Culted Sounds: Joy Anonymous on Southbank gigs, listening to its community, and documentary with Brooklyn Pilsner

Culted Sounds: Joy Anonymous on Southbank gigs, listening to its community, and documentary with Brooklyn Pilsner

by Juliette Eleuterio
8 min

Electronic dance music has long had this reputation of being just a party genre, redacted to the high BPM and untz untz sounds we’re used to hearing in clubs, but Joy Anonymous is flipping the narrative on its head. The musical duo, made up of Henry Counsell and Louis Curran, went from playing gigs on Southbank, London, to touring the world, where they find themselves currently in America.

Listening to Joy Anonymous can make you want to get up and move, as much as it does make you want to reflect on life’s complications. In their latest album titled Cult Classics, the duo don’t shy away from merging emotive lyrics with a high-energy backing track, creating a symphonic synergy of highs and lows.

It’s that very same authentic energy that has transpired in Joy Anonymous’ documentary created with Brooklyn Pilsner in collaboration with Universal Music, which you can watch here. Shot from London to Brooklyn, the short film follows the two boys with never-seen-before, behind-the-scenes footage uncovering their creative process, from writing lyrics on a rooftop to jamming out to sounds and seeing what sticks.

“Like Brooklyn Brewery, we’re part of a movement that celebrates people coming together, without barriers. We’re proud of the music we make and community we’ve built. If we can move just one person, in whatever way, be it physically or emotionally, then we’ve done our job” explains Joy Anonymous. A link up between Joy Anonymous and Brooklyn Pilsner is a merge of cultural hotspots across the big pond, celebrative unrivalled creative and the power of community.

We caught up with the artists to tell us about their Brooklyn Pilsner documentary, the early Southbank days, and their biggest musical influences.

You guys are in America right now, on tour, right?

Henry: Yeah, it’s been really nuts. It surpassed our expectations, for sure. The crowds have been wild. We weren’t expecting anything and it was crazy. We played The Roxy on Saturday and it was awesome.

Since we’re coming to the end of the year, what has been a highlight of 2023 for you?

H: This year has been pretty pretty nuts to be honest. I think my favourite show was probably us playing Ally Pally (Alexandra Palace). That was relatively recently, but that was some childhood dream shit. With Mike Skinner coming on, and Romy, and also playing with Fred [again..], Skrillex, that was pretty mad.

Y’all have had a mad journey, from South Bank gigs to touring with Fred again… playing Coachella, working with The Blessed Madonna… Looking back on your career, can you pinpoint a turning point?

Louis: Yeah, during lockdown, we started playing on the streets of South Bank in London. When people started gathering around us and wanting to listen and stay for like hours on end, I think that’s when we sort of realised that we created something quite special with [our music]. That was definitely the turning point. Because it was such a weird time in the world as well, maybe it was doubly impactful with that.

H: The knock on effect from those times, it changed [things] forever.

Even though you have achieved so much already, you’re far from being done yet. In fact, you’re heading on your European Cult Classics tour next year. How do you prepare yourself for a live set? Do you have a pre-performance ritual?

H: We definitely have a pre-show thing that me and Lou do, this kind of chant-dance. Before tour, particularly the European one, we’re going a bit more live with the show. So we start with Roundhouse on February 14, and that’s going to be quite a levelled up show from what this tour has been. This tour has been pretty live because we use the samplers and sing, but we’ll be bringing instrumental players and things like that.

Joy Anonymous ©

Let’s talk about Cult Classics, the album. How long was that in the works for? What was the intention with this one? What do you want listeners to take away from it?

L: ​​We started in February of 2022. We went away for two weeks and basically started recording all the songs there. Then, over the course of the next year, eighteen months or so, we were road, playing live, and just tweaking them and refining them, finishing them. [We were] hearing things that didn’t work or did work every night, and adapting them. It was finished in June, and then out in November. It feels like it happened quite quick, to be honest.

H: It was fun. The process was really reacting to how the music made [the crowd] feel. So we would be on the road, thinking ‘that didn’t quite hit as hard that night, why didn’t that work?’ It was very much a back and forth [process] with the audience’s reaction. That’s kind of how we’ve always played music. Even with JOY (Human Again), it was very much just making stuff on the Southbank, playing it to the people, hearing their feedback. Even if it wasn’t directly like ‘oh, we don’t like this,’ you can feel it with the interaction. We always want to bring the people into the making of the music.

Electronic music often has this reputation of just being a party genre, but you don’t shy away from more emotive topics in your songs, as displayed in your latest album that features an eclectic mix of themes. Is this an intentional move to further the genre or does it happen naturally?

H: We’re big fans of the songwriter showing emotion. We also want to make the point clear that Joy Anonymous is not just this positive, happy thing. It’s feeling all emotions and revelling in that feeling. AWe want to show a big spectrum of what we are as people and artists. We love ballads and more emotional songs, as much as trying to put even deeper meaning into the dance songs.

Officially, Joy Anonymous is just you two, but you do open your doors to anyone and everyone who listens to your music to be a part of this collective/movement. Was this community-focused approach something you had in mind when founding Joy Anonymous? Why is that so important to you?

L: Yeah, that was the concept, but it was almost an imagined thing at that point. Then when we did the Southbank [gigs], and lockdown happened, relating it back to your previous question that we’re gonna be like, ‘Wow, this concept has really become real and taken on a life of its own that we probably didn’t even predict.’

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H: Yeah, it really became reality on Southbank. People would come in, jump on the mic, get involved and tell their stories. They became the features of the first album. It’s fully community led.

Apart from your community, do you have any inspiration points when it comes to your music?

L: We’ve been listening to a lot of Paul Simon, Mac DeMarco and stuff like that. Also listening to Prodigy and [Jimmy] Hendrix.

H: It depends on what we’re working on, really.

One of your recent projects includes a documentary with Brooklyn Pilsner. Tell us a little bit about that?

H: They reached out to us a little while ago. We have a friend of ours called Sam Mulvey, who’s a great director. It was a great opportunity to document what’s going on in this means and our story. There’s been a lot of capturing of the Joy meetings in short form [videos] and pictures. We hadn’t had a long form piece to show our story. And they let us have basically complete creative freedom. Sam smashed it. It was the best documentation of what we’ve been doing.

What’s the best setting for opening a good ol’ Brooklyn Pilsner? 

H: Probably during the Joy meetings.

What are some parting words you want to leave our readers with?

H: We’re going on [a European] tour next year. Hit us up with new places you want us to come play around the world. We like to enjoy meeting new people as we’re on tour. We just did a meet up in LA, on Venice Beach, and on reBourne Heights, in San Francisco.

More on Culted

See: Culted Sounds: TYSON on her new mixtape & uplifting women and gender-variant musicians

See: Culted Sounds: Lord Apex on The Good Fight and becoming a tastemaker

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