Back in late March, Team GDW proudly debuted the brand new music video for “Help Me Out,” the first taste of new music from Toronto, ON alt-rockers Joan Smith and the Jane Does that followed their well-received 2018 “Normalize” EP. Mating their traditional hard-rock roots to some slower, passionate indie-rock vocals from Smith, “Help Me Out” saw a slight shift in their musical direction, especially as the band’s sound [intensifies] beautifully to deliver the bridge and final chorus … offering a brief moment of vulnerability and sadness in [Smith’s] voice that is often unheard, and leaving me with a strong desire to hear more of the new tunes that … follow soon. Fortunately, the wait has been a relatively short one, as Joan Smith & The Jane Does share their latest single, “Sunburn,” here with us today.
Opening with some solid distorted guitar licks, and accompanied by some muted, yet very deliberate drum beats, “Sunburn” packs a punch from the get-go. “I sit on this dirt road / Can’t see a thing through all your dust / Ooh yeah / Sun burns my skin now / No longer care ‘cause I am ruined / Ooh yeah,” recites Joan (vocals/guitars), backed by some pulsating sounds courtesy of Tom Juhas (guitars/bass), Glenn Milchem (drums), and guest multi-instrumentalist, Brian Kobayakawa (keyboards). “Sunburn is an intense, danceable rock track about heartbreak and regrowth, [being] left on the side of a desert highway, exposed and ruined, accepting that healing will come with the ongoing absence of the ex-lover,” Joan shares. “However, with regrowth comes the dark hope that the heartbreaker will return to destroy everything once again.”
If you are looking for a powerhouse of a vocalist in and around Toronto, Joan Smith will likely stop you dead in your tracks once you hear her extraordinary vocal range. She certainly appears as comfortable as ever throughout “Sunburn” bellowing out her lyrics to rise above the propulsive beats and chugging riffs that surround her. “It all grows back / All grows back / It all grows back / And yet I’m waiting ‘til you’ll come back / You’ll come back / You’ll come back and kill this,” she delivers with a natural intensity, adding a generous splash of adrenaline no doubt fueled in part by the rhythmic, throbbing guitars and bass from Juhas. “Can’t cry no more ‘cause I am spent / I’m dry as I think I’ll ever get / Can’t cry no more ‘cause I am spent / I’m dry as I think I’ll ever get!” BOOM!
As hard it may be to muster any positive spin on the current COVID-19 pandemic, we really should applaud artists such as Smith, who are finding ways to overcome the perceived constraints of social distancing and self isolation; whose refusal to yield to defeat serves only to dig deeper into their artistic and visual processes. “We really wanted to do a music video with a live performance feel, but due to Ontario’s restrictions, we obviously were not able to have a full band come to our home studio,” Joan explains. “I figured wrapping ourselves in bandages as if we had actually been sun damaged, or very reluctant to expose ourselves to the sun, and getting creative with how I wrapped up Tom to represent each instrumentalist would give it an element of different band members.” Check out just how versatile Tom proves to be with his bandage and wardrobe configurations (the face-wrap and sunglasses combo makes the lead guitarist a convincing clone of Gotham City’s The Joker). “I think it looks both creepy and humorous,” Smith jokes. “Tom actually did record the bass part, but he was definitely nervous trying to play along with Glenn’s [pre-recorded] performance, hence the ‘Shitty Glenn’ comment at the end.”
Photo Credit: @tigerriding @tigermansionstudios