It’s been a long day for Joyce Manor frontman Barry Johnson, and on a rare break from spilling his guts to thousands each night on a monumental US tour, he’s been tasked with mumbling down a shoddy phone line to some random music journo he’s never heard of, but knows is slightly obsessed with him (not in a creepy way, of course – I just know every lyric he’s ever penned by heart).
Joyce Manor are set to return Down Under at the end of the month. They’ll be plugging tunes from their 2018 opus Million Dollars To Kill Me, which, six months on from its street date, Johnson admits is still growing on him.
“I don’t have the same fondness for this record that I hopefully will later in life,” he says. “It’s easy to look back on the older records and romanticise that time, who we were hanging out with back then and what we were trying to do as a band on Never Hungover Again  or the first record . It’s kind of like looking at old photos, you know? It kind of seems like those times were more fun. But I really do like [Million Dollars To Kill Me] – I think it’s a good representation of where we’re at right now.”
Thus begs the question: where are Joyce Manor at right now? Somewhat paradoxically to what he just said, Johnson feels like they’re in the same position they’ve always been.
“A lot of people have been asking, ‘So, what was it like taking your sound in a new direction?’ But I don’t really hear it. A lot of the songs sound like a pretty natural continuation of Cody , or even Never Hungover Again. I feel like we kind of pushed the perimeters of what a Joyce Manor song can be a little bit with songs like ‘Silly Games’, where we used some unusual instrumentation and more harmonies. But it still feels very Joyce Manor.
“I think that’s a narrative that’s been pushed on us out of nowhere, and it has been for a while now,” Johnson continues on the notion of Joyce Manor having ‘matured’ with their last two releases. “Everyone that wrote about Cody talked about how that was our ‘grown-up record’ or whatever, and they’re doing the same kind of thing with this one. But it was never our intention to write a more grown-up record – we’re just doing the same thing that we always do.”
Whether their sixth album will see Joyce Manor embark on a true sonic revolution remains to be seen. Not that Johnson is cryptic about his ideas for the next record; he’s just not even thinking about that right now. For the minute, he’s enjoying a break from the harsh confines of the record studio.
“It takes me a little while to get the engine running again with the whole songwriting thing,” he says. “I usually have to write a few bad songs first before I write anything useable, so I’ll wait until we have a break from touring to get stuck into all of that. Right now, I’m just focusing on trying to play as well as we can live, so that touring is fun. Because it can be kind of a drag if you don’t feel like you’re singing as well or playing your instruments to the best of your ability.”
As for what they’re playing on tour at the moment, Johnson waxes lyrical of an especially diverse set that is sure to please longtime fans of the band. “I don’t want to just draw too heavily from the new records, or from Never Hungover Again,” he says. “I think it’s fun to play a ‘greatest hits’ kind of set, with songs from all over the place. And it’s cool to hear the songs next to each other – playing a new song right next to a song that we wrote, like, eight years ago.
“It matters what the fans have to say as well. Some people are more into the old stuff, and some people only know the most recent songs. I think if you’re going to pay money and give your time to see our band, you deserve to hear all the stuff that you want to hear.”
Million Dollars To Kill Me is out now via Epitaph / Cooking Vinyl. Joyce Manor are touring in February and March.