Interview with Josh Arnoudse From Boston’s You Won’t

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When I’m excited about something I’m admittedly kind of a pest. I do this whole over-the-top in your face THIS RULES!!!!! song and dance to the point where my friends dislike whatever I’m pushing, just on principle. That being said, recently I was introduced to Boston-based indie folk outift You Won’t and I’m obsessed. If I were Oprah, they’d be on my list of Favorite Things, right up there with sweater capes and corksicles. But I’m nervous that my ultra-enthusiasm will turn people off. I sincerely hope it doesn’t. Because not only is their debut album Skeptic Goodbye a fantastic record, but after I got off the phone with You Won’t's Josh Arnoudse last week, I realized they’re super nice, too. And they are coming to Portland this Sunday, December 2nd to play at SPACE Gallery with Pearl and the Beard and Lucius. Dispatch will in attendance and I hope you will, too. Until then, check out the interview below with Josh, and if you haven’t heard of these guys yet, do yourself a favor and give their record a listen here.

So you’re coming to Portland with The Pearl and the Beard and Lucius. Are you stoked?
Yes. We really, really sincerely love both bands. I’ve never been so excited for a tour. It’s like the best bill we’ve ever been on. I can’t empathize enough how happy we are to be playing with them. We’re all sort of accessible and poppy enough between all three of us, but we all sort of have unique angles. We’re all sort of unorthodox.

How did you get involved with the tour?
I think it was Emily’s idea [from the Pearl and the Beard]. She emailed us and Lucius this summer and she was like, “I have a dream” and I was like, “I have the same dream!” I wish the tour was longer! I wish we could go around the whole country with these guys.

Have you been to Portland before?
Yes. Actually I think our third show ever as a band was at Slainte. We also played with The Milkman’s Union at The Oak and the Ax in Biddeford this summer.

Oh, I love The Milkman’s Union! That sounds like a great show. I saw that you guys were just nominated for the Boston Music Awards Best Folk Act. That’s pretty rad.
We were. I didn’t even know that happened. This is the second time we’ve been nominated for something in Boston and no one notified us. My sister emailed and was like, “Hey, you guys are on the list of nominees. Are you going to do something about it?” But yeah, pretty happy about that. I’ve watched other people that I follow get nominated or win Boston Music Awards so it’s cool to be on their radar. It’s just nice to feel like people are aware of us around town.

So how did you form You Won’t?
We went to college in different spots. Raky [Sastri] went to college in New York and I went to college in Western Massachusetts. And then I moved to New York for a while. But we didn’t start You Won’t until a couple years ago. We were coming off the tour with our previous band. We recorded our album before we played any shows and then the spring of 2011 we started touring.

How was the transition from your previous band to your folk duo?
It was pretty difficult at first to get any gigs around Boston, actually. For like the first six months. It was pretty hard to get into any of legit venues for a while, which was surprising having lived in New York, I wasn’t prepared for a different, smaller scene, I guess. But then we made a few friends that opened a couple doors. We released our record back in February, and I felt like that was the first time people started showing up at our shows that I’d never seen or met before which was exciting.

You guys now have quite the fan base. The internet is abuzz with you guys. I was reading some blogs and I of course listened to the record myself. The music made me happy. Do you hear that a lot?
We do hear that a lot, which is a wonderful thing to hear and also never fails to surprise me. I feel like in the live context that makes a lot more sense, so we do our best to get a really energetic performance and  connect with our audience, and feed off of their energy and all that. As far as the recordings, it’s a little bit surprising because a lot of songs tend to be on the more dour side of the spectrum.

So what do you think it is?
What I can take away form that, just going off of the kind of music that I respond to, I think a good melody can do a lot of things. Not the least of which is make you feel good. But if a melody just fits right, there’s a biological response to that. Going back to our ancient ancestors, it’s just part of being human, I guess. But anyway, thanks for saying that, it’s really great to hear.

I hate comparisons but I always make them because I’m a writer. I hear some Shins, some Neutral Milk Hotel, maybe a splash of Vampire Weekend in your stuff. Who inspires you guys?
I feel like I don’t think about it consciously so much anymore. Those bands that you listed, the Shins and Neutral Milk Hotel, in terms of songwriting, those were big influences. I think they’re both very melodic with extremely original and thoughtful lyrics, which I certainly think we aspire to. We’re both really into Paul Simon, too. I’ve learned a lot from him. He’s kind of reinvented himself, in his approach.  He’s just really good with words and he has a sense of humor. His words always fit really well. You never feel like he’s cramming a lyric in there that doesn’t quit fit rhythmically otherwise. It’s always just right.

Anything you’re really into right now? Not so much from an inspirational standpoint, but just something you’ve been enjoying?
I mean, honestly, since we started playing all the time. The new music that I get into is usually bands that we meet that we really like. I feel like I listen to a lot less music than I did before I was playing it all the time. Maybe just because my ears need a break or something [laughs]. There’s been a handful of bands in the last couple of years that we have met playing shows that we’ve become very big fans of. I mean Lucius and Pearl and the Beard are chief among them. But there’s also this band from North Carolina called Bombadil. Raki just found them when we were still booking our own tours last year and we were looking for people to play with in North Carolina and he found them and instantly showed them to me and told me I had to listen to this band. I was really surprised at how instantly I really loved their stuff. You should check them out.

When are you guys done touring?
After this run with Pearl and Lucius, I think the last show is December 8th, then we’re gonna start working on a new record which I’m really looking forward to.

Your tour is almost over. What are you looking forward to the most when it’s done with?
Working on the new stuff. There are all these new songs that I’ve been writing and making lists of and Raki’s been rebuilding our home studio at his place. But it’s hard when we’re always preparing for the next show to give that stuff full attention. I’m just looking forward to having time to be in a different mind set. And I know that whenever we record, that’s what we’re going be playing for the next year and a half so I want to feel as excited as possible as the songs that we choose for our next album. We’re hoping to be touring even more the next time around. Looking forward to a little peace and time to mess around and experiment again.

Weird question: Do you guys like mimes? Do you hate mimes? What’s the deal with the mime on your album?
We love mimes. We have pity for any of them that are so abused as the one on our album. Yeah, that was a character that Raki actually invented a long time ago for a movie that we made when we were younger and more idealistic people. And I played the character. I would sort of resurrect him for various projects. I did some street performance in that costume for a little while when I was living in New York. It just popped into my head one day when we were talking about album covers and then I was totally fixated on it and didn’t want to do anything else. But it was really hard to get the picture right. Raki took the picture. It was kind of an odreal to make it look just so.

It’s a pretty cool cover.
It’s funny we got trolled by someone online. I think it was like the worst review the album got, the guy was like “disgustingly pretentious hipster album cover.” Then people in the comments were like “yeah this is the worst cover ever!” and I was just like “Really? What?!” I get it if you’re not into it, but what’s so bad about this? I don’t know. Funny how the internet works.

I shouldn’t say this because, you know, I get paid to write for the internet but…most of the internet’s crap anyway. I’m sure you know. Again, I thought it was cool.
[Laughs] Nice. Thank you. Stay tuned. You may see that character again.

 

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