Popular Oregon folk band Joseph comes to the Mystic Theatre
Breaking up is hard to do.
So hard, in fact, that when the Oregon-?based folk-pop band known as Joseph came dangerously close to calling it quits a few years back, they ultimately couldn’t do it. Perhaps some of that is due to the fact that the fan-favorite trio - Natalie Closner Schepman, Allison Closner and Meegan Closner - are sisters, with Allison and Meegan twins. On the other hand, being family and being in a band together brings its own set of challenges.
“People come up to us all the time and say, ‘I could never do it. Not with my brother or sister,’?” laughs Meegan Closner, calling up to chat about Joseph, their new album “Good Luck, Kid,” and their upcoming international tour, which brings them to Petaluma’s Mystic Theater on Monday, March 2. “Friendship in a family can be a complicated thing,” allows Closner. “To be honest, we have worked really hard to push through our family roles. Natalie is four years older than Ally and I. In the beginning, there was a lot of the older sister stuff. She did a really good job of opening the space for us to come up and be an equal with her, and we had to work hard to do that, to grow up and step up to rise to her level. So the family part is just the family part, and then on top of it, we’ve really just worked really hard to stay friends.”
Named for the small town of Joseph, Oregon, Joseph has built a solid following of fans ever since the sisters self-released 2014 album “Native Dreamer Kind.” Attracted in part to the idea of three sisters singing together, but mainly to the band’s smart, razor-sharp lyrics and hook-filled tunes filled with enjoyably unpredictable melodies and catchy, inventive arrangements, Joseph’s fans are faithful, loud and numerous.
With a brand new album, “Good Luck, Kid,” released at the end of 2019, that fan-base is likely to grow even larger.
Asked about who the sisters write their songs for, the fans or themselves, Closner admits that as they’ve grown in popularity, there is sometimes a temptation to give their followers more of what they like the best, but to do that would put at risk the band’s own natural evolution in style. The new record, to that point, has been praised by music writers for demonstrating a profound new depth, maturity and strength, born - at least in part - out of the sisters’ near-miss with ending the band.
“Strength. I like that word ‘strength’ for this album,” says Closner. “This one does feel like it has a lot of strength in it. The girls and I have been through a lot by this point. So in creating ‘Good Luck, Kid,’ we were writing from a deeper well of being friends, and having individual lives. We’re four years older than we were with the last record we released. Four years! That’s crazy! So we’ve definitely, hopefully found some deeper level of maturity and strength. And I think a lot of that comes from our friendship.”
Back to the question of who their songs are written for, Closner has another thought.
“On our first record, ‘Native Dreamer Kind,’ that was really all us, all about us and basically for us,” she says. “With the second record we released, our first with ATO records, “I’m Alone, No You’re Not,” and this new record, we definitely incorporate the audience, in a way. I mean, now we have an audience, and we’re aware of it. We can’t help but be influenced by that, to a degree. But once you know people are listening, it’s too easy to just go, ‘Okay, what do our audiences want to hear? What should we say that will make those specific people feel some impact?’ But every time we’ve tried to write from that place, it’s become kind of preachy and weird. So we’ve had to backpedal. Now we just write for ourselves. That’s ultimately what our audience really wants.”
According to Closner, she and her sisters have been consciously trying not to think about what anyone else expects or demands.
“We just try to write our songs from an honest place in our hearts,” she says. “It can be difficult to do, but it definitely leads to a better song.”
In Joseph, the songs are written by the entire band, with each member taking a crack at penning lyrics or composing tunes, changing it up from song to song. Sometimes, they collaborate with other musicians.
“Honestly, I think we’ve experienced every songwriting scenario you can imagine in creating what we make,” Closner says. “Natalie is the most prolific, out of all of us. She’s the oldest, so she’s been writing music for like, ten more years than the rest of us. She brings 50% of the songs to the table. I might bring a song once in a while, but it’s usually not great right-off-the-bat, the way Nat’s are. Mine take a lot of mutual discussion and finessing after I write them, all of us talking out loud, analyzing what it is I wanted to say and how I can say it better.”