My Heart to Joy’s recently announced breakup broke the hearts of many, but in spite of this, the band remains optimistic. Its members look forward to future endeavors, pursuing various other projects and remaining active within the Connecticut music scene. Upon clearing out of Lily’s Pad after playing a record release show for the newly released Reasons to Be EP, Greg, Chris, and Alan sat down with me at a nearby deli at well past midnight. We discussed the new record, Connecticut bands, and the many accomplishments from which the band feels a great sense of pride.
Can you talk about your relationship with Topshelf Records? What has it been like working with them?
GREG: Originally, we had recorded our first record, our LP Seasons in Verse. We didn’t really have anyone who was putting it out. A local label called Asbestos was going to do the vinyl release of it, and we were getting to the record release show date, and they did not have the vinyl ready at all. At the time, we weren’t even doing the CD or anything at all.
ALAN: We were just kind of happy that someone was actually going to pay for it and put it out.
GREG: So we were like, “All we need is the vinyl portion of it.” Then we got an e-mail, kind of out of nowhere, from Kevin, asking us to be on one of their summer comps, and at the end of it, there was something like, “Hey, by the way, what’s going on with this record you’re doing? We’re interested in doing it.” And so, I ended up talking to Seth and Kevin on the internet a bunch, and then we showed them the LP. They were interested in it, like, “Oh yeah, we’ll definitely do this.” So then they did the CD version. They had the CDs in three weeks, and it was wild. Ever since then, I’ve felt like they’ve pretty much gone from being strangers to two guys that I consider really good friends and I trust amazingly. We just released a new EP called Reasons to Be, and it’s on Topshelf, but before, we kind of had this idea, like, “Oh, we should try another label out,” and we ended up going with Paper + Plastick, and they really showed us no attention at all. They didn’t really care. They didn’t really help us promote our tours or anything at all, and it was just kind of a bummer. At the time, when we first recorded it, Topshelf had said, “Hey, we’re interested in doing this,” and we were kind of like, “Well, we kind of just want to try somebody else,” and after that experience of leaving and seeing how some other labels are run, I will never… I trust those guys. Those guys get the job done. I love everything… I love all the bands on Topshelf. They’re probably one of the harder working labels in the country right now. I just see them doing so much soon. They’re great dudes.
“Fairwell to a Raincloud” initially appeared on Topshelf’s 2010 Summer Sampler. After the release of that compilation, did you ever feel rushed to put out the record on which it would eventually appear?
GREG: Yeah, honestly. It appeared on that summer comp. The original plan for it was for it to be out that summer, and it didn’t come out. The EP’s coming out now, in March. That EP was intended to be really only a release for our summer tour, and so it just really didn’t come together in time. We’ve been waiting for this EP to come out for a long time, and I’m glad it’s finally out there.
Were the three songs that appear on Reasons to Be always intended to be released on a seven-inch, or was there ever any talk of putting them on a full-length?
GREG: Both the songs “Steady Habits” and “Fairwell to a Raincloud” were more or less intended. We were really thinking of doing a single for the upcoming record we were planning on doing before, but right now, it kind of stands for itself. We were definitely going to record “Steady Habits.” We were talking about re-recording “Fairwell to a Raincloud,” but now it’s not going to happen. We’re going to end up recording one more song, I think, for a comp.
Your newest material features a more melodic side than that which appeared on Seasons in Verse. Was this gradual shift in sound intentional, or did it come about naturally?
GREG: Every time we write new stuff, it’s not really like, “We want to do this,” it’s more just the songs that come out. The song “Fairwell to a Raincloud” was probably the poppiest song we’d ever written, and it was written two weeks after we had recorded Seasons in Verse. That’s the thing that I’ve been really happy about with our band, just the gradual progression. Really, no record that we’ve released has been the same thing, and that’s been a goal. The last song we’re going to end up recording is going to be different than any of the three songs that are on the new EP.
In the past, you’ve cited influences such as Sunny Day Real Estate and Jawbreaker. Did these same influences inform any on the songwriting on Reasons to Be?
GREG: Honestly, at the time Reasons to Be was being recorded, we were listening to a lot of Guided By Voices. That probably had to do with to a degree the poppier sound, and I don’t even remember, because those songs had been written so long ago. I don’t know.
CHRIS: Yeah, we recorded them like a year ago.
ALAN: It’s really much that everyone agrees on.
GREG: We hate everything. We hate everything and everyone. We’re all listening to different things at all given times.
I know that Greg is also in The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die. Is anyone else involved in other projects? How does your experience with My Heart to Joy inform what you do with those other projects?
GREG: Well, right now, Allen and I are doing another band with Ross who also plays bass. He started playing bass for My Heart to Joy this summer. We’re doing something. We’re working on it. Ryan just started doing a project called Perfect Lines, and that’s kind of going more in the direction… really, the end of the band, it makes sense to all of us, too, because really all of us are going in vastly different directions. This route wasn’t where our heart was anymore and, honestly, I’d rather leave it. It’s better for us to kind of leave it as this thing that we did than try to continue on and not have as much fun with it anymore. Chris works at a studio in Berlington, Connecticut called Silver Bullet and they…
CHRIS: Trying to start a new band.
