Interview: Joseph Biss Talks New Single, Performing with Brain Medicine and Much More

Interview: Joseph Biss Talks New Single, Performing with Brain Medicine and Much More

Photo: Frankie Cavone

Joseph Biss has made is descend on the Capital Region music scene being one of the most unique folk musicians to come out of the area in quite some time. Biss released his first EP ‘decompose.’ in the spring of 2022 featuring incredible technical work on the guitar with fun and purposeful songwriting. Biss has always been a creative human being who built his name up from the incredible stone and gem work that he creates.

Biss also recently started playing in Brain Medicine channeling his talents on an instrument in a whole different fashsion. He is getting ready to release his newest single “Self-Seeding” which will be available on all major streaming platforms this Friday, November 11th. Biss took the time to talk with us about his busy year and the new tune below:

 

After spending years successfully building up your stone/gem business, what made you want to dive deep into a music career?

I feel there were a couple factors that gave me the final motivation and momentum to get songs I had been keeping to myself (and loved ones) out there in the world! Firstly was unknowingly surrounding myself with people who were showing me relentless support for both the music I had written over the last decade and the new material I was working on at the time. Which were seemingly pouring out in such a way that felt unforced and familiar. Secondly was finding musicians who were putting out albums in such a fashion that i felt were truly grasping what I loved about music, the raw feeling of hearing someone in the same room as you, bleed out with their songs! They achieved this by keeping the recording process lo-fi and leaving you with a feeling that you heard the song fresh and not muddled by the meddling of some modern studio practices. I had been for a long time turned off to the idea of going into a studio and having my songs fondled and removed from their original intention which had kept me away from releasing new material for a handful of years.

You have a wide array of genres you consume, what made you choose to start a folk act?

I feel that for me the stripped down presentation of a musician and the instrument that is embodied in folk music is so satisfying and personal! It gives me a platform to convey my thoughts and observations in an undiluted and hopefully digestible way. Don’t get me wrong I also would love to take all of these songs to a five piece band and go full psychedelic ear dripping chaos with them, and maybe down the line that will happen, but for now the folk approach to this body of work is the way for me!

Your finger work up and down on the guitar, its impressive! Is there any inspirations you draw your style from?

Yes, I can pin it to one guitarist I saw several times surrounding my last years of high school and early years at college, Ryan Montbleau. He is who inspired me to really get my thumb into the game and starting thumping and slapping! I would cover “75 and Sunny” often in a previous band I was in in the early 2010’s , (of the Mountains) that song in particular inspired the way I approached my writing my tune “corvidae ballet” which was one of the first songs I finished and had a vision of how I want my music to be presented!

Where do you find the time to write as much music as you do? It must take some discipline.

I actually go out of my way to not separate any of my creative outlets into set time occasions , save for practicing. That way , at no time, do I feel forced to produce something just because I “sat down to write.” I often keep all my current writing projects sitting on my lapidary work bench where I can be cutting a stone and be constantly reading and rereading over a poem/song fodder and be thinking of ideas. (Though this also means some times I manically throw off the switch on my faceting machine and run to the other room for my guitar!)

Do the changing in seasons change the way you write music?

Quite a bit actually! I have found that the end of winter and throughout spring I am the most prolific with my writing as the fresh growth and buds are literally renewable inspiration for me! And I feel that fall and winter are when I get the strongest urge to get out the Midi Box from my teenage years and turn our 100+ year old house’s living room into my studio. Since I always writing my songs first with vocals and acoustic guitar, the recording sessions are when I write all of the other instrument parts (bass, piano, synth etc.)

You recently started performing with Brain Medicine, how has that been?

An absolute blast!!! The whole happening has been totally surreal, I mean I went from them being hands down my favorite local band to me being their bass player! They have a very impressive catalog of songs (like over two dozen) so it was definitely a challenge to learn them all before i had my first gig with them back in September. However was such a rewarding experience to have gotten them down and our first show be an absolute banger which included a several song encore and playing till way after midnight!

Recently, you released your second EP decompose., what was the process like choosing the songs that appeared on the EP and is there a theme within?

“decompose.” was the first EP I did that both brought together reworked songs I had written around 2011-2012 as well as new spoken word poems over more psychedelic musical arrangements that I feel gave more continuity between the tracks. This was a different approach from my first EP “krumholtz” (from 2020) where I really just recorded a fist full of songs I felt needed to be recorded or even rerecorded in a way that was more personal and embodied the songs and their messages better than previous attempts. As far as an overall theme to “decompose.” I would say it is about the personal awareness of your feelings and how they can influence and be influenced by other people and your surroundings in nature.

You are about to drop a new song called “Self-Seeding,” what is the story behind the song and when can people find it?!

this new single , aptly named “self-seeding” is a previously unrecorded tune written for the sake of mental health and the notion of helping and/or being helped by those around you who are inevitably fighting through their own battles with one thing or another. This particular recording came to be by a magical happening when Clinton Hoffman of Brain Medicine heard a live version of this song on a podcast I was on (Nippertown’s Unsigned 518) and was so stoked by the song that he hopped on his drum kit and tracked a demo of the song , which was him playing to my live recording!

After hearing the demo I was gobsmacked and insisted that we do a full recording of the tune with the correct lyrics and arrangements (hehe was a bit excited and goofed them all up in the first version)! Little did I know Clint had already written piano and tenor guitar parts, as well as backup vocals! The single will be released this Friday the 11th on all streaming platforms and the music video(which was made by Clint) will be on Youtube the same day!

Congratulations on getting married to the wonderful partner you have! How do you and Jes Turco balance your creative lives and time together?

First thank you , thank you, thank you! Truly she makes the word “partner” have meaning to me! Both an endless source of inspiration to create and to live! But I could ramble on about her a lot, and I do , which may answer why I have been on such a new song bender the last few years! I feel that the balance between our working and living time together is something we are both constantly learning from and working to improve upon as we grow as individuals and as newly weds! It is not something we actively try to remain strict about but we have of got ourselves set in a groove where just crush out our projects day to day around our normal life upkeep (dishes, laundry, cooking) in a way where neither one of us feels we are being kept away from what we love to do, create!

What’s next Joseph Biss?

My first full length LP , which will be fittingly named “live from the living room.” which will feature five brand new songs including “self-seeding” recorded live in front of a small audience of friends and loved ones in our home studio (our living room) this winter! I have been actively working on a 45 minute to an hour long setlist which will debut these five new sings in such a way they will feel right at home alongside a bunch of crowd and house favorites. As for live happenings catch me thumping the four strings and keeping things low and weird in Brain Medicine! I will be doing some joint shows with those fine folks in the future as well where i will play solo sets of my original music before joining the full band on stage.

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