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  /  The Q&A   /  Joanie Wolkoff

Joanie Wolkoff

Joanie Wolkoff is a Brooklyn-based Canadian who produces music that has an addictive quality to it. Whether it be her forays into electro pop, disco, or music composed at more leisurely bpms, she’s on the constant lookout for experimental and meaningful ways to push the envelope. Upon the heels of her latest release ‘Yours in the Dark,’ Wolkoff reveals her new song and music video ‘Robert Mitchum’ which you can experience below.

How did your new music video Robert Mitchum come about?

King Z at Pratt College animated, directed, shot and produced the video for the Robert Mitchum single. The end result is loosely based on a storyboard I handed him the day of the shoot. There was no mention in said storyboard of the psychedelic conception/dismembering of that money possum, and I sort of needed therapy after the first time I watched it, but King Z’s work has vibrancy and texture that drags the eye in the best sense. We were generously lent all metal detecting equipment featured. Jose Osorio styled us and Josh Lajoie’s lizard Snacks has been nominated for an Oscar.

How would you describe your ‘sound’ to a stranger in five words?

Personal, unvarnished, melodic, vulnerable, lyrical.

How do you come up with ideas for your songs?

I sit at my kitchen table with a keyboard, laptop, mic and interface and have at all my moods. Once I compose a melody, writing vocals calls the narrative into play. Big shocker, the lion’s share of my lyrics are about relationships and memory, but they’re never like “In the year two-thousand-blah-dy-blah it made me feel A when you did B.” Maybe I should try that sometime.

Do you ever run into ‘writer’s block’ when composing songs?

Do I ever get writer’s block? Sometimes for a month or two! The best way to unblock creativity is to change things up. For this single, instead of working one-on-one with a producer as I’ve done on my past few projects, my friend Andy Friedman (drums) strong-armed me into a proper band formation. Jonathan Campo (bass) gave it disco grit. Then Josh Lajoie (guitar) and Rachel Keenan (keys) brought it to life onstage, where we worked through when ended up being a setlist of ten songs at a number of low key shows in Brooklyn. Finally, producer/composer John Cleary engineered our recording with a golden touch. If the compatibility’s there, working with other artists jolts you out of creative hibernation.

What do you love about living in Brooklyn?

Brooklyn is unwieldy and charming and infuriating by turns, which suits me just fine. Anonymous and (very) public life flourish here in equal measures. It’s a diverse, inspiring borough with a great sense of humor. Maybe above all, I love the live-and-let-live mentality. To top it off, Brooklyn is enormous, handsome and close to the ocean.

What influences have had the greatest impact on your music?

Too many artists and genres to list here without getting lost in the sauce. I’ll just thank my folks for playing oldies radio in the car when I was a kid. I should add that for a while in the late 80’s, Shell gas stations in Canada issued these “Cruisin’ Classics” cassettes, complete with a rebate card in the fold-out cover for oil changes. Listening to those tapes on my boombox changed my life forever.

What’s your motto / life philosophy?

In like a lamb, out like a lion.

What brings a tear to your eye?

Modern slavery systems.

Finish this sentence. Life is…

Not a dress rehearsal.

What’s the best bargain you’ve ever found?

Not long after I moved to Brooklyn, a random guy approached me in the street, dragging behind him a fondue fountain (which he referred to as a “chocolate fountain”) and $20 accordion in a wagon. I declined the chocolate fountain but play the accordion very badly to this day.

How do you heal a broken heart?

I’m afraid time seems to be the only real rule of thumb when it comes to recovering from a broken heart.

If you had the chance to go anywhere for dinner tomorrow where would you go?

My boyfriend’s mom’s apartment. She’s got the Russian Jewish cooking flare, for everything from buttery crepes with salmon caviar to pomegranate salad to chicken aspic with horse radish to honey roasted root vegetables to you name it. You cannot beat her borscht. Pun intended.

Where do you go to discover new music?

My record player has been broken forever so I either poke around in the rabbit hole that is Youtube or ask my friend Luke Chiaruttini, Bueno’s frontman and a top of the heap musician in his own right.

If you could talk to only one person for the rest of your life who would it be?

My partner. He is the kindest, funniest person I know and certainly the only one who’d have the patience to put up with me for that long.

Are you more or a rule breaker or rule follower?

I guess from an outside perspective I’ve broken, let’s say, traditional rules by choosing to pursue “the arts” and the meager wages of an educator over the plethora of profitable opportunities at hand in a place like New York.

I insist on the life I have. I keep a disorderly home and harbor fairly neurotic views on things environmental, institutional, political and otherwise. If I were a male senior citizen you would probably just call me “marginal.” This could be seen as going against the grain, considering how I present to a complete stranger.

On the other hand, I’m careful handling fruit at the supermarket so as not to bruise other people’s selections, and I pay attention to traffic lights and always stand back from the platform edge when a train arrives. I’m a diligent rule follower when I don’t want to squish other people’s fruit or get squished by large, rapid vehicles.

What can we expect from you for the rest of 2018?

More music, more pregnancy. Stay tuned.

Continue the Q&A with Joanie Wolkoff: