Indie rock duo Junaco meets us at the whimsical Tilt Coffee Bar in Downtown L.A. to discuss their upcoming debut EP Awry, how their musical partnership came to be, and the importance of being genuine in your music no matter what style you are.
So you guys are gearing up to release your debut EP Awry. Wanted to ask if you would like to share a bit about the lyrical themes and instrumental elements that we’ll get to take a look at with the songs?
Shahana Jaffer: So theme-wise with the songs, they’re really about observations that we’ve made and things that we were going through in our lives. We noticed some different parts of specific things, and that’s why we chose Awry for the name of the EP because it means that something’s a little off or that something’s out of the ordinary.
Joey LaRosa: Yeah, and tone-ally it’s pretty dark, long, and ominus I would say.
Joey: Oh yeah, atmospheric for sure.
Cool! And you chose “Willow” to be the debut single, which has been very well received since the release. Why did you choose to have “Willow” be the lead single for the EP?
Shahana: I think that song really kind of encompasses how this project even started. To me, it represents the area and the environment that we were in when we were writing these songs, and it felt like a good introduction to who we are as a band. It just really made sense and felt right to have it as the lead.
Joey: And everyone we talked to, or showed the EP to, agreed that that was the one that should be the first one more than anything.
Sometimes we need other people’s opinions.
Joey: Oh totally!
Shahana: It’s so hard to be objective about that kind of stuff when you’re doing it for months and months and months.
You’re just like, ‘I want all the songs to be the first song.’
Shahana: Yeah! Someone else decide for us! *all laugh*
Which song was your favorite to write and then to record, if they’re different songs?
Shahana: Oh yeah they’re completely different. I think my favorite one to write was “Won’t Let You Go” because we were working on something else, but we got stuck on it. I remember going out and taking a break, I heard Joey messing around with the guitar line, and from there the song kind of just wrote itself. So that was really fun to write because it happened out of a frustrating moment. For recording, I would probably say “In-Between.” It was just a really awesome day of recording. Everyone was all on the same page, and it kind of happened seamlessly and was really fun.
Joey: For me, I think my favorite song to write was “Willow” because we were in the Santa Cruz area and it was just such a beautiful place.
Inspired by the landscape and the atmosphere!
Joey: Oh yeah! And then to record I would choose “In-Between” as well because the whole process was very seamless.
One of those few magical times when recording goes exactly the way it’s supposed to be.
Shahana: Yeah definitely! Honestly, everyone left that day being like, ‘Wow! That was amazing!’
‘I accomplished something today!’
Joey: That’s exactly how it was! *all laugh*
So what are your thoughts on the music industry’s obvious preference towards shorter releases like EPs and singles right now? Do you think there are any specific reasons why it’s become the way it is?
Joey: I think it’s pretty obvious that people have shorter attention spans nowadays, but I also don’t think that I’m that mad about it. Honestly, I try not to think too much about it.
Shahana: I’m the same way. I feel like if you write something and it’s what you want to release as a single, great. If you want to create a body of work and it’s a full record, cool.
Joey: It’s all about the intention or what you intend to do in your music. Hopefully it works out, but if it doesn’t, then on to the next thing.
And when you really think about it, sometimes storylines really only last like three songs, or even one song! Maybe they just really needed to get that thought out right then and there.
Shahana: That’s so true!
So if you had an unlimited budget to create a music video for any of the songs off your EP, which song would you choose and what would your concept be?
Joey: *turns to Shahana* Oh man, which song would we choose? We were actually talking about this with one of our roommates, and we were talking about doing something with abstract art and animation.
Shahana: I really do like that idea though. Animation just sounds like we have infinite possibilities to incorporate realist abstract art.
And I’m sure you guys would be able to find some inspo for abstract art here in Downtown L.A. too!
Joey: Oh yeah definitely! It’s everywhere here!
Now everyone loves a good ‘how we met’ story. What made you both decide that the other was the ‘right’ person to start musical partnership with?
Shahana: We went on a writing trip because we really just wanted to take some time to get away and write. We didn’t have any intention of starting a band when we left, so the whole thing kind of just happened naturally.
Joey: I feel like it almost started out of frustration in our lives too.
Shahana: Yeah. We really had nothing big going on that had any control over our lives, so we were like, ‘Let’s get out of L.A. and try to write some music.’ Out of that mindset, we wrote some songs that we really liked and thought were cool, and that’s how we started.
Yeah, sometimes we do need a little break from the city, especially the longer that you live here. And you guys created something great from that time away too!
Joey: We were definitely trying to anyways. *all laugh*
And why did you choose the name ‘Junaco’ to represent your musical project?
Joey: So I grew up on a street called ‘Judaco Drive,’ and we really needed a name because we were looking for a producer to work with so we could start on the project.
