Interview with Joseph: Peace and Love Like a “Fighter”

Joseph © Louis Browne
Sister trio Joseph discuss “Fighter,” the first release off their upcoming sophomore album ‘Good Luck, Kid’ – a high octane take-charge anthem that steadies their folksie harmonic flavor and gives it an honest and loving upper-cut.
Listen: “Fighter” – Joseph


The ideas expressed in Joseph’s latest release, “Fighter” (July 9 via ATO Records) come from the band’s individual and collective struggles with their relationship: A time when their band almost broke apart. In a very candid Instagram post, Meegan Closner explains why it’s taken she and her sisters, Natalie and Allison, so long to give their adoring fans a new album to binge:

“We needed a break.” Closner writes. “Time to sleep, to go out to drinks with friends, time to buy plants and water them, time to reset, to be with our close loved ones that we’d spent so much time away from, time to be away from each other.”

It all sounds completely understandable – and what resulted from this near rupture between sisters and bandmates was worth the struggle, not only because the music radiates with the passion of growing together through conflict, but also because Joseph is now a stronger band as a result.

As Meegan Closner’s older sister Natalie Schepman explains to NYLON, “This song came from a moment when everything fell apart, and my sisters and I almost broke up our band, but we decided to stay and fight for it — to fight for each other.” We are all so fortunate that they did.

Fighter - Joseph

Fighter – Joseph

So launch your favorite audio gear, lace up your best boxing gloves, and let’s explore an important aspect of every healthy relationship: Fighting.

We could just carry on
Act like nothing’s wrong
Don’t leave me in the dark
Don’t leave me in the dark

Wait. Fighting?! A healthy aspect of a relationship? It’s true that most of us would rather live in harmony and act like nothing is ever wrong, but it’s not reality. As human beings, we are each uniquely imperfect and complicated. There is no realistic way that we could all get along, all of the time. And, as much as we may try to get used to keeping quiet and going with the flow, an important piece of ourselves gets lost when we hold our tongue too often.

I’ve gotten used to the mess
Got used to shallow breaths
Don’t leave me in the dark
Don’t leave me in the dark

According to Steven Lake of The Good Men Project, “Keeping emotions bottled up all the time leads to rigidity of the mind, body and soul.” It can make us, and our connections to each other, sick.

“This is not an academic position,” Lake continues on a personal note. “In one of my earlier relationships, I was so unable to deal with my partner’s emotional expression that I got an ulcer.”

Ouch, and then, more ouch. When the wheels start to come off, we need to seriously explore our options.

You think you’re keeping the peace
While you creep, creep away from me
You think you’re keeping the peace
Don’t keep yourself from me

It seems that while we are busy trying to “keep the peace,” what we are actually doing is “keeping the piece.” No, it’s not a typo. When we stay quiet in order to prevent any conflict from effecting a relationship, we keep a piece of ourselves out of the relationship too. The only way that the unique personalities within any given connection can stay unique and intact is by speaking our minds when they need to be spoken. By forbidding our mouth to speak what our mind thinks and our heart feels, we are not allowing ourselves to truly be a partner. Our other half may as well be in a relationship with themselves. While we think being amenable is making life easier, we are actually closing the door to a full honest connection. This broken circuit, we should assume, is not what our partner wants.

Don’t keep yourself from me.

But, are we totally misguided in our goals to keep things peaceful? Is it really so much healthier to be a fighter? Does having an argument mean that peace does not exist between us? Can fighters be at peace while expressing themselves? So many important questions…

Presumably, the answers to these questions depend on our definition on the word fighter. Obviously not all fighting is good. In fact, sometimes it’s just shallow insecurity or even abuse. According to Steve Smith (*names have been changed) an NCAA wrestler turned Mai Tai and MMA Fighter, “Good fighters don’t just pummel people for no reason. They don’t fight outside the ring either. Someone who wants to brawl just to prove they’re a badass or express dominance is shallow and weak minded. Seasoned fighters respect each other and stay away from hacks like that.”

