Originally from Winnipeg, Joanne Pollock is an electronic musician based in Toronto. Pollock, in conjunction with Aaron Funk, comprise the band Poemss. Notably, Pollock and also writes and produces her own music.
Her most recent album Optimist was released this past July, and features a collection of emotive and lyrical tracks.
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): What artists in the past have influenced your style of music?
Joanne Pollock (JP): My influences are a collection of all the experiences I’ve ever had in my life. In terms of music, when I was really little I loved music from the ’60s, like the Beatles, Beach Boys, etc. Then I became interested in whatever kind of music was marketed to children my age, like the Spice Girls and Britney Spears or whatever was popular at the time. Later on I got into different kinds of music, like Nine Inch Nails and Venetian Snares and the Mars Volta, and David Bowie and things my friends were listening to. All these things entered into my unconscious in different ways. I would say I am more consciously interested in my experiences and how they influence me then any certain kind of music, but of course every piece of music I’ve heard in my lifetime has made an imprint on me in some way.
RMM: My favourite track in your album Optimist is ‘Farewell to My Thoughts’, because it has a plaintive quality to it that I think a lot of people can relate to. Can you describe the inspiration for the song or how it came about?
JP: ‘Farewell To My Thoughts’ was made a while ago, and was about my inability to stop having obsessive negative thoughts about someone that I realized doesn’t care about me. Sometimes that happens, where someone will hurt me in some way and then I can’t stop thinking about how they hurt me, and I become fixated on wanting them to understand how I feel. I was frustrated at my inability to not care about this person so I wrote a song about that. I wanted to never think about this person again, even though it’s impossible to control your thoughts. It felt like writing this song was a way of taking some control. I don’t remember if it worked, I think it did actually. So in that way the song was successful. But it could be about anything really. If anyone thinks it means something different, that’s good too.
RMM: ‘Your String’ has a unique instrumental sound to it. Could you describe the creation of the beat or melody for this song?
JP: Actually I remember making this song really well. I woke up in the middle of the night from a really weird dream and couldn’t fall back asleep. So I went into my living room and made this weird bassline on my computer that is actually kind of hard to hear in the final song, that ended up being the beginning of that song. At that time I didn’t have any synthesizers, I just had a bunch of sounds I recorded from my December EP and had just downloaded some free VSTs from the Internet. All the drum sounds are just sounds that I recorded and the melodic elements are either VSTs or acoustic instruments that I recorded and manipulated.
JP: I called the EP Optimist, after a song that was called ‘Optimist’ that never made it on to the EP in the end. I think it symbolized something very important to me, the idea of the Optimist, because life is just a long series of random events, but an optimist will organize those events in a way that minimizes bad events but highlights good events. This is a cool idea, because when you say somebody is an optimist, you are not saying they are lucky, or that only good things happen to them – you are commenting that they are organizing their thoughts in a manner that doesn’t allow bad events to take precedence over the whole of their perspective. Being an optimist is actually a lot of work, in my opinion, because bad things are always happening and it’s easiest to focus on the negative. Being optimistic is the difficult thing to do, it’s a struggle that I’m really interested in, that I think encapsulates the theme of a lot of the songs I was writing. I think that the photo embodies this idea too – there’s this person that is looking hopeful with these warm colours, even though there’s this kind of cloud that is obscuring them. The photo was taken and manipulated by two very skilled people called Jenn Mann and Cameron Bryson.
RMM: What type of people do you think your music reaches out to? Do you have a specific target group?
JP: My mom likes it. I’m not really sure what the response has been to my music. No one has told me it’s terrible. Some people told me they like it, which is nice to hear.
RMM: What venues have you performed in? Do you have a favourite venue so far?
JP: I’ve performed just in Canada so far. Definitely my favourite place to play is at the Burdock in Toronto, the people that run that place really care about making a great space, for patrons and for performers. I really recommend them, they did a fantastic job. It sounds great in there, their sound person is great to work with, they make you really good soup when you play there! Really fantastic soup, seriously. And also they make really good beer. Another place I liked playing is called The Plant in Montreal, they have a great space there as well, it sounds really good and has a nice atmosphere.