Not Just Another Sister Band: Joseph Talks Jimmy Fallon, Songwriting, and “White Flag”

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Want to be in a band? Why not recruit your siblings? That’s exactly what Natalie Closner did a few years back, after realizing her solo career needed a change. She enlisted younger twins Meegan and Allison to join her in the music endeavor and the dreamy folk trio, Joseph, was officially born. 

With a knack for sweet harmonies, it didn’t take long for fans to take notice of their serious sound. Today, the sisters are signed with ATO Records and just released their second album, I’m Alone, No You’re Not. The new record covers themes of strength and acceptance, and their break-out single, “White Flag,” is burning up the charts. The girls aren’t letting anything hold them back, including a sketchy hotel room run-in, as we learned in our interview before their performance at the legendary Troubadour Los Angeles. Read more below.

OTW: When and why did you deicide to form a band?

Natalie: Four years ago, I was touring by myself and doing my own music. I was halfway through my second tour, and I had a friend call me out and say, “It doesn’t really seem like you believe in this music anymore. You should be compelled by your own music, so what are you going to do to be compelled by your music?” So I had the idea to ask Meegan and Allie, and it just kind of went from there.

OTW: Who are your biggest musical influences?

Natalie: Our dad.

Allison: Lucius. Lucius was a huge influence for all three of us. 

OTW: Name three adjectives to describe the way you want people to feel when they listen to the new album. 

Joseph: Peaceful, honest, and alive. 

OTW: What stuck out to you as the main difference between your self-released album, Native Dreamer Kin, and your new album, I’m Alone, No You’re Not?

Allison: The way the album was produced is totally different. We also co-wrote with a bunch of different people, where as the first one we co-wrote with just our buddy Andrew. He’s basically the invisible fourth member.

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OTW: Your sound has evolved. Where did the change in sound come from?

Joseph: Mike Mogis, our music producer, was a huge piece of that.

Natalie: I think it just came from the songs that came from this album. It wasn’t like, “Hey, we want to change,” but we did want bigger dynamics. We really wanted to have louder louds, quieter quiets, and that was important to us. But really, it came from once we started writing the songs. We looked at them, and we thought, “Oh wow, that’s way different than anything we’ve ever written before.” We just kind of had to serve those songs with production as best as we could.

OTW: What does your songwriting process look like?

Allison: I just write lyrics down when I feel them, and then I take them to Natalie and Meegan. They will sing a melody to it or Natalie will play guitar and say, “What do these words feel like to you? Does this guitar match the feelings?” and then we go from there.

Allison: Yeah because Natalie’s the most prolific out of all of us. Meegan and I are just beginners, but somehow we’ve both managed to make some songs on the record.

Natalie: It’s so funny. There’s nine songs on the album and every single song came about a different way. One time, I was driving in the car, and I had just gotten off of the phone with a friend who gave me this big pep talk. Immediately, I just sang exactly the whole song, like in one sitting so that’s also a very rare, lightening bolt experience that happens sometimes. When you’re co-writing, you walk into a room and everyone’s like, “Hi, nice to meet you. This is what I’m thinking about lately,” and then it just kind of goes from there. It’s all really crazy, the birthing process of the tiny song babies.

OTW: “White Flag” has over 3 and a half million streams on Spotify. What was your reaction to the song gaining traction?

Allison: Screaming.

Natalie: Yeah, lots of screaming.

Allison: The first time we heard the song in its final form we were in Europe. Natalie has a headphone splitter and we all put it in our ears, and we were dancing along the streets. It was completely silent to anybody that was watching, but it was amazing. Past that, we were just hoping for that moment for other people, so to see it picking up some traction is really exciting and to be like, “Oh, that’s in people’s ears.” It’s fun.

OTW: What is your favorite song on the new album?

Allison: I really really like the song “More Alive Than Dead.” I think it’s like a little bit unassuming in a way but once you dive into the lyrics, I feel like it holds a lot of depth to it, and it’s really moving.

Meegan: “I Don’t Mind” is probably my favorite right now.

Natalie: One of my main favorites is “Planets”. It’s very very sparkly and I love the line “Turn falling into flight.”

