Cover Story

Musicians and artists alike are in constant search for the perfection of their craft. Alongside this journey, there is an urge to find their message that they want to express and share with the world.

For American duo, joan, the hunt and discovery for the defining sound is not a new thing. Especially in light of recent events and the setbacks it came with, joan has since found themselves exploring their creativity and artistry on a deeper level, hopeful to own an art that is true to themselves and raring to share it with the audience as the world slowly opens up.

For long-time friends, turned musical duo Alan Thomas and Steven Rutherford, this creativity and passion for music has ultimately been shaken up due to the pandemic. In the midst of creating an EP, the unexpected halt of being unable to do the next natural thing after creating music and later on releasing music, including touring and performing in front of a live audience, is a challenge in and of itself—a realization, however, of the power and impact of their craft not just to their growing fanbase, but to themselves as artists.

Photographed by Connor North Goad. Image courtesy of Photo Finish Records.

“Coping-wise, the hardest thing I think, just from my perspective, has been: we can’t tour. All we had was creating– you know you can do virtual things and impress things but we couldn’t play these songs live. So, we were like releasing music to the world but not being able to do the natural next thing, which is to play live,” Thomas tells Rank Magazine.

Given this isolation and the adjustment it called for due to the lockdowns, much like the rest of the world, joan managed to persist with their creative outlets and continued pursuing their musical passions taking resources afforded to them amid the situation. This then brought about a shift in perspectives and lessons that the band incorporated with their work, growing and maturing both as an individual and as an artist.

Based in Little Rock Arkansas, the band did not have the luxury or the freedom to record anytime in professional studios unlike in New York or Los Angeles. They had to adjust and make do with online recording and Zoom sessions, a departure from how the pair has done it pre-pandemic, but a most welcome alternative at that. Still, they managed to transcend the limitations of being confined to their makeshift spaces in their homes and realized that doing and creating music can be ubiquitous, not being limited to a certain space. 

Photographed by Connor North Goad. Image courtesy of Photo Finish Records.

“The pandemic has kind of taught people that you can do music anywhere. We live in Little Rock, we don’t live in LA or New York, so doing Zoom sessions is just a normal thing now, like everybody’s doing it and that’s just like the new norm. I think that opened a lot of opportunities for a lot of writers and artists to meet new people and get in sessions that maybe they wouldn’t be in if the pandemic hadn’t happened,” Rutherford shares.

Having met back in college, the duo saw in each other the passion and ambition, therefore, doing the work flowed naturally. Departing from different bands they have hailed from, the two gravitated towards each other due to their proclivity for writing music of their own.

“It was just kind of like stars aligning and just realizing that we were supposed to work together and make it happen,” Rutherford says about their friendship and the journey to forging this partnership from the get.

With both of them having the drive and creativity, joan was naturally born. 

Photographed by Connor North Goad. Image courtesy of Photo Finish Records.

In their constant stream of songwriting and music-making, joan’s search for the perfect sound has seen a lot of trials and experimentation, stemming from various artistic and creative inspirations and influences.

Citing the music of the ’80s and ’90s as inspiration, the band wanted to go beyond the usual archetypes of the music during that period and create a sound that feels more organic and true to joan. But it is in having icons as Coldplay that propels the duo to bring their music on a global stage.

Serving as a big inspiration for the band, Thomas talks about how Coldplay makes different kinds of songs and takes inspirations from a lot of genres but still retains their iconic sound that they are best known for.

“I’m a huge Coldplay fan and they’ve had so many iterations of Coldplay, like you listen to ‘A Rush of Blood To The Head’ versus ‘Mylo Xyloto.’ Two very different sounding bands, but they still sound the same because Chris Martin’s voice, Johnny’s guitar parts, and the drums, like you start to piece together and all the elements are still essentially Coldplay, they’re just trying something new.”

“I think one thing that’s important to us and one thing that we love about joan and how we go about songwriting is [that] we take each song as its own thing, each EP as its own thing. Whenever we go into a song or a project, we are not afraid to make it a completely different feeling than the last thing we did, and that’s great for us because it keeps us fresh and it makes Joan something that we really love overall,” Rutherford furthers.

Photographed by Connor North Goad. Images courtesy of Photo Finish Records.

Since then, joan has grown and evolved with their music. From take me on to i loved you first and their recent releases with their consecutive “Hi” and “Bye” EP releases, the duo has seen their sound and songwriting mature, thanks in part to their growth as well as artists. To experimenting with their music, gaining more experience with production in the studio, and constantly chasing deadlines, their evolution and refinement as musicians, to them is inevitable, made evident with their newer releases. 

Today, as the pandemic closes in on its second year, the excitement and passion joan has for making music and performing has not waned one bit. As the world starts to open up more, and with the stronger inspiration brought about their personal lives, evolving almost at the same time (both of them becoming fathers recently), the band shares how much they look forward to their future plans and collaborations that they hope to perform live on tour.

Rutherford thinks that their best years of touring and songwriting are still ahead of them, which is why they have all these crazy and wild ideas that they are excited to act upon and create music with. 

With this, and more things in tow for the musical duo, fans and fans-to-be are in for a much bigger treat from joan in the future, following the recent success they have seen from their string of performances off their U.S. tour.

“I get excited about being able to think of a concept overall for the project and working to make it happen. Releasing these EPs, thinking back on the initial idea and actually being able to look back and be like ‘Oh yeah, we did exactly what we set out to do’ and having that sense of pride about it [and] that’s something that I really get stoked about and it hasn’t stopped and this just kept growing so that’s a really fun part about being in the band,” he says.

Produced in collaboration with Photo Finish Records via Amplified Entertainment

Interview and additional text by Leo Balante

Cover layout by Bhernn Saenz