BY CHERYL CHENG
Joanna Gruesome had two big announcements this summer: one, singer Alanna McArdle was leaving; and two, the band was releasing a new album, entitled Peanut Butter, and touring with new band members Kate Stonestreet and Roxy Brennan. For fans of Joanna Gruesome—a pun on singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom's name—these changes left some wondering about the band's future. But guitarist-vocalist Owen Williams took some time to talk with The Scenestar about what's in store for Joanna Gruesome, reassuring fans: "The arrangements of the songs were altered slightly to reflect the new astrological combinations of the group."
SS: When Alanna left the band for health reasons earlier this year, how much of a surprise was that?
Owen: I think touring, etc., is always difficult if you suffer with mental health issues, and it was just a case of everyone acknowledging her specific experience and totally respecting her decision.
SS: How did the the addition of Kate and Roxy come about? And why did the band decide to add two new members instead of one?
Owen: We met Roxy and Kate in an occult bookshop. [The original members met at an anger management counseling group.] We added two members because it's a common heavy metal trope to replace one vocalist with two vocalists.
SS: The band is now on a U.S. tour with the new lineup. How's the tour going? How has the adjustment been with the new lineup?
Owen: The tour is going very well, although we're slowly starting to notice signs of CIA tracking. The adjustment has also gone well, but Kate's nut allergy has meant that we've had to tone down our usual decadent peanut butter consumption rituals.
SS: For the new album, why did the band decide to name it "Peanut Butter"? And how did the cover art come about?
Owen: We wanted to expose the radical possibilities of peanut butter spread. The cover art was by Alex Humphreys from Manchester, who is consistently very good.
SS: Following the success of debut album Weird Sister, which won the Welsh Music Prize last year, did you feel any pressure when working on the new album?
Owen: I wrote most of the second record quite quickly after the first, so not hugely. I was thinking about peanut butter spread more than any sense of pressure. The whole idea was to just make the songs more economical and curb any extra nonsense.
SS: I read that the band members all live in different places. Does this make it difficult to get together and write music? Or with technology, is it not really a problem?
Owen: We don't use technology, but we do have a system of shared psychic communication that enables us to organize and coordinate band practices and recording sessions. Also, touring in the U.S. has made me realize that every city on our island is comparatively very close together.
SS: Weird Sister was recorded in about a week. Was Peanut Butter also a very fast recording?
Owen: It also took about a week. It seemed strange to spend any more time on it than that.
SS: Where do the song ideas come from?
Owen: I usually write the majority of each song in my room and they are generally concerned with espionage, the occult, crushes, or astrology.
SS: The band members are all involved in other music projects. Does this make it difficult to focus on Joanna Gruesome? How do you divide your time?
Owen: I'm an Aquarius, so I'm not particularly good at time management, but the other members of each group tend to help me divide my time efficiently. It's easy to get my mind into Caramel mode, because all of the Caramel songs are set in a fictional office complex.
The Scenestar asks Owen to name his favorites of the moment.
FAVORITE THING TO EAT WITH PEANUT BUTTER Bread
FAVORITE BOOK The Witches' Bible
FAVORITE ARTIST Ringo Starr on Microsoft Paint
FAVORITE VENUE DIY Space for London
FAVORITE WORD (I know it's not twee!) Tweet