Junius' Joseph Martinez Couldn't Stay Away from Dallas
Junius used to be a band from Boston. That's where they formed almost a decade ago. But then leader Joseph Martinez wanted to start a family, so he decided to go back to where he grew up. So for the past three years, Junius has been a Dallas band. Well, not actually. Seems the four guys in this particular space rock band live all over the country and just get together to record and tour.
Sound confusing? Well, it is, but Martinez sat down with DC9 to attempt to straighten things out. So in anticipation for Sunday's killer line-up of Caspian, Junius and Things of Earth at Dada, Martinez talked about, among other things, how a serious band can still have a sense of humor.
I know the band formed in Boston. So how did you end up in Dallas?
Actually, I was born and raised in Dallas. I lived in Coppell for most of high school and then I moved to Boston. I was 15. That's where I started the band. We stayed in Boston and toured out of there. I just recently got married and moved back here. I've been here for about three years now.
When you were a teenager in Dallas, did you have a band?
No, never did. When I was here, I wasn't even interested in music. I found music when I moved up to Boston. My new high school was just outside downtown and I met some people there who were musicians. I was hooked and I started a band when I was 17. Whenever I would visit Dallas, I would jam out with some of my friends who also discovered music at around the same time as I did.
Where do the other band members reside?
Our drummer, Dana, he is the only one still in Boston. Mike, the guitar player, lives in Brooklyn. He's been there a while now. And our bass player lives in Austin.
Does that make it hard to practice?
Yes, we don't really practice that much. We will meet up before tours. Since we just got done with a tour, we will still be pretty fresh. It is difficult with the writing aspect. When we first started, we were all together. We started writing together as a unit. We moved apart due to people getting married and some people just wanting to get out of Boston. They had been there for so long. We had to figure out a new way to do things. We went back to me writing the songs. The last album I wrote, more or less, on my own. I would send songs to the guys and they would learn them.
Do you think that you writing the songs alone has made a difference in the band's sound?
Yes, definitely. Luckily, it worked out that the material we released before was intricate. Even the subject matter was intricate and detailed. We spent a lot of time in a room together working out the details and the parts. With this new album, I wanted to push really big melodies. So it worked out with me writing it singer/songwriter style. The songs definitely have that kind of structure to them. They are way bolder vocally. The music has changed and we are going to try to hang on to that aspect of it. However, we need to try to find a balance so that it's not me doing everything.
Junius has gone through several bass players. Is there a reason for that?
When we started out, we were looking for a bass player and when we finally found one, he didn't want to play our style of music. Then we would find someone to play shows for a couple of weeks. It wouldn't work out because they weren't committed enough. And when you start touring, it becomes a whole different thing. Touring is hard as it weeds out the people who are not completely serious. You have to have passion to commit to this lifestyle. You have to have passion and not mind being broke. It's hard to find people who are willing to do the broke thing.
The sound is still very heavy and serious. When you title an album Reports from the Threshold of Death, no one is going to think the music is light. Do you sometimes have to remind people that you do have a sense of humor?
Yes, always. I'm the most serious dude out of everyone. But at the end of the day, you can't take it too seriously. We all still have to pay bills and have a normal life. I do take the music very seriously, but I don't take myself very seriously. If you saw me on the street, you wouldn't think I play the kind of music that I do.
With bands like Hum, Mogwai and My Bloody Valentine, bands that have influenced you, the vocals are often buried within the mix, but your vocals are way out front.
Yes, we have always been vocal heavy. Somehow we got lumped into the post-rock category. We didn't even know what post-rock was. People said post-rock and it sounded cool so we said OK. We didn't realize that it was all very instrumental driven music. A lot of bands that we played with were instrumental bands. We got stuck. We are not an instrumental band. There is a purpose to the songs. It's not just a mood we are creating. It's a mood plus an intention. There's nothing wrong with being an instrumental band and a lot of those bands are friends of ours. I've always thought of us as a band that is both musically and lyrically driven. We've always had a hard time figuring out where we fit in.
I've read where you listen to a lot of Phillip Glass. Do you also like Steve Reich and Terry Riley?
I do, but I like Glass because the early stuff feels very angular. I think I probably listen to Phillip Glass way too much. Now, he uses Indian rhythms. I get more out of him because he is continually experimenting with other sounds. He likes to incorporate different things into the music. He opened my eyes to different things that a musician can do.