Interview with Ted Joyner of Generationals
Written by Lanny Lieu on November 19, 2014
My name is Ted Joyner. I am 1/2 of Generationals. I am the co-founder with another guy named Grant Widmer. We’re both songwriters. We’ve known each other since we were 15. We’re based in New Orleans.. and I play guitar and some keys here and there. We’ve been recording records together as Generationals since 2008.
I know you guys have four full length albums out: Alix (2014), Heza (2013), Actor-caster (2011) and Con Law (2009). These are really interesting album titles. Where did you guys get the names from?
Grant always comes to me with an idea for a title name. It’s always something strange and doesn’t really make sense but I always go with it because he has an interesting take on album titles. We really like titles that we like the look of. Sometimes how the letters look can be as important as any meaning. In some cases, there is no meaning. We might like the way it sounds or the way it looks or it might just trigger something that makes us say, “yeah, that’s cool sounding.” At some point in the process, he’ll come to me with these weird titles and I’m like, “yeah, that’s it.” I don’t think I’ve ever come up with a title.
I’ve always wondered if you guys came up with the album title “Con Law” to continue this theme of politics, since your band name was formed while you watched CNN coverage of the 2008 presidential election.
Nothing is tied to any political themes – that isn’t to say that we are apolitical. Our name came from hearing the word “generational” a lot. That election was in 2008 when we happened to be recording. That was the news story of that whole summer. John McCain was the old guy. Barack Obama was the young guy. They kept saying certain things were split down generational lines. To pluralize, it doesn’t really make sense. It’s just one of those words that turned into a band name and like, I guess we can live with it for now.
Over the last few albums, how do you feel like you have developed?
That’s an interesting question. When we made our first record together, we didn’t know if we could do it. We had never done any [lead] singing before… it was a lot of unknown territory. Every subsequent record, we’ve become more familiar with the whole process of doing it. You’re always searching in the dark to a certain degree but the process becomes a little more familiar and you find the things that work for you and things that don’t. A lot of it is just growing comfortable writing songs.
Would you say you approach the way you write songs for the album differently now than you did back then?
I think I approach it roughly the same way. My process, I don’t think changed but psychologically, it probably did. I am a little more calm and at ease with it to keep myself from getting frustrated. Early on, there were a lot of starts and stops. If I worked all day and I didn’t come up with anything, I’d be unhappy with myself whereas right now, if you write all day and hit a stop, that’s not bad. it’s okay. The important thing is that you keep doing it. I used to hit a wall and I’d get so frustrated I wouldn’t do anything the next day. Now it’s more about getting over your internal hurdles.
How long did it take you guys to write “Alix?”
Strangely, not long.
I noticed that you released an album just in 2013 and you already have another one out this year.
The focused writing part will take a few months. Some of those ideas are left over. So you’re sitting down to write and you’ll have random pieces that you might end up using or not. On a song like Gold Silver Diamond, the original of it was from a couple years ago. It sounded totally different. I just took some piece of that as something to get started with. The focused writing is relatively short but what goes into that is from God knows when.
I’ve been watching some of your music videos and they’re all very unique in their own way, whether it’s the camera effects or the plot of the story. Do you guys come up with the ideas yourself?
We have. It’s kind of a mix. We really like being a part of the creative process of video-making although it’s not really our world. Sometimes we’ll come up with things we like and other times, we’ll just leave it up to someone else. We’ve been kind of back and forth.
Are your videos all shot in New Orleans?
Two of them from our last album was shot in New Orleans. We had one come out from Alix that was shot in Los Angeles.
Currently, you guys are on a two month tour playing with Cymbals Eat Guitars, Arum Rae, and Springtime Carnivore. How’s it been?
We only did one show with Cymbals Eat Guitars but we did do an east coast run with Arum Rae and that was really awesome. It’s been awesome with Springtime Carnivore. It’s not really so much that our bands are similar but I feel like as a show…
It meshes well together/good line-up?
Yeah, I feel like the energy works really well together and it’s aside from the fact that they are awesome people to hang out with. It’s been all positive vibes all the way through.
Do you still have a hard time adjusting to tour after all these years?
It’s funny that you say that. It’s always getting out there – the prepping. It’s like a plane taking off. There’s turbulence as you go up and not that it’s all smooth, but once you’re out, at least you can adjust to the fact that you’re in tour mode. It’s a transition and coming home is the same way.
What have you been listening to and what are you favorite 2014 albums?
The Spoon record – we’ve been into them forever.