No Joy Break Down Their Experimental New LP “Motherhood” Track by Track

Jasamine White-Gluz details the various directions she took her fourth album in.
Track by Track
No Joy Break Down Their Experimental New LP “Motherhood” Track by Track

Jasamine White-Gluz details the various directions she took her fourth album in.

Words: Mike LeSuer

photo by Mathieu Fortin

August 21, 2020

Up until 2020, the name “No Joy” served Jasamine White-Gluz’s lethargic dream pop group well. The three LPs she released under the name shared a mutual allegiance to shoegaze conventions and a certain slacker mentality, though her latest full-length—and first and five years—marks her first release post-motherhood. Appropriately, it’s called Motherhood.

I guess the most prominent common denominator for the record’s eleven tracks—spanning alternative dance and death metal, with residual hints of noise pop—is a sense of joy. This ecstasy reaches its peak by track four—entitled “Four”—where the only vocals are giggling babies (unless you count the injected sound bytes of someone singing the word “Baby”). Even the song that features vocals and obvious instrumental input from her sister, melodic death metal singer Alissa White-Gluz, is a feel-good take on the No Joy sound.

Below, Jasamine provides some context for each of these songs, from musical influences (including Alien Ant Farm and Enya), to personal experiences that inspired the record, to the incredible first drafts of song titles, to praise for mastering engineer Heba Kadry, who in addition to working high profile releases from Alex G and Chelsea Wolfe, as well as—more relevantly—mind blowing cult hits from the likes of Lingua Ignota, Daughters, White Suns, Melkbelly, and Oozing Wound. 

You can order Motherhood here via Joyful Noise.

1. “Birthmark”

One of my goals in the studio was to create a really fun environment where no ideas were too crazy or impossible—we tried everything, and everything basically made it onto “Birthmark.” We were watching Hannah’s Field videos (well, one video: “Puff Puff Give”) and suddenly we were adding bongos and flute to the track. There’s a lot of hidden easter eggs in this one if you listen closely.

2. “Dream Rats” (feat. Alissa White-Gluz)

I’ve never collaborated musically with my sister before. When we were kids we would sing and play music together, but as we’ve both become adults and touring musicians we’ve never had a chance to work together. This is the heaviest song on this record so it felt fitting to have her on there. There is something special about her being on this album, specifically because it’s an exploration of family and motherhood.

3. “Nothing Will Hurt”

This song’s original working title was “Burping Monster” because it started with a really weird loop of me screaming that kind of sounded like a demonic belch. We loved using slap bass and wah guitar on this album. I think maybe we used a POD with the Alien Ant Farm setting on for this song. Good tone can find itself in the least expected places!

4. “Four”

The song started with the piano line that you hear sneaking up throughout the first part of the song. We elaborated on that to become this burningly heavy bit. I was with Jorge in a writing session in LA, and I can’t remember precisely, but I think we ended the session for the day and when I came back Jorge had written some crazy trippy lines, and then we just went full throttle finding and making samples. Birds, baby laughing, all of it. 

5. “Ageless”

This song also features me playing piano, which is something I did more often on this album. We used a lot of banging on scrap metal and construction sound samples to create the percussion. Heba Kadry’s mastering throughout this record is absolutely stunning and brought the songs to an entirely new level. She’s a genius.

6. “Why Mothers Die”

Most of the songs on Motherhood started off as guitar demos, but then we would transcribe the parts onto other instruments. This one in particular started fully guitar-based, but once we tried it on piano it just felt right. In the last few years I really started enjoying sampling and manipulating my vocal loops. This song was an extension of that, and this vocal loop is one of my favorite things on this album.

7. “Happy Bleeding”

This demo was originally called “Happy Birthday” because I wrote the song on my late grandmother’s birthday. Jorge and I worked on the demo, and he really understood the direction and mood I was trying to set with the arrangement. I was really after that late-’90s (specifically 1998 era) alternative music where electronica and rock mushed up beautifully and created all these experimental subgenres.

8. “Signal Lights”

I wrote this on a really cold night late 2017, and the entire thing was written with pads and ambient sounds. I’d love to release this demo eventually—the two versions are fundamentally the same, but have such a different feel to them.  

9. “Fish”

I had a demo called “What Do Cats Dream About.” Jorge and I basically ripped a string sample and my vocal melody and built this sort of new-agey/ska song around it. Enya and Gwen Stefani were definitely an influence. Tara ended up playing a lot of banjo on this record, which we used doubled up with piano sometimes to give texture. In this song you can hear her banjo, but she also added a rippin’ riff midway through that I’m obsessed with. The end of the song you can hear us messing around with the Putney and some other pedals.

10. “Primal Curse”

I’d say this was the one track that was written in the most traditional “No Joy” style, meaning it was based around guitar/bass/drums. It’s also probably the oldest demo on the record—I originally wrote it in 2016. It’s another song where we went bonkers adding a ton of tracks; wind instruments, pianos, bells… We may even have some of the older tracks from the demos hidden in there. I love how it all sort of combusts at the end. It was really how it played out. 

11. “Kidder”

A songwriting trick I often use is something I call “hybriding”—which is basically just taking parts of a few demos and combining them into a new song. This particular one was a hybrid of two older demos from 2017. A Lot of our influence for guitar was Nine Inch Nails’ “Reptile.” We used a lot of unique percussion tricks here, like banging keys in a bowl and shaking a coffee grinder. If you listen closely, you can hear us turning off the recording when the song is done.