The difference, it seems, between a fighter and a brawler is respect and boundaries. Someone who just likes to brawl, will put up their fisticuffs out of anger, in order to punish someone who may or may not be prepared or even at fault. A fighter, on the flip side, waits for the right time. They wait for a time when the match can be fair, when they are putting up dukes for more than just punishment, ego and manipulation. In fact, in the ring both fighters have the same goal: to showcase the skill set they’ve been working to obtain and fight a good respectable fight. Sure they’re both bruised and bloodied when the final bell rings, but as Smith goes on to say, “If they give you a good, fair fight then it makes you a stronger fighter, a stronger person. That’s what we all want.” Indeed.

Joseph © Louis Browne

Joseph © Louis Browne

Translating these values into the context of relationships is simple to say, while not as simple to do. But, we can try. When a fight is necessary, if conducted with the same respect, honesty and heart as a fight night, these difficult situations have the potential to create even stronger bonds between us. That’s how it went with Joseph. After hashing out their conflicts post-tour the sisters of Joseph have resurfaced on the scene swinging even harder than before. “Fighter” is their triumphant battle cry to let us all know that they’ve slain this dragon and are ready for what waits on their upcoming tour.

You can almost hear their fists pierce the air as cymbals crash with the climax of the chorus:

Wide eyes, eyes wide
I want a fighter
Don’t lie this time
I need a fighter
You’re my bright side
I want it brighter
Don’t leave me in the dark
Don’t leave me in the dark
Joseph's 'Good Luck, Kid' is out September 13 via ATO Records

Joseph’s ‘Good Luck, Kid’ is out September 13 via ATO Records

With eyes and hearts wide open, we can sing along with triumphant epiphany because these ideas make so much sense. It is incredibly freeing to embrace and acknowledge the idea that perfection is not necessary or even ideal in any real, loving and safe relationship. If it’s good, it’s worth a good fight and don’t be afraid. Steven Lake drives this point home when he says, “Fighting is like forging steel. In the beginning, there is no strength or flexibility in the unrefined product. As it is repeatedly heated, folded and re-formed – like the samurai swords of old – a beautiful piece of art is forged that can withstand the shocks and strains of heavy engagement without breaking.”

And let’s not forget how exhilarating it is to make up…

If “Fighter” is any indication of the strong beauty that’s in store for us throughout the rest of Good Luck, Kid, we have a whole lot of pleasure to anticipate. Joseph spoke to Atwood Magazine about friction and tension, keeping the peace, and the music and message surrounding their anthemic “Fighter.”

A fighter is someone who is willing to be honest about what’s wrong so they can find resolution on the other side.

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:: pre-order Good Luck, Kid here ::
Listen: “Fighter” – Joseph

A CONVERSATION WITH JOSEPH

Atwood Magazine: Congratulations on this explosive song! “Fighter” certainly is a heavy hitter (pun absolutely intended) What exactly does the word fighter mean in the context of this song?

Natalie: Ha! We are prepared for the onslaught of boxing puns but you’re the first so thanks for kicking it off!

In this song, a fighter is someone who is present and wants to do what it takes to keep their relationship fresh and at peace. It’s someone who is willing to be honest about what’s wrong so they can find resolution on the other side.

Most people don’t like to argue, so “keeping the peace” is sometimes a goal in relationships. When you say, “You think you’re keeping the peace, while you creep, creep away from me, you think you’re keeping the peace, don’t keep yourself from me,” in your opinion does keeping the peace have an element of dishonesty ingrained within? Is it more about lack of trust that a relationship will fall apart at the first sign of imperfection or distress?

