Flagstaff’s Tow’rs explore life’s choices through an intimate lens on ‘Joy Alchemy,’ a gentle giant of folk rock warmth and wonder.
for fans of The Head and the Heart, Blind Pilot, The Lumineers, Gregory Alan Isakov
Stream: “Uncertainty” – Tow’rs
Born at a time when so many aspects of our lives were outside of our control, Tow’rs’ sixth album is a heartfelt and folk-fueled exploration of agency, acceptance, and happiness; of letting go of all that’s beyond our reach, and focusing in on that which is within our purview – the choices and decisions we have at our disposal. How much self-determination do we have over own world – our daily goings-on, our interpersonal interactions, and our surroundings? Where do we have an impact, and how does that impact manifest itself? A gentle giant of folk rock warmth and wonder, Joy Alchemy takes a good look at life through a self-reflective lens.
It’s a soothing, uplifting record of those little moments that can last a lifetime; of the people who matter most, and the ways in which we shape our own lives.
Dressed up like an answer, truths red herring
Outcome puppeteering, when it feels uncertain
We’ll make our bed in the same one we’re sleeping
‘Cause nothing is wasted, though it feels uncertain
We don’t have to carry no more
Each path we’re taking I’m on your side
There’s no way of knowing which one is right
But we can dance in the hour, dance in the unknown
And if heaven gets too heavy I’d rather let it go
And hold on to you
– “Uncertainty,” Tow’rs
Released March 23, 2023 via Tone Tree Music, Joy Alchemy is as comforting as it is cathartic. Arriving two and a half years after 2020’s The Holly & the Ivy, Tow’rs’ sixth studio album blends the Flagship, Arizona band’s charismatic, heartwarming, and wondrous folk rock sound into a ten-track sonic essay on the “magic of change and the manifestation of joy.” Formerly a five-piece outfit, Tow’rs is at its core the project of husband and wife Kyle and Gretta Miller, who have long used music as an exploration of the world they’ve built together. “Falling somewhere within the camps of Utah’s The National Parks and The Lumineers, Tow’rs’ spellbinding folk rock sound echoes with the love and anguish of our modern age,” Atwood Magazine wrote back in 2019.
“Joy Alchemy is our sixth album,” Kyle Miller tells Atwood Magazine. “That spans nearly ten years of Gretta and me writing together, but I feel like in a strange way we are finally introducing people to us with Joy Alchemy. I think the live nature of the songs are a big part of that, but also the sobering and hopefully humble nature of the lyrics as well. They feel like something I can stand next to for years to come. As a whole it is more unfiltered and in that way – more raw and a little closer to who we are as humans.”
The figures don’t quite add up, the sum don’t balance out
Your heart has found a truth, but your mind keeps finding doubt
But then the sun it cracks like a yoke upon the roof
And from the darkness, you can see good medicine’s in you
Forgone, Forgone, it’s time I be moving on
Forgone, Forgone, easier said than done
Reduced it to its edges, suck the marrow dry
The season’s run its course, the road has passed ya by
But you will stand again and wear your chin held high
Sing it in refrain, oh the beauty it is to try
– “Forgone,” Tow’rs
Tow’rs’ most intimate offering yet, Joy Alchemy aches with tender charm and the weight of an honest, exposed heart.
Its songs are by and large soft, emotionally-driven, and they all derive from that same philosophical core of trying to understand our relationship and impact with our direct surroundings. This was the result of some experimentation on the front-end, where for the first time, the Millers came up with the album title ahead of the actual songs.
“In 2020, I had been playing around with different ways of engaging my creativity,” Kyle Miller explains. “One of those ways was going on long trail runs and bringing my notebook with me to write. I had been reading about this thing called ‘The Runner’s High’ and trying it out side-by-side with writing. Basically the idea was I’d exercise and release a bunch of endorphins, and from that state of euphoria that follows, I’d use that mind state to write.”