GREG: He’s also working on a new band. I’ve heard the demos and they’re sick. Alan and I also play in a hardcore band based out of Connecticut called Connecticut. I would say, honestly, the demo is the best thing I’ve done with my entire fucking life. It also features members of Hostage Calm. Steve plays in another band called Brava Spectre and he just started playing in a new band called Ferocious Fucking Teeth who are about to put out a seven-inch that’s fucking awesome.
ALAN: They’re really great.
GREG: The real answer to this question is, listen to Hostage Calm.
The venue you played tonight, Lily’s Pad, is notable for its lack of a stage. What are your feelings regarding floor shows versus those that are on a stage, and do you have a preference?
GREG: We mostly end up playing on floors a lot of the time. It’s a great show. Tonight, I got a call at four, and Toad’s Place was like, “No one’s going to be able to see anything. Can we please put up the stage?” And the guy booking it was like, “Hey, we can put up the stage if you don’t kick anyone out.” Really, stages encourage, in the community that we’re in, stagedives happen. Pits happen, bro! So there was a lot of that. I guess a bunch of people got kicked out, which is a bummer. But really, it’s just great. I mean, you don’t need a stage. It’s great to play in a room where everything sounds good. Regardless, most of the time, say if you’re on tour or not, it really doesn’t matter where you’re playing, that thirty minutes that you get to play is usually the best part of your day anyway, so you don’t even put these things into consideration sometimes.
CHRIS: And the intimate show experience is just really close, I guess.
GREG: We’re pretty much in a room where we all don’t fit and we’ll have to play with our amps behind the drums.
ALAN: That’s when it gets exciting, though.
Following tonight’s show, you’ll be playing one final show sometime in the near future. Can you share any details on how you’ll be approaching that event?
GREG: We’re trying to…
ALAN: Make it free.
GREG: It’s going to be free. I think our band fund is big enough that we can probably pay for the hall, put a deposit down and not worry about it. We don’t have a location yet. We’re working on that. It’s going to be us, our friends Hostage Calm, Make Do and Mend, Snowing. Ross’ old band Jettison is going to be reuniting and playing a show. When we first started off, we would play every show in Connecticut with them. They were my favorite band for a long time. I still love their band, and so it’s great — they never really played a final show — it’s great to go out with them. And then also our friends The Book Slave are going to be playing too. We’re really just working on a location. This probably connects to the lat question. We probably will build a stage just so that everyone will see it and so everyone can dive. So yeah, it should be awesome.
I believe that My Heart to Joy will leave an indelible imprint on the Connecticut music scene. What modern Connecticut bands currently excite you or do you feel have great potential?
ALAN: Steve’s other band’s great.
ALAN: Have a Nice Life.
GREG: Have a Nice Life are sick. I love that Midi & the Modern Dance record. Their last one that they did is awesome. I’ve heard of the things they’re doing with the seven-inch that is coming up too. I feel like them and Fugue have this potential. With a little more time, I feel like they’re going to take the spot that we just had. I’m really excited to see how all these bands progress.
CHRIS: Every few years there’s a turnover. I feel like Midi and Fugue are definitely on that path.
GREG: They’re next. They’ll take the spot that we’re going to be giving up.
After five years as a band, what things are you proudest of having accomplished with My Heart to Joy?
GREG: We bought a van for fifteen hundred dollars and we drove across the country twice. It stalled in Chicago one time.
CHRIS: We did an east coast tour with it, too.
GREG: Yeah, we did east coast. I’m happy with everything we did. I’m really happy with the music that we produced, just the way that things have changed. I don’t know what I’m most proud of.
CHRIS: Having people care…
GREG: Having people care, being able to meet… I have friends all over the country now.
ALAN: Something mom will never understand.
CHRIS: Having been all over the country and seeing how everything is, it gives you a whole new perspective on life, which is awesome. Seeing how other people live, it’s just cool.
GREG: Oh, America. It’s great to think about how many times I’ve driven across the country. I have so few friends who have ever done that. This band really just worked its way up from nothing to get to the point — we’re not like a huge band — but to watch where we started and where we ended up, I’m so fucking proud of what we’ve become. I’m just glad that we started on a good note, and I feel like we’re ending on a good note, too, but the time has come.
ALAN: Everything you love has to die.
GREG: Yeah, my friend John… all of us felt that this breakup was coming, and my friend John and I had a long conversation about it, and after, he texted me in all caps, “EVERYTHING YOU LOVE HAS TO DIE.” And it’s true. Everything you love will die. It’s upsetting that it’s ending, but we’re all stoked at the same time. It’s great to be able to go out with all your friends. I’m excited to do just one more, you know, like, “This is it, and after that, we’ll move on. Click, click, boom.”
Are there any final words any of you guys would like to add?
GREG: We’re breaking up. We decided we were going to actually break up one hundred percent when we found out that Braid was getting back together, so that’s the official reason.
Thank you to Greg, Alan, and Chris. My Heart to Joy will play one final show, the date of which is to be determined. Connecticut fans should stay on the lookout for additional details regarding a location. With this, My Heart to Joy ends a productive run. If it’s any consolation, there is one more song that has yet to see the light of day, but if all goes well, it will be released on an upcoming compilation. I wish the best of luck to everyone in the band.