JOSHUA POWELL & THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY
By Serenat Kivilcim
JOSHUA POWELL & THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY was formed by talented singer-songwriter Joshua Powell in 2011 after spending several years in the punk and hardcore music scenes.
After touring a year and a half and playing 400 shows in 40+ States, Joshua is now working on his third full-length record, Alyosha, which is set to be released on October 16. BoC caught up with Joshua and chatted about his writing and producing process of Alyosha, and more.
Get on a dreamy journey with Joshua by squeezing his soul-pleasing music into your life.
Tell us a little more about JOSHUA POWELL & THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY. How would you describe your music in 3 words?
Joshua: Joshua Powell & the Great Train Robbery began in 2011 after an ill-fated year on a label and the dissolution of my college indie rock band. Years spent in the punk and hardcore scenes had prepared me to be in touch with the softer side of the alternative borders, and I got really into Fionn Regan and Sam Beam.
After I graduated, we became a touring machine and I was literally homeless for a year and a half before deciding to relocate back to Indiana and focus my efforts on the Midwest.
If I only had three words to describe our sound maybe I’d say, “melancholic psychedelic folk-rock.” Ha.
What should we expect from your upcoming third full-length record, Alyosha, which is set to be released on October 16?
Joshua: I’m trying really hard with this record to graduate from my own sphere of social connectivity. I’m working like a banshee to submit this record to everyone who will write about it because our past idea of PR was to tell our Facebook friends we had a new record and then just tour it to death. I haven’t yet capitalized on digital marketing, and so I think Alyosha will actually be a lot of people’s first encounter with this band, and they’ll hear it with fresh ears. For our existing fanbase, it will be more of a surprise. In the past, I was afraid people would think we were in a genre identity crisis if we didn’t adhere to strict guidelines of what a “folk” record should be. For Alyosha, I gave up on trying to fit specific stylistic labels and just make a record that I loved. We recorded what I wanted to hear. So those people can expect elements of dream pop and psychedelia. Whorls. I listen to a ton of Washed Out and Beach House and Kurt Vile, so mix those things with Neil Young-style folk rock and you get Alyosha.
How is the indie scene in Indianapolis? Are there any bands we should have on our radar?
Joshua: It’s beautiful. Indianapolis is a city being rebuilt in the post-industrial wake of manufacturing jobs being exported. Because there wasn’t a ton going on for a long time, it got really affordable. Affordability attracts young people in droves, and young people in droves how a good way of revitalizing repressed urban potential. We had like 13 new microbreweries last year. New venues and galleries and organic cafes sprouting up everywhere. It’s an awesome time to be an indie musician in Indianapolis because there aren’t a bunch of scene giants–most everyone is on the same level ground where we’re all collaborating to build the scene exactly how we want it to look. The more you network in it, the weirder it gets, and I love that. I’m a big fan of Cyrus Youngman & the Kingfishers and Dream Chief–those two bands shared the stage with us at our unofficial CD release show at the Hi-Fi.
How has the writing and producing process of your upcoming LP been going? Do you have any interesting stories to share?
Joshua: I wrote the bulk of Alyosha after a year and a half of straight touring, when I was transitioning back into having an address in Indiana. A handful were written while I was couch surfing, a few at my folks’ condo in Florida, and the rest on my back porch. Recording it was mad scientist work. In the past I always recruited a lot of instrumentals. Probably 80% of this record though was just Jonathan Class (the producer) and me playing with sounds. It was the first time I played my own electric guitars in the studio. We just locked ourselves in 9-5 for two and a half weeks and experimented with stereo field and effect chains. We did field recordings. There are birds chirping and tape hiss all over “Cave of Clouds.” “Left the Academy” was recorded on two hand-built microphones in a nearby park in one take. “Telekinesis” was supposed to be a super-slow country ballad with piano, and then Jonathan heard it and changed it into an 80’s sounding Springsteen-esque track, and it was a great surprise.
You guys played 400+ shows across 40+ states, an impressive feat. What would you say is your favorite venue to play a show?
Joshua: Aw, thanks! We love playing in the States that often get ignored. We always have amazing shows in Lincoln, NE at the Zoo Bar, or at basically any venue in Wichita, KS. I love Lion’s Lair in Denver for the people. I love MOTR Pub in Cincinnati for the sound. I love Hops on Birch in Flagstaff for the beer. I love the Hi-Fi in Indy because it’s home.
What’s your favorite release of the year so far?
Joshua: Definitely Carrie and Lowell by Sufjan. Also digging Beach House’s Depression Cherry and looking forward to Youth Lagoon’s. And I’ll say it: Kendrick’s was overhyped.
What’s on the horizon for JOSHUA POWELL & THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY?
Joshua: We have Midwestern dates almost every weekend until 2016. A bigger Southern/Midwestern tour in January. And this record has been in the crock and we’re planning on our first official music video to be released soon. I’m working on upgrading my home studio setup, so I’ll spend a lots of this Indiana winter locked in my little bedroom with headphones and I’m so excited about it.