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Subcultural Wanderers: An Interview with Joe Stevens of Peel Dream Magazine

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A reference to BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, Brooklyn-based musician Joe Stevens conjures abstract memories of the past, reminiscent of lo-fi and underground sounds of the 90’s in his latest project for Peel Dream Magazine. Written and recorded by Stevens over a period of four weeks last fall in New York, his debut album Modern Meta Physic captures minimalist elements from the likes of Belle and Sebastian, Stereolab and Lilys, stripping each musical component down to explore its bare essentials while simultaneously discovering limitless and beautifully immense territory. “I had this idea that I wanted to make pretty pop music that didn’t work on people’s heartstrings the way pretty pop music is supposed to. I wanted it to feel a bit existential, a bit slow-moving and repetitive”, shares Stevens on the process of creating and recording.

Abstraction is a key theme in his work, a means of allowing his listeners to come to their own conclusions about his lyrics rather than having a literal statement forced upon them. Abandoning strict boundaries, Modern Meta Physic plays with several motifs throughout its duration by connecting ideas between various songs, with “Living Room” playing as the chorus of a song that appears later in the album as well as including a trilogy formation between the tracks “Levitating Between Two Chords”, “Shenandoah” and “Don’t Pick Up Slackers”. “The intro of “Shenandoah” is the chord progression of “Don’t Pick Up Slackers”, and even when you get past the intro it is still all just a basic fun motif variation of the same two chords”, remarks Stevens of his songs’ underlying connections.

An exciting addition to Slumberland Records‘ prolific roster, founder Mike Schulman connected with Stevens in late 2017 after Modern Meta Physic was finished and the two met in Oakland over the holidays to discuss putting the record out. Citing John Peel as a pioneer in terms of curation as an art form, Stevens believes curatorial platforms, whether as record labels, DIY venues or streaming services, are still thriving despite moving towards the digital age. “Music is this dynamic thing – what musicians want and need to put out is constantly changing, as is the taste of listeners. There will always be that curatorial aspect of music because that’s how new, exciting stuff gets delivered to hungry listeners.”

Modern Meta Physic comes out tomorrow with a link to purchase here. In terms of what Peel Dream Magazine hold in store for the future, plenty of touring plus an abundant and expansive output of material look to be on the horizon. For those of you in Pittsburgh, you can catch their performance at Howlers on November 8th with Lost Boy ? and Flower Crown.

Image Credits: Photo by Matt Schmohl

 

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