Shahana: I also think it came about because we were trying to play in New York and we needed a name. So instead of playing in L.A. first, not knowing what we were doing…
Joey: Not knowing if we’re going to be horrible…
Shahana: *laughs* Yeah, exactly. We weren’t completely sure if we wanted to heavily pursue and invest in the project yet, so we decided to test it out somewhere else where we didn’t know anybody first. Of course, we needed to make a website and stuff, in which we needed a name. I thought the name ‘June’ was cool, and we ended up combining ‘Judaco’ and ‘June’ to make ‘Junaco’ instead. And now here we are!
And if you could choose three artists to go on a world tour with, who would they be and what would you name your tour?
Shahana: I have no idea what we would name the tour though, probably something that goes along with the record we were promoting. I would definitely choose Big Thief as one of them. If George Harrison was alive, I would probably die to be on a tour with him.
We can bring him back from the dead, and then you would die, and then we would bring you back from the dead! *all laugh*
Joey: Father John Misty would also be cool to have on the tour too. Hmm, who else? Wait, that’s three already. *laughs*
Shahana: Three living, one dead.
There you go! That’s your tour name! *all laugh*
Shahana: That could totally be a good tour name!
*turns to Shahana* So a question for you. As a woman pursuing a career in music, do you feel that women need to portray themselves in certain ways in order to find success?
Shahana: You know, I definitely acknowledge that there have been situations where women have felt like they’ve been taken advantage of in the music industry, or anywhere in any industry. But personally, I try not to think of that divide, because when we’re all making music and recording and writing it never feels like that. It just feels like we’re the most innate form of ourselves, and that’s why I think music is really cool because you really don’t even have to acknowledge any person’s gender or race or whatever, it can just relate to everybody. I personally haven’t experienced anything like that, yet, hopefully I don’t.
I definitely hope so too.
Joey: I think there’s definitely more pressure that gets placed on women, but I also think it depends on the attitude that you take towards it. I know a lot of women who do music, and I think that the ones that make a difference are the ones that proceed with their heads up. It’s hard enough for women right now, it’s hard enough for everyone, but obviously there’s a different experience that women can face.
Shahana: And they can be completely different experiences too. I think every kind of person handles it differently.
Joey: Yeah. I also think this is the one thing that’s a disadvantage right now for women, there’s so many guy bands that sound the same, but how many times have we heard a girl and say, ‘Oh she sounds just like ‘this name?’
Or they’ll just try to compare them to another girl band or female-fronted band even though they sound nothing alike.
Shahana: There’s almost this need to be really unique and individual because of that, and so I think that could be some sort of a disadvantage. But, if you’re just yourself and you’re honest, then it will come out naturally. If you try to be something or try to go out of your way to try to be this unique thing, it’s only going to last so long. And it ends up being way harder to accomplish because it’s not really you.
And I feel like listeners really do want to see that honest, ‘this is who I am. Take it or leave it.’ kind of thing. Whoever doesn’t accept it can screw off. *all laugh*
Joey: I totally agree!
Shahana: Yeah! Screw those people!
So in an age where social media has become pretty much the main form of marketing, do you think that it’s made it easier or harder for artists to make a name for themselves?
Joey: I think that there’s a lot more artists now that are like ‘social media artists’ than actual artists.
I never really thought about that, but I think you’re totally right.
Shahana: It’s really easy to portray yourself as something, especially on social media. Even if you’re not in music, people still do it all the time. I think it’s really apparent to be seeing all of these social media ‘musicians.’
Joey: It’s just such a curated thing now, but I don’t necessarily think it’s the worst thing in the world.
Shahana: Yeah, it’s just different, you know? Whether it’s easier or harder, I think it depends on what you want. If you just care about the music and you use social media as marketing, cool, that’s great. But if you care about fame and validation, then you’ll probably be focused on chasing that through social media. Personally, we try not to get too wrapped up in it. I mean, before we even got anything done we were like, ‘Should be getting our Instagram ready?’ Like, what the hell does that even mean when you don’t really have anything done yet? So we waited, and now that we have some finished product we’re starting to market it and it feels more genuine. Everytime we’re like, ‘Should we be posting something?’ it just doesn’t feel honest to us. Maybe we should hire someone to do it for us. *laughs*
I always say that I need a life assistant. If anyone is reading this, hit me up! *laughs*
Joey: Please! Help us! *laughs*
And you guys were already starting to mention this, but do you feel that social media adds on certain pressures to, like you were saying, portray yourselves in certain ways or feeling the need to post all the time?
Shahana: A little bit for sure, but every time I get caught up in it I force myself to take a step back and remember what I’m trying to do. It’s definitely easy to get sucked into it. But I think once you have that realization of ‘it doesn’t really matter,’ you can just do what you do and keep making art. That’s the most important thing.