“One of those ideas that kept coming was a quote I had heard – ‘There isn’t a world you aren’t creating.’ I was processing a lot on what kinds of things in my life I had agency over and where that line was between taking responsibility for how things play out or letting something go. I am aware that the pandemic is an exhausted preface to a lot of art that has come out recently, but that state of letting go of things or trying to manifest something different was a real hot topic in my mind given what was going on.”
“I came up with the title Joy Alchemy on a run before I wrote any of the songs. It was more a mantra I was trying to hold for a way forward than an idea for an album. I liked the word ‘alchemy’ as a way of being for that side of choice that we do have agency within. Alchemy defined is a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination. Each song is an exploration around some form of choice or relationship to choice, and trying to hold a posture of joy within that space.”
Once their theme was loosely set, the tracks themselves flowed out quite naturally.
The goal, Miller says, was for each song to be strong in its most stripped-down form. As long as it had good bones, they could dress the tune any which way they chose.
“The vision from the beginning was to get the songs to a spot where they could be played on their own two feet with just a guitar and vocals,” he reflects. “I wanted the record to feel timeless and organic like those old Laurel Canyon recordings do. It was a branching away from our normal way of doing things, where we would parse out each section of the song and work quite a lot in the post production to make it work together. I wanted the songs to be ready one hundred percent before hitting record. To honor that idea, we felt recording it live, besides a few overdubs, would uphold that goal. Everything we decided on revolved around being able to pull it off live together in the studio, and we never left that course.”
Miller adds that the album’s title itself has come to mean quite a lot to the band. “Joy Alchemy has come to be a mind-state and representation of a new chapter for Gretta and me,” he smiles. “That idea from that quote we shared – that ‘there isn’t a world you aren’t creating.’ Unlike our other records that we named after we wrote the whole album, the title was informing us and traveling with us through the whole process. It was a bit of a concept record in that way.”
They even managed to incorporate the album’s title into one of their songs, the introspective and inspiring “Southern Facing Room”:
I’d seen enough, but it’s hard to let go of something you love
Why I’ll never shake it, but I found joy in the alchemy of making
I’m not forgetting I had to feel it, felt what I need to
Just cause I’m healing, don’t mean I don’t miss you
You always were my southern facing room
All the light in you
Now we’re too far gone to know
But I still take a piece of you with me everywhere I go
– “Southern Facing Room,” Tow’rs
Joy Alchemy‘s conceptual exploration of choice winds its way through topics of love, heartache, self-doubt, friendship, inner reckoning and revelation, faith, presence, and hope – these simultaneously intimate and larger-than-life themes that are all-too relatable and innate to our everyday lived experiences. Highlights include album singles like the groovy, seductive “Baker’s Dozen,” the beautiful enchantment “Forgone,” and the sweetly stirring “Uncertainty,” as well as the buoyant love-soaked opener “Love Is a Constant Changing” and the softly smoldering “~.”
“‘Lucky Heartache’ and ‘When the Daisies Bloom Again’ feel really special to me personally,” Miller notes. “I’m always reaching for trying to say something more simply (which is really hard for me to do usually), and with those songs I felt I did that. However, choosing our singles for this album was the hardest part of the process by far, because each one felt like we gave it are all. We truly felt like any of them could have been our singles.”
“This is our most proud batch of lyrics to date,” he adds, “and we truly love all of them, but some our favs are…”
“I will live, I will die, every hello and sweet goodbye, it’s oblivion wearing a pretty dress” – “Love is a Constant Changing“
“If heaven gets too heavy I’d rather let it go… and hold on to you” – “Uncertainty“
“It’s late March and your Christmas lights are still gutter strung, like a dead star that’s light is still carrying on, you say if you are free you shouldn’t have to go and say it, but from your mouth spills your heart a story to discredit.” – “Forgone“
A source of light, love, warmth, and connection, Joy Alchemy is a cozy, spirited folk rock record ready to uplift and inspire all who listen.
