Interview: You Won’t

interview by Charissa Lock and Matt Downes

The bright and cozy 1369 Coffee House in Cambridge was a comfortable setting for my interview with Josh Arnoudse from the folk-rock band, You Won’t.   In the purple ascents of the European vintage shop, Arnoudse shared some background information during our introductions beginning with my commute to Boston that morning.   After formalities and his warning for long-winded responses, I began asking questions escalating from You Won’t’s beginnings, accomplishments, to their future.

CL:  I was first introduced to You Won’t by watching the comical “Three Car Garage” music video.  Fitting along nicely with the lyrics, the premise is easy enough to see, but you did so with sped-up/slowed down visuals.  Can you share a bit more about this aspect?

JA:   The “Three Car Garage” video was a collaboration between me, Raky, and our friend Ewin (who has a production company out of Oakland).  We were able to utilize all of our skills; Raky shot the whole thing, and Ewin and I performed.  We had been thinking of ideas about different things we could do, specifically wanting to create a (visually) interesting look.   (We put in place) a stop motion style/feel for the section where we (were) in the boat, that part is a weird fantasy when we’re jumping into ground.  We lip-synced to a slowed down version, set in with the normal set of time, then changed the frame rate and shutter speed.  It had to all be done at once and everything had to take place at the right moment, so we only got through the whole thing 6 or 7 times out of 30. We did that section freezing in a barn in January, a little miserable, but it was well worth it.  It was really fun.

CL:  With some tracks heavily piano-driven your album has beautiful and catchy melodies.  Was the piano an instrument you were forced to learn as a child?  Or was this something you picked up later in life?

JA:  I never took piano lessons, only guitar. My sister was forced to learn piano, so we had that one, moved it to Raky’s house, and used for recording.  We had come up with as many variations as we could even though I don’t really play piano.  We had to keep it pretty simple but that’s our style anyway.  When we play live we have to change the piano sections around because we don’t carry a piano around in our duo.

CL:  There seem to be many cross genre moments on Skeptic Goodbye where just when you think you can pinpoint a softer folk sound for You Won’t, a song like “Dance Moves” or “Ten Years Old” comes on and you have to go back to the drawing board.   Is this a reflection of your influences?

JA:  We have been interested in playing with the whole resurgence of folk going on right now, and are sometimes lumped into that.  I don’t think it’s really accurate because I think were more interested in other things.  I grew up listening to old school rock and roll, then when I was older I was able to appreciate the folkier stuff.  The rock was still in the back of my mind.

CL:  After meeting in your high school’s theater department, Josh later headed to New York where Raky was living at the time and began making music together. What was the first song you created together knowing it may have some meaning for the band You Won’t?

JA:  When we recorded the album we weren’t a band yet, we were in another project playing primarily Raky’s songs.  At the end of a big tour, we agreed to record an album with my songs, but didn’t know what it would turn into. We were happy when we finished it and started talking about doing live shows and making it a band.  So there was never a definite song.

CL:  The poor, abused mime that encompasses Skeptic Goodbye and is the focus in your latest video “Ten Years Old.”  Explain, please.

JA:  Before we were in a band, Raky and I did a number of film projects.  About 8 or 9 years ago, he created the mime character for a movie he made that I was in.  I would bring that character back time and time again.  When we recorded the album we wanted something visually striking and connecting emotionally with the songs, (the mime) seemed like a perfect thing.

CL:  CMJ is a five day (and night) music marathon that took place in New York in October. You Won’t played their guitars, wind chimes and keys to mesmerized audiences. What was your CMJ experience like?

JA:  It was our second time doing it and this time around we really knew what we wanted to get out of it; playing as much as we could and seeing what came our way.  We played 9 shows in 5 days (and even with) shorter sets, it was still pretty nuts and really exhausting.  We took care of ourselves and did what we had to do.  (It was) a great time, every show had some redeeming aspect to it.  We performed at the Bowery Ballroom for first time, and met good people who were interested and had their own resources (bloggers, photographers).  It was really great, such a different feel from last year, (now) we know what our voice is and are more comfortable in our band skin.

CL:  What artist do you find yourself listening to the most in the 2012 year?

JA:  I’m horrible at that question because I don’t really listen to the radio, when I do it’s only to keep up on top 40. I should be more of an intentional music listener.  Well, there is this band called Bombadil, we discovered last year and totally fell in love with.  It is the first new band I’ve found in the past years that I’ve seriously listened to – in my car I only have a CD player so I just have all their albums always playing.  It’s been a long time since there was a band I got into and as I got to know them personally, they are really good people.

CL:  Based out of Cambridge (Boston), there are numerous venues and an indie rock atmosphere that seems to be growing (Air Traffic Controller, Friendly People).  What are your thoughts on the Boston music scene?

JA:  Raky and I don’t really spend a lot of time going to shows, just because that’s how we are, we’re more homebodies.  What was surprising for us was that it was really hard to get into gigs for awhile in Boston, (whereas) living in New York it was quite easy to get into somewhere (due to) more venues, richer culture of music.  In Boston, we (ended up) meeting people that were into us at Zu Zu’s (a part of The Middle East venues) where they have a free music night on Mondays in a really nice atmosphere.  It’s my favorite thing I found so far in Boston – really relaxed vibe.  When touring that’s the place we tell people to go – as a musician you are taken care of there.

CL:  Your first album Skeptic Goodbye was released February 2012.   Do you have plans for a follow up record?

JA:  Our tour starts next week with Lucius and Pearl and the Beard.  Then after that we’re done touring (and will be recording).  We would like to get our album out next year, but who knows there’s a lot that goes into figuring out all the logistics of that.  We have stuff that we want to record and it’s a matter of getting in there.  We have been finishing up some stuff before we go on this tour.  (At this point we have) accumulated new songs, some of them we’re playing on tour.  We will record in a similar style as we did our last album, with a little more help from friends.  We’re excited because we weren’t really a band yet (when recording our first).  I’m pretty eager, because now I know who we are.

CL:  Can you share about any new instruments you may be using for the album?

JA:  I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but I will say that we’ve been scouring the internet for things that are easy to play.  Though, I just play guitar and sing and Racky does all the hard work.  I just have to make sure my hair looks good and he takes care of the rest.

As I asked my final question, I was feeling guilty that Josh had already answered a new artist question with an unsure approach.  Yet, I was curious what his response would be as I plunged in anyway, “If you could be a part of any tour right now, who among the talented artists would you team up with?”

A smile passed over Josh’s face as he was unprepared to come up with a current artist.  After a few moments, “Paul Simon” was the chosen headliner.  However, instead of You Won’t appearing as the opening band, Josh confidently confided he would strictly be playing the tambourine for Simon.  Josh did continue to add that, “Honestly, the bands I would want to tour with are Lucius and Pearl and the Beard that we are starting our tour with in a few days.”  He clarified that their coming together was something they had all wanted to do and it fell into place perfectly.

TAGS: I Will, Boston Bands, Ones to watch for, SXSW 2013, Poor Mans Mumford & Sons?, Industries of the Blind