The Festival Voice Presents: Joy (Anonymous)

The sun is setting on day 2 of Life is Beautiful, the asphalt is cooling down, and I sit in the press lounge awaiting the musical duo I just saw grace the Fremont Stage 30 minutes before. The sights and sounds from their set still linger in my head and the performance of their new single “Head in the Sky” sits with me, almost replaying loud enough in my head to seemingly disrupt the eerie silence that hangs in the room. At that moment, I hear two accents coming down the hallway and the pair of childhood friends, Henry Counsell and Louis Curran, walk into the room greeting us with pleasantries and a disarming energy that carries a similar feeling to what they brought to the stage for their set. I have to confess that prior to capturing their set, Joy (Anonymous) was indeed anonymous to me but after seeing them play live, I can’t believe the joy I was missing out on. This opinion would only be strengthened as they filled me in on how they came to be here with me today. 

Hen & Lou (as they refer to each other) have come a long way from playing guerilla shows on the streets of London over quarantine and they have gained quite a number of well-known collaborators over that time period. From working with locals, friends, and fellow lads/ladies locked down in London, to playing/collaborating with some high profile names including Jungle, Brittany Howard, and all three members of Coachella’s weekend two closing act (Skrillex, Four Tet, and Fred Again…), Joy (Anonymous) is seemingly just getting started with their music reach and notoriety. With one album “Human Again” under their belt and another one coming in the Fall, I was very interested to get to know this dynamic duo and hear more about what went into their preparation and execution related to their ascension to Vegas, Life is Beautiful and the spotlight that is a US music festival stage. 

My planned interview questions and structure quickly transformed into a solid conversation building off of stories and details they told me at the moment. Their path to success is paved with strong relationships, serious creativity, and a serendipitous approach to both the forming and performing of their melodies. Take a read below of our conversation and see what unique tidbit stands out to you the most.

Xander (TFV): How are you enjoying Vegas and the festival so far? Are there any acts you’re looking forward to seeing?

Hen: Yeah, it’s the first time we’ve been out here and it definitely doesn’t disappoint, and what it’s like you get this image of what Vegas is and it definitely is mad and crazy and very big with all the lights and attractions. 

Lou: We actually flew in from Paris and played a show straight away. Pretty much got off the plane and then went straight to the casino

Xander (TFV): I have to ask, how much did you lose?

Lou: Actually, we’re up. We’re gonna go back and lose it later, I’m sure. But, yeah, I like being here. 

Hen: It’s really sick. This is our first festival where we’ve had a slot in the States so that’s huge! I am really looking forward to seeing The 1975 and Kendrick, they are two of my favorite artists. We saw him (Kendrick) at Glastonbury last year and it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

Xander: Regarding your set, could you describe what your plan was going in or maybe energy that you’re trying to bring to a set or have people walk away saying “That set made me feel *blank* ”

Henry Counsell: I mean in terms of our set plan, it’s always improvised. There’s always this energy of like “I don’t know what Lou’s gonna play”. And we react to each other basically. 

Xander: So it’s a full B2B the whole time? 

Lou: We have a few different live versions of how we perform, but it’s normally me on two 404 samplers and then Hen sings. So the order of the set is always different. I’ll throw in surprises for Hen to make him react and it’s inspired by people like Jack White and those types of artists. He (Jack White) used to like de-tune his guitar before a song and like put things out of reach to give it that extra challenge and give it that edge as well. We like to challenge ourselves, I guess, and push the limits. I think that energy really translates to the crowd as well so we get excited. We feel the energy of a moment like “Oh, he’s playing that now!”. Even when we perform DJ sets, it’s the same mentality. We never pre-write. We’ll do secret things. Like I’ll put in a secret bit at the end of the song that Hen doesn’t know about. 

Hen: Or like I’ll put a song on the 404  and tell him to not listen to it until it’s time to play. Very silly stuff. 

Xander TFV: I feel like that’s a sign of really well-rounded artistry, not only are you guys able to have that remixing at a moment’s notice, but it also enhances your whole experience. I’m remembering seeing you (Hen) during the set react to a drop and thinking that you seemed really pleased that it went the way you planned. Looking back, you must not have known that one was coming and you ended up just as excited as the crowd was. 

Hen: That’s it. That’s it, man. The whole ethos of Joy Anonymous is like…I always make a point on the mic to say “You are Joy Anonymous” to the crowd. We want to have as much of an experience as they do and it should feel like we’re all experiencing the moment at the same time for the first time

Xander: Speaking of the crowd, did you see a hand-drawn sharpie flag being waved around?

Lou: That was there last night as well We played a show at the Beverly Theatre after party and they were there with that.

Xander: They were at your last show too? Looks like you found yourself a deeply passionate fan. 

Lou: Yeah, our fans seem to be the kind that get involved and go very deep in. They get all the little references. 

Hen: We have this WhatsApp group and the amount of depth that these people go into, it’s crazy. 

Lou: Talking about old lyrics, old songs, thinking about things that we’ve kind of forgotten about, asking about where our samples are coming from and it’s really, it’s a beautiful thing to see. And you get this feeling like “This means to much to them” and that it’s important to do this. 

