove. So it’s a cowboy attitude, don’t you think?
DM: Oh, naturally. What does the future look like for Joy As A Toy?
JDG: Mourning Mountains is probably our best record yet and we are very happy it got great press reviews. Now that Lola Bonfanti and David Picard have joined the band, Joy As A Toy has been given a renewed breath. We fully embrace the future!