Last week, KDUP Assistant Music Director, Jackie had the opportunity to (Zoom) interview Josh Stirm of The Juniper Berries, an indie rock band from Ashland, Oregon. They recently released their first single “Give Up Yr Ghosts” from their self-titled record, out July, 31st. They are set to release another single “Winning Streak” next week, on June 5th. Check out the interview below where we talk about his biggest inspirations, favorite songs and lyrics.
Jackie: How many people are in the band?
Josh: Traditionally, it’s a four piece. But, right now it’s in a transition. I had one lineup of the band back in Oregon, but I just moved to Austin, Texas so we all kind of scattered. It’s usually a four piece, and we’re thinking about adding a fifth member. It’s all new people now, now that I’m in Austin, except me.
Jackie: When did you guys start making music?
Josh: I started writing songs when I was in high school, when I was 15 or 16. I was really serious about it right away; I wrote my first song and I was like “Wow, okay, here it is. This is what I’m doing now.” But they were really bad… for a long time. But since then, from then until now.
Jackie: what’s your favorite song you’ve ever written?
Josh: Up until recently, it was “Winning Streak” on this record. But I’ve been working on a new record, so there’s a couple on there that I think are my new favorites. But as of released music, “Winning Streak” for sure.
Jackie: What was your inspiration behind “Winning Streak”?
Josh: I was thinking a lot about a few different things. I’m really bad at confrontation and I think a lot of people are, especially when you’re young. I kind of had this idea that if I could write a letter or a note to someone in my life a couple of years ago who I had a big falling out with and I think a lot of that was because we couldn’t be honest with each other. Once the relationship fell apart, I wrote this song as a way to sort of get all of that out — as if I could have said it to them in person.
Jackie: What was your inspiration behind your self-titled record that’s soon to be released?
Josh: We had a really great lineup of the band. The Juniper Berries is kind of a solo project, kind of a band; somewhere in between. Anyways, I was writing all of these songs and I couldn’t quite figure out how they all fit out together. I probably wrote 30 or 40 songs for this record. But then we started playing shows, and the band was so great. Our drummer, bassist, and keyboardist, John, Nina and Miles, were just so amazing. It really became a way to document that line up of the band. The songs would have one inspiration but the songs I picked for the record were almost more just songs that we played really well together. That was sort of the idea of what songs ended up on the record.
Jackie: Have you been touring? Where’s your favorite city to perform?
Josh: We were, up until now, doing a lot of west coast tours. We played Portland and Seattle a lot, Olympia, all the way down to L.A.. My favorite place to play is probably Eugene. Eugene has an incredible music scene. There are so many great bands out of there right now. And the people there have been working on building this music scene for a long time so all the kids that go to U of O get really involved and they’re the best audiences ever. They just love live music. They’re the best to play for.
Jackie: What’s your favorite song to perform?
Josh: Probably either “Winning Streak” cause that one feels like it ticks all the boxes — it’s soft and sweet but it can also be loud and crazy. But, we also put out this single last year, it’s called “Putty In Yr Hands” and that one is really fun. With a band it’s really different cause that song has electronic drums and everything. But when you play it with just the band, there’s a lot of space in it, and I like that a lot. So that one’s really fun too.
Jackie: What inspires most of your songs?
Josh: It changes for sure. Like I used to be inspired a lot by things that happened in my life. I mean I still am, and I think everyone is. But it changes all the time. It used to be about things that happened between me and my friends, or me and people I dated. Whereas now, I really like trying to tell a story in a song. But really, everything. For me, songwriting is the place where anything that I learn or see in my life, I can put it all into song. So pretty much everything inspires me.
Jackie: What inspired the name The Juniper Berries? What does that mean to you?
Josh: I don’t know. I had a list, I actually found it recently, of all the names I was thinking about using when I started the band and they’re all horrible except for The Juniper Berries. You can eat juniper berries, like they aren’t harmful but they don’t taste good at all. They look like blueberries so a lot of people will eat juniper berries thinking they are blueberries but they’re actually bitter and kind of gross tasting. There’s something there; I’m still figuring out how to answer that question.
Jackie: Who are your biggest musical influencers/inspirations?
Josh: I love Elliott Smith; he is I think my favorite songwriter. He inspires me a lot. I’m also a big fan of Ty Segall, The Oh Sees, and garage rock bands like that. I really like Wilco a lot too.
Jackie: What do you wish you were asked in interviews?
Josh: I like talking about lyrics, I suppose. Because I think a lot of people don’t listen to lyrics.
Jackie: On that note, what is your favorite lyric you’ve ever written?
Josh: There’s a song from our first album, called “Magnetic North” and there’s a lyric in it that goes, ‘analogue hearts with digital minds’ and after I wrote that song, it became the thesis statement for what the band is. A lot of my friends and people that would come to see us around that era would say that all the time and it became this little thing. I’m really proud of that lyric for that reason. Because people actually say it rather than just having it be a lyric in a song.
Jackie: Do you get any inspiration from Ashland, Oregon?
Josh: I definitely take a lot of inspiration from Ashland. It’s small and in Southern Oregon in an area called the Road Valley. Ashland is very liberal with a lot of art, but the rest of Southern Oregon is super conservative so Ashland is this weird little bubble. And I like that a lot. It’s kind of this weird little mystical place — I don’t even know how to describe it. I think one of the things that was really cool about living in Ashland, is that bigger bands you’d want to go and see, like Wilco or Ty Segall, won’t stop in Ashland, so the only music that’s going on there is music made my the people that live there. That taught me a lot about making music and getting up in front of people. It’s hard to quantify how inspiring and special that place is.
Jackie: Do you guys have any music videos?
Josh: We’re doing three for songs on the new album. We have a music video for “Give Up Yr Ghosts” which is done by my friend Keegan back in Ashland, we have one that we’re just finishing for “Winning Streak” done by my friend Dakota who lives here in Austin, and we have one for “Queen of Taboo” that my roommate, Andrew, and I made during quarantine with our phones.
Jackie: What was it like making those music videos?
Josh: It was weird because we going to do them very differently. We had plans to make them before quarantine happened but then quarantine derailed everything. We had to improvise and figure out how to make those videos during quarantine. It was stressful but I think they led to fun results. I get very sort of neurotic when making things like music videos; I want to micromanage every little piece of it. But when you’re under a deadline and quarantine is going on, it forces you to just make something and finish it which was super fun for me.
Jackie: Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?
Josh: Continuing to make music! I know this is what I want to do. Hopefully, I’ll still be in Austin but if not maybe somewhere on the East coast. I’m hoping to have several more records out by that point and still doing the damn thing!
Here are links to their new single, “Give Up Yr Ghosts”!
Make sure to keep an eye out for the new releases!