Natalie: Withholding the truth can be the right thing for a little while if you need some time to fully know what you feel, but if the tension goes on too long and you try to fix it by stuffing your feelings then YES it’s dishonest. We’re all in charge of frequently checking in with ourselves, finding out what we feel and bringing that into the open if we want to stay close to the people in our lives. You can’t always just hold your breath until it works itself out. Honor yourself by identifying what’s wrong. Be alive in your relationship by saying it out loud. Have you listened to any Esther Perel? She talks a lot about life force and how often we sacrifice our “eros” or “desire for life” to maintain the basic functioning of the partnership (co-parenting, business colleagues, *siblings working together*) until we can’t take it anymore and we’ve “lost ourselves” and we have to leave the relationship to be alive again. The longer someone is passive and stuffing their feelings, the more stale it becomes. You can be physically right in front of someone and miles away on the inside. And what kind of relationship is that?

Joseph © Louis Browne

Joseph © Louis Browne

Is some friction inevitable in a healthy, honest and open relationship? If so, what is the difference between self-confident friction and just flat out arguing?

Natalie: Absolutely! Naturally, some relationships are breezier than others but imagine going through your life with NO conflict – with your family, your co-workers, anyone! If you haven’t had any conflict with the people in your life, I would wonder just how peaceful you are on the inside. In our family, we’re not very explosive and it takes us awhile to bring up what’s wrong but as you can imagine, the girls and I working together has made for some necessary moments of tension so we’ve had to learn to say what we feel to keep the air clear. I can hear our dad’s voice saying, “You can’t play the strings of a guitar without tension.” Getting to the other side is the best way to get closer to someone.

It should also be said that there’s a difference between condescension/disdain/cutting each other down and being open and vulnerable with your truth to get on the same page. Using “I” statements instead of “you” and omitting the words “always” and “never” really helps. You have to keep breaking down what gets built up between you.

Is compromise the same thing as keeping the peace?

Natalie: It doesn’t help anything if you compromise before saying how you truly feel. You each have to state and know each other’s feelings before moving forward. In the song, the person THINKS they’re keeping the peace by quieting themselves and slowly slipping away but truly keeping the peace requires being creative and generous with each other to come up with solutions. In that case, compromise can absolutely be a great thing.

But that’s what’s exciting about knowing and being known by another human being is that we’re always changing and moving. We are dynamic, complex wild animals that cannot be boxed or predicted every single time, so even if you compromise a part of you to be better for the unit you can revisit it and edit it as you both change and grow. It must be kept alive and true and real for each day!

Is one of your messages to be true yourself and your needs - even if causes friction?

Natalie: Yes, move toward friction so you can go through it to the other side. In my experience, women especially are socialized to be agreeable and pleasant so the message especially goes out to them and anyone who has been told to stuff it down for the sake of niceness. So many abusive relationships are prolonged as a result of that kind of thinking. Life is too short to only be agreeable. The world needs us at our most vibrant us-ness and moving through the discomfort of conflict to know ourselves and fully be ourselves is so important!

Has this experience as a band of sisters shed light on parts of being in any relationship that you would not have learned otherwise?

Meegan: Definitely. It’s taught us all how to fight and stay in it to get through conflict. The truth is, we are family. None of us are going anywhere and no matter what happens we will see each other at Christmas and family gatherings for the rest of our lives. At the end of the day all of us want to have healthy relationships with each other, but it can get very difficult and lots of tension can build up. Which is true of any relationship. We are learning how to stick it out and get through conflict and stay instead of run away from our problems. It’s also taught us a lot about comedic relief. You must be able to enjoy each other or the hard stuff is harder. In our worst of times we can still make each other laugh and I think that’s important.

Joseph © Louis Browne

Joseph © Louis Browne

Meegan, you were so open in your Instagram post about the creation of “Fighter.” You explained your personal and collective struggles that resulted in the need to take a break from the band and touring. Are most or all of your songs written from personal experience or struggles? Does writing about these struggles help to process the experience somehow?

