In Defense of Ska Ep. 5: Barry Johnson of Joyce Manor


Music critics love Joyce Manor’s blend of Jawbreaker, The Smiths, Guided By Voices and Weezer—and cite these influences with delight. But in every conversation music bloggers have about the band, they fail to mention the role that ska has had on Joyce Manor singer-songwriter Barry Johnson.


As a teenager, Barry fell in love with ska. His introduction to indie rock even came from getting into Asian Man Records ska bands (MU330, Slow Gherkin) and then checking out some of the non-ska bands on the label. The first band of note he played in, Kid Gruesome, was highly influenced by Operation Ivy, making his first batch of songs he wrote ska-punk. He maintains that learning how to write ska songs, had a huge impact on his songwriting style.

When I interviewed Barry for my book, In Defense of Ska, he had this to say: “Learning how ska works makes you a better songwriter,” Johnson says. “Like how a ska bassline dives in. The role of the guitar in a ska band is way different than a rock band…countermelody, dynamics. How to make a song move and be infectious. If you’ve never tried to write a ska song, you’re doing yourself a disservice.”

Ska ska ska

Barry was kind enough to let me and Adam interview him on the podcast. He breaks down his ska past in detail, including the story of the mysterious kid who wore all black and sang an incredible acapella rendition of The Aquabats’ “The Cat With 2 Heads.” Barry also talks about his ongoing creative relationship with The Impossibles’ Rory Phillips, and how Goldfinger’s John Feldmann almost produced a Joyce Manor record.

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