Its ten songs, all smile-inducing serenades, come from the deepest depths of the Millers’ hearts and souls – and within that space of raw intimacy, they create a world into which we can soar wild and free.
So much is said but not explained
Why love is worth its share of pain
I don’t know where it’s all headed,
but I can stay here tonight
Until the clouds all roll away, roll
Roll away your clouds
I hate to see you circling the drain
A drink to lullaby the pain
I don’t know how it feels
But I’ll wait by your side
Until the clouds all roll away, roll
Roll away your clouds
– “Clouds,” Tow’rs
“The most influential art for me over the years have been the ones I can see myself reflected in, in some mysterious way,” Kyle Miller shares. “I hope for a true genuine connection to the listener in a way that reminds us we are all one and that we belong to each other. I think good art reminds us of that in some shape or form.”
“For me, Joy Alchemy was a truly healing endeavor that I can only hope that others might feel invited into. It felt like a season of taking responsibility for those things I could take agency over and that felt really empowering. Over the last three years of making it I’ve found a self-acceptance (especially through recording it live) that wasn’t there to be honest on previous album releasees. I hope the offering of Joy Alchemy can empower people to, as much is within their power, create the world they live in.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Tow’rs’ Joy Alchemy with Atwood Magazine as Kyle and Gretta Miller take us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their sixth album!
Stream: ‘Joy Alchemy’ – Tow’rs
:: Inside Joy Alchemy ::
Love is a Constant Changing
So much of this record is a conversation about how loving your partner in your life is about always letting them be free to choose. We can only love genuinely if we’re letting that person become who they need and want to be. Scary shit. Constant loving means constantly changing.
One of the symptoms of love I think is heartache. It means we cared and put it all out on the line. In that way, we are lucky to have heartache. Better to have loved than not at all. In this way, we choose in this song to flip heartache as a sign of something powerfully encountered rather than something that is meant to harm us.
One of the invitations we’ve been trying to lean into during this last season of life is treating uncertainty as more of an indicator that we’re doing something adventurous and worth it. If we always knew what we were doing it’d probably mean we weren’t risking enough. This song is an ode to going for it with the person you love and choosing to let go of all the baggage of expectation along the way.
This is a poem for a friend. For so long they were carrying a longing for a circumstance that didn’t pan out in their life. I watched my friend really confront this moment in their life with courage, but also the sober fact that sometimes moving on is easier said than done. Sometimes the hard choice of just trying is the most triumphant human action.
I Must Believe in the Morning
What a gift it is that we get to choose. This song is a closing thought and poem to believing the sun will rise again even on our toughest days.
When you get a baker’s dozen, as you know, you get 13 instead of 12. It somehow still surprises and excites me every time. In unpacking some of our time from the pandemic, one thing we felt was a treasure was the gift of time we got with one another. Time with the people we love feels like an extra gift, a baker’s dozen so to speak. Maybe just being with each other can be enough.
Orion is an extension of the conversation we began in “Love is a Constant Changing,” meditating on love being a constant fluid thing. That we behold it like a sunset rather than owning it like property. It’s always free. I can be overwhelmed by this reckoning, but this song attempts a pass at joy instead of despair.
When the Daisies Bloom Again
We get these amazing fields of yellow here right next to our house. Huge head tall flowers. They act as a time marker each year. I can always remember the previous year how I was feeling, what I was listening to or what my kids were up to when I look at those fields. This song is to hoping next time they bloom that we’ll be in a place more full and loving whatever that looks like.
Southern Facing Room
In this song, I refer to my old self as a southern-facing room. A place with windows and light that I used to hold so dear. I could not stay there, but it’s a space I still show gratitude towards and carry with me as I look back with a new perspective.”
A poem for a friend going through a divorce. My favorite line is “We’ll probably be okay” it always makes me chuckle. Who knows if we will, guess we’ll just do the best we can.
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