Meegan: Yes! All of the songs I sing on the record are very personal to my experiences of being in relationship with the girls and my dating history. Some songs didn’t start out specifically about me and my story, but one thing I love about music is two people can listen to the same song and get two entirely different personal meanings out of it. I hear my story in all of our songs on this record and it does feel very personal, but I also hear Allie’s and Nat’s stories in the songs and that’s powerful to me too. And yes, writing about what’s happened to us has been extremely therapeutic. There are moments that I’m listening to the record where I sit back in awe that we were able to capture some of the feelings so well. It’s helped to be able to listen to us sing at ourselves to wake up and fight! It’s an amazing reminder as we move forward into another busy season of touring to have presence for each other and our relationships and to stay in the fight with each other.

Finally, how does the keenly powerful nature of “Fighter” compare to the soundscape of the rest of Good Luck, Kid?

Natalie: We’re excited to share this collection of songs with the world! We each sing lead on three songs (plus I, Natalie lead one more), which naturally creates many textures with our different vocal timbres. Fighter has the huge driving drums and sparkly soaring tones whereas Enough In Your Eyes is more of a meditative groove. Side Effects is a hushed acoustic moment and Presence is full on lead guitar rock and roll. Each of the songs has its own color but they’re all massive in their own way. We worked with an incredible producer named Leggy Langdon and he took us to a whole new level. We think you’ll love it!

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Fighter - Joseph

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📸 © Louis Browne

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:: Joseph 2019 Tour Dates ::

Sept 12 – Vancouver, BC @ Imperial
Sept 13 – Seattle, WA @ Showbox
Sept 14 – Portland, OR @ Roseland
Sept 15 – Portland, OR @ Roseland
Sept 16 – Spokane, WA @ Knitting Factory
Sept 19 – Iowa City, IA @ Englert Theatre
Sept 20 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
Sept 21 – Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre
Sept 22 – Detroit, MI @ The Majestic Theatre
Sept 24 – Toronto, ON @ The Mod Club
Sept 25 – Montreal, QC @ L’Astral
Sept 27 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
Sept 28 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
Sept 29 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
Oct 2 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
Oct 3 – Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel
Oct 4 – Nashville, TN @ Cannery Ballroom
Oct 6 – Austin, TX @ ACL Festival
Oct 9 – Dallas, TX @ Granada Theater
Oct 10 – New Orleans, LA @ Tipitina’s
Oct 13 – Austin, TX @ ACL Festival
Oct 16 – Tuczon, AZ @ Rialto Theatre
Oct 18 – Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up
Oct 19 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre
Oct 20 – San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore
Nov 1 – Antwerp, Belgium @ Arenberg
Nov 2 – Groningen, Netherlands @ Take Root
Nov 3 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Paradiso Tuinzaal
Nov 4 – Hamberg, Germany @ Uebel & Gefährlich
Nov 6 – Berlin, Germany @ Frannz Club
Nov 7 – Munich, Germany @ Strom
Nov 8 – Cologne, Germany @ Luxor
Nov 9 – Paris, France @ La Boule Noire
Nov 11 – Bristol, UK @ Hare & Hounds
Nov 12 – London, UK @ Bush Hall
Nov 13 – Manchester, UK @ Night People
Nov 14 – Glasgow, UK @ Stereo
Nov 16 – Dublin, Ireland @ The Workman’s Club

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Ilana Kalish was a jazz fed baby, pop-synched child, emo-soaked teenager and indie-rocked coed. Between working at the friendly corner record store, singing in a garage (sometimes with a band) and sitting under trees while writing short fiction, Ilana also got her degrees in modern dance and creative writing from the University of MD in College Park. All of these adventures eventually resulted in www.skiptothis.com where she shares her adventures down the rabbit hole of the musiverse. A self-proclaimed neologista, Ilana is always dancing with words to music, usually while drinking coffee and smirking. As a writer for Atwood Magazine, Ilana hopes to make you smile and nod happily with her whimsy and impeccable (smirk) taste in music.