Brooklyn Welcomes José González’s Junip
Any musical path will lead to discovering more artists. For a band that has been together for over ten years, I was surprised that Junip hadn’t crossed my radar sooner. It was a couple of years ago when I first heard José González’s work from The Gutter Twins version of “Down the Line.” At a later date during a late night drive down an empty parkway, Kat properly exposed me to the album Veneer in full. To this day, it’s still one of the most humbly intimate albums I’ve heard – the “anti” of an over-done and over-produced era. Guitar chords and vocals peak with volume changes on a track-by-track basis, sounding like a garage recording. Funny enough, it was a kitchen in this case! I credit this album for introducing me to one of my favorite acts – The Knife. José’s version of “Heartbeats” is so synced with his style that it leaves no evidence of the original electro-pop song. There are many identical stories of what José and The Gutter Twins did for me. I extend the chapter now to you, with an introduction to Junip!
A concert alert that José would be playing a local show with a band called Junip caught my curiosity so I immediately hopped onto iTunes and checked out the Black Refuge EP. I was taken aback by the lead track “Black Refuge,” the utopian “Turn to the Assassin” and the overcoming sound of “Official.” The charm behind José’s solo work is nothing extravagant, just a meticulous pace of his soft voice and majestic fingers on acoustic guitar. When joined by drummer Elias Araya and keyboardist Tobias Winterkorn, Junip carry over these elements through more tempo changes and experimentation, creating a product leniently dreamier. There is a heavy reliance on synths and drums – the complete opposite to the minimal approach José’s takes on his own recordings. It’s as if the trio uses his style as the base coat and then slowly builds upon it layer upon layer. José refers to “talking about castles in the air” during interviews for Junip, further explaining that being in the band is “like chasing a teenage dream.” A few weeks ago on a rainy Wednesday night in Brooklyn we had the chance to catch a glimpse of the reality.
When the band took the stage, touring members – bassist Johan Grettve and percussionist Andres Renteria – rounded out the fold. Like their recordings, there was no flashy aspect to their live show. Stationary throughout the set, José sat unfazed and focused, barely opening his eyes. A few spotlights cut through the shadows, rarely giving sight of anyone’s face and further adding mystery to the show’s already alluring cloud. However, it was easy to notice the key roles of every member, each playing patiently. Grettve’s bass lines and Araya’s drumbeats drove the songs – Winterkorn’s Moog added an underlying, pensive tone and Renteria’s joyful use of bongos and chimes filled in the intricate areas that would otherwise be left open and exposed. José was the cherry on top, completing the sound by lending his famous rhythmic strums and delicate vocals. A sold out room of applause and even some soccer chants followed the pause during the divine set – a combination of material from Black Refuge, the newly released freebie Rope and Summit and their soon to be released LP. Taking a cue from José’s records, it was no shocker when Junip closed with a great interpretation of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” – a real treat for Springsteen fans! We expressed our disbelief about the slow rate of the band’s exposure. Junip’s music is the classification of “easy listening,” so what’s stopping the national acclaim? With Fields dropping this September, José mentioned that he hopes this round is “the one.” We realized that Junip means a great deal more than a “side project” – I believe this is what he set out to do from the very beginning.