Xander: It’s more than just a good song, it’s like a vision and a community

Lou Yeah, we want it to feel like a community. 

Xander: With that being said, you’ve been friends since childhood and you have a good amount of music over the years. All these fans are bringing out these old lyrics but is there a song theme, or maybe an artist that you wanted to incorporate that you have yet to implement?

Hen: I was gonna say that there’s someone that we have now worked with that has been of interest since childhood and he’s based off the streets. His name is MIKE SKINNER FROM THE STREETS, he’s a UK artist, and is kind of the pinnacle in redefining what people consider “UK music”. He’s a cornerstone of the genre and, for both Lou and I, we’ve listened to his albums since we were little.  Then just recently, not only did we like to work on a tune that came out with him on it but we performed with him at Ali Pali, which is this iconic venue for us in the UK. For him to come out and play with us was like childhood dreams should come true.

Lou: And then we’re going on tour with him, supporting him in the UK in November on top of that

Xander: Oh, so this isn’t just a one time only, you guys have solidified this relationship

Hen: Yes, very exciting

Xander: How about an instrument you enjoy but haven’t actually gotten around to it yet, but you know, when it feels right, you’re gonna do it. 

Lou: To be honest, I feel like we’ve kind of, in terms of production, we’ve tried a lot of different things. We always change our methods. Every time we get in the studio, it’s different 

Hen: I think there’s not really a “pre” to our sessions. I think the reason why we might not have an answer for that question is because we tend to go into our production pretty open minded and not preemptively setting a plan. We are closer to just being like “Oh, we’re just going to do this now”.

Xander: Just like your sets. 

Hen: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And like, in each album process, we’ve gone in with a very different way each time. Like, we don’t go in doing the same thing we did last time. Every time we come in a different way and use different people, different equipment, different instruments, etc.

Xander: You also have said that you bring a lot of people in you bring in friends with your music, Is there anybody that you brought in that blew you away?

Lou: The way we made our first album, we were playing on the street in London during lockdown, busking essentially, but with electronic equipment and lots of different people jumping on the mic here and there. So rappers, singers, whatever, just people that were there gathering. Among them, there was a guy called Facesoul, who we made a song with called “If I Held Your Hand”. His voice and approach to music and life were amazingly inspiring and we still became great friends. 

Hen: In theory, our first joint anonymous meeting actually was with him! We three sat at a table just talking about what we wanted to put into the ethos of what Joy (Anonymous) was and we talked about life and did these improvised sets just on a table. After a while, we were like “Wow, this is what we want to do for the future” and we kind of have, including performing with him.

Lou: And then in terms of like the DJ side we’ve been lucky enough to play amazing places. We played in Sao Paulo with Skrillex and it was a Joy Anonymous event. We had been DJing for a couple of hours and then Sonny just jumped on. The way that guy works the decks is just absolutely ridiculous, 

Hen: he wasn’t even using headphones

Lou: He was just doing stuff, and some of it, I didn’t even know the decks could do. Shout out Sonny, always.

Xander: Regarding your newest single, Head in the Sky, did you purposely isolate the gospel aspect to kind of create the energy you wanted communicated in the song before you actually got into the rhythm and bassline itself?

Henry Counsell: Yeah, basically when we sample something usually, we like to show where it’s come from and give the sample it’s time and it’s space. If there’s a vocalist, we like to give them their moment. We’re about to release a song that does a similar thing, which just goes to almost silence…and then you just hear this vocal come in. I think there’s something about like giving people space to just breathe for a moment and enjoy the track.

We’re very inspired by a DJ called Floorplan, who used a lot of gospel music. And I think there’s something quite special about giving space to that. It’s an important Genre of music for so many people and We also want to give that it’s props. The song we sampled for “Head In The Sky” is called “The Sound of Blackness” and it’s glorious, so we feel it deserves its time.

Xander: Anything else you are planning, maybe also incorporating gospel?

Lou: Well, we still prioritize changing things up so it could be a new energy, not just gospel. We made a couple of songs in New York with a gospel singer called Danielle Ponder and she’s absolutely amazing. She’s a fully gospel singer and we worked with her and the Blessed Madonnas and now have made two tracks that are coming out soon. So, I guess that’s a continuation of the gospel thing. 

I could have spoken to these two for much longer but at that moment, my contact for the band let me know that they were needed elsewhere so we had to wrap things up. I could not have asked for a better sequence of tangents to explore and I am highly anticipating the next time I get to see them on stage. Lucky for me, they will be in my hometown of Seattle while I am visiting so I don’t have to wait that long! Be sure to check out Joy (Anonymous) on their tour in the following cities!

Joy (Anonymous) U.S. Tour Dates

30 November – The Independent – San Francisco, USA 

01 December – Larimer Lounge – Denver, USA 

02 December – The Roxy Theatre – Los Angeles, USA 

07 December – Neumos – Seattle, USA 

08 December – Village Studios – Vancouver, Canada 

09 December – The Get Down – Portland, USA 

14 December – Velvet Underground – Toronto, Canada

15 December – Knockdown Centre – New York City, USA 

16 December – Chop Shop – Chicago, US

Media from @photo__beau from their set