Interview: Junip

Junip at Portland's Wonder Ballroom

By Tom Roth

Tom “Wonderboy” Roth sat down with Elias Araya and Jose Gonzalez of Swedish band Junip before their show at Portland’s Wonder Ballroom to discuss touring, their new album, and Santa Claus.

Wonderboy: How far back has the current tour gone and how much is remaining?
Jose Gonzalez: We’re practically in the middle. We’ve done two weeks now and it’s a bit more than four weeks so almost the middle. We started in Toronto and went west and now we’re going down and east.

WB: On the tour, Clandestino Festival is the only remaining stop in Sweden, is that right?
Elias Araya: I think it’s two actually.
JG: We do another festival in Sweden called Urkult. So two more festivals in Sweden.

WB: Are you looking forward to playing at home?
EA: No [laughs].

WB: Why not?
EA: Probably, the festivals are going to be great but I always am a little bit more nervous to play in Sweden because there are always more people that you know in the audience and sometimes, you know, I hate to say it but, the audience can be quite hard to please or maybe [it’s harder to] get them started. But it’s always fun. Maybe it’s just my expectations, I don’t know.

WB: You have Bonaroo in Tennessee and Outside Lands in San Francisco coming up. How is it playing the big American summer festivals?
EA: We never did a summer festival in the U.S. Not as Junip, but Jose did it while solo. We’re looking forward to it. Very much so. Summer, I guess, is nice everywhere.

WB: Just a superlative here: on this tour what’s been the most unique venue you’ve played?
EA: Must be in Bozeman. Definitely. It was this old bar, it was actually founded in 1976, and I don’t think they cleaned it or did anything restoration to it since. There were old beer cans from every decade and it was amazing. Amazing people and out in the middle of nowhere. We liked it very much.

WB: Acrylics has been touring with you since Toronto. What’s your history with them and do you derive any creative energy from the group?
JG: Yeah, definitely. We were introduced by our manager to a couple of different bands and we had a listen and we felt like their sound was interesting and they had some really nice pop songs. They’re amazing people and very fun and very musical too. We have jam sessions on the bus.

WB: With stops nearly every night, is there any time to come up with new material on the road or is that something best left for home?
EA: I guess it’s easier back home when you have the time to sit down. But I think we could be able to do stuff on tour but it’s a matter of time during soundcheck and everything and we don’t take up our instruments on the bus to write new songs and stuff like that. I think it’s possible to do it on tour but it’s much easier at home.

WB: Between your first release in 2000 and Black Refuge EP in 2005, what were you guys up to?
JA: Well, I’ve been touring since 2003. Before that, we were all doing different things, like I was at university. The drummer was studying art in Finland and Norway. Tobias was working as a teacher and having a family. We’ve mostly been talking about doing new recordings for a very long time but didn’t get around until 2008.

WB: You mentioned university, any plans to finish up that biochem doctorate?
JA: No, not at all. It would take too much effort.

WB: How has the fan response been to Fields?
JA: Now, better than ever. It’s been out for a while so you notice that people know the songs better and so the live shows are just getting better and better.
EA: Yeah definitely it’s been really amazing. In some places where the encores have been like “Aaah!”

WB: The BBC reviewed the album and said that the track ‘Howl’ is a “reimagining of the muted guitar shuffles of Carl Perkins or Chuck Berry”. Were they influences on the album?
JA: I wasn’t thinking about them. It was just a general idea of everybody playing pretty softly but still having energy and drive in the song and I guess it came out a bit bluesy. But I wasn’t thinking about them, no.

WB: Don Alsterberg has helped produce, record, mix, and master all three Junip releases. He’s played bass, percussion, and piano on them as well. Is he the fourth member of Junip?
JA: In a way. He wanted to be for a while but yeah he’s definitely been the one who’s pushed us when the songs weren’t good enough or when we weren’t playing good enough.
EA: He’s like our little Santa Claus that comes and visits us sometimes and says stuff that we are quite happy about in the end. We’re not happy when he is all picky and, you know, says, “No, no, no! You can’t play like that!” But in the end, it always turns out really good.