Joey: Yeah, I feel like it’s already hard enough to try to do everything that you think you need to do, and sometimes you just get delusional when you try to do everything so why add on something else?
I think we were all delusional before social media. *all laugh* The world makes us a little crazy sometimes, but as long as we admit it then it’s fine!
So how do you guys balance your personal lives with your professional lives?
Joey: There’s no balance at all.
Shahana: It’s all wrapped into one.
It’s completely merged!
Shahana: Oh yeah for sure!
Joey: It’s almost to a detriment right now.
Shahana: It’s just constant, but I think I’ve always wanted that. I’ve always wanted music to be something that I’m constantly thinking about and trying to do, but I also think it’s important, at least for me, to just take a second to get out and remember that I’m a human being. Currently, it’s a full-time job mentally more so than anything, but it’s cool because we get to make music and share it with people.
Joey: It’s the easiest job.
Shahana: Yeah. We’re really lucky to be able to do this.
And it makes you happy, which is the most important thing!
Shahana: Even if we go a little nuts because of it. *laughs*
Joey: We chose this. *laughs*
‘I did this to myself.’ *laughs*
Joey: That’s totally how I feel!
It’s like when you party all night and then the next day you’re dying, and you’re just like, ‘Why?!?’
Shahana: *laughs* It’s like, ‘I did this!’
‘There’s no one to blame but myself.’
Joey: You’re like borrowing happiness the next day. *all laugh*
That’s what coffee is for! The life source! This is why we are here and why we are a blog, apart from the music of course! *all laugh*
And if you could give your younger selves advice in regards to what you’ve experienced so far with music or with life, what advice would you give them?
Joey: I would probably tell myself to have no expectations, and to try to keep moving forward because it’s all going to work out in a way that you won’t expect it to. I mean, I’m nowhere near where I wanna be, but it’s better than where I’ve been before.
Shahana: I would probably say to not worry so much about what other people think or what other people expect you to be. Just figure out who you want yourself to be and just go for it. Also, chill and relax. *all laugh*
If only it were that easy.
Joey: There’s that constant worrying about other people and what they think about you, but in reality, they’re really just thinking about themselves and what everybody is thinking about them. It’s just this huge, crazy circle.
The convoluted circle of selfishness.
Joey: Yes! Exactly!
Shahana: Especially when you’re young, because generally, I think people actually do want to help you or want to be there for you, but sometimes it’s just too much, you know? If I had just let myself be the weird, artsy person that I have been since I was a child then maybe I would have been myself way quicker.
Joey: I think that’s something that’s going to be easier for younger generations because of the internet. They can find the community that they’re looking for.
Shahana: That’s definitely possible. It’s not like this fantasy that would never happen.
The one good thing about the internet.
Shahana: Maybe! We’ll see!
And what do you hope that your audience will take away from your music?
Shahana: I think it would be awesome for someone to be able to relate to it and to feel like they are not the only ones feeling the way they are. The one thing that’s always moved me about music is the fact that I would listen to a song that a stranger wrote, and I would feel it. I’d be like, ‘Wow! How does this person know exactly what I’m going through?’ Obviously when you’re a kid, that’s how you feel, but that’s the cool thing that I want to happen. I want it to connect with people. If anyone felt something with the music that we create that would be awesome.
Joey: Yeah. At this point I’m just trying to keep looking forward and take everything as it comes. I want someone to just be inspired.
Shahana: Yeah. We want someone to be inspired by what we create.
Yeah! And apart from the upcoming release of Awry, what other exciting things should we be looking forward to from you guys?
Shahana: We will be playing a bunch of shows in L.A. and out of L.A. soon, and then will also be working on new music.
Joey: Yeah. We’re recording more and more, and hopefully we’ll have another record out in the next year.
Cool! We we are all excited for the big things that you’re going to be doing!
About Tilt Coffee Bar:
For those who have lived in Los Angeles for a few years, you’ve probably noticed a few significant changes to Downtown L.A. A influx of local breweries, trendy bars, to-die-for restaurants, and of course, coffeeshops, have popped up all over. In the recent years, Tilt Coffee Bar has found its home between a pair of apartment complexes (presumably artist compounds) in the Toy District, and boy, they really hit the jackpot on their location. Caffeine lovers of all varieties will feel absolute bliss from what they choose off the menu to where they choose to sit (detached indoor seating of the traditional fashion or soaking up some Vitamin D). I got myself a heavenly Cloud Latte (tee tee, heavenly), and it took a lot of willpower to not suck it down in one go. This little spot is within walking distance to a bunch of historic buildings, entertainment, and public transit, you have no excuse not to come by and check out Tilt!