Meegan: (laughing) That’s the only line I didn’t write in that whole song, and it’s the only one you wrote. 

Natalie: I love it because I needed it, I guess. I still need it.

OTW: What can fans expect of your live shows?

Natalie: If you’re an old fan, and you’ve seen us headline, we have a band now so the energy is really different. If you are a new fan, and you only know the record, then I say it’d be kind of fun to come to one where we’re headlining because you’ll see the band, but also come to one where we’re opening because we’ve been doing the three piece and guitar for the entire time and the band is really new. I think for new fans it’d be kind of fun for them to come to a show where they can see how we started a little bit, and see the songs broken down because I still think they hold really well.  

Alison: We try just the hardest to be ourselves. 

OTW: What has been your weirdest tour experience so far?

Allison: This didn’t happen to us, but it happened to our band. The other day we were staying at this really weird hotel in the middle of California. We got in at like 3 a.m. and all the girls and I all went into our hotel room, and the boys all went to go to their hotel room. It was one of those old hotels that has actual keys, and so they were trying to get in and fidgeting with the lock, and they thought maybe we have the wrong room, this isn’t working. All of a sudden, they hear someone shuffling around inside and they were like, “Oh no! What do we do?” The door opens and they’re expecting someone to be like “What are you doing?”, and then the person just goes “Room’s all yours.” He just walks out and they were like, “Wait, what?”

Meegan: Apparently it was a security guard. Supposedly.

Allison: Yeah, he said something like, “Oh, I’m the security guard, and I sit in the empty rooms and look out the windows” and they were like, “Uh what? That kind of took you a long time to get to the door,” and he looked like he had been sleeping. It was the most ridiculous thing.

OTW: Who is on your Ones To Watch list?

Allison : Liza Anne’s new record is going to slay the world. 

Meegan: Same with Penny and Sparrow

Natalie: Christine and The Queens. She’s already slaying the world. We also love Flyte. They’re a band from London and they’re amazing.

OTW: Who is your dream tour mate?

Meegan: If we could tour with Penny and Sparrow always, I would.

Natalie: That’s true.

Allison: I feel like I answer Bear’s Den for everything. I hope they haven’t noticed how much I talk about them.

Meegan: I hope they have; that would be awesome.

Natalie: First Aid Kit, HAIM, or The Staves. I think it would be really fun to tour with one of the sister bands everyone always compares us to. There’s always this thought of, “Well, we should compare all the sister bands,” and it’s like, no. Everybody’s bringing their own flavors and something different, and I think it would be cool to get to know some of those people and learn more about their stories and stuff. 

OTW: You’re signed to ATO Records, you’ve just released your new album, and you’re headlining your own tour as well as touring with James Bay. Is there a pivotal event that has to happen for you to say “Okay, we’ve made it?”

Meegan: (laughing) We got cupcakes with lyrics on them.

Allison: We really were like wow, that is impressive.

Natalie: I think this is just true in life: you’re never going to ever feel like you’ve just arrived and you get to coast. For sure, Jimmy Fallon was this moment for me where I was like, “Woah, I didn’t explode into rainbows and everything is fine forever.” It was really, really amazing, and you have to let yourself savor each victory. It has to be this balance of so much celebration of the milestones and letting yourself soak it up and being like, “I can’t believe this is happening.” That’s so important, and at the same time to recognize that you still have to be hungry, and you still have to work hard. 

I always think it’s so funny, like for instance I remember looking through a band that we love, Aurora. I was looking at her Instagram the other day and scrolling through her feed, and she had a photo of her on Jimmy Fallon, and I was like, “Oh, that’s so awesome that she’s so famous,” and then that thought lasted half a second, and I was like, “Wait a minute, I’ve done that.” That’s so weird. It doesn’t feel like you know the feeling that I had looking at Aurora’s picture at Jimmy Fallon, which was so sparkly and like other, and while it was that, I’m always still me. 

I think you have to continue to speak over yourself and say those things and kind of make sure that you’re infusing everything with sparkle and glitter and a recognition of what is truly good and a gift about the thing that you get to do.

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Amy here! I had way too much fun hanging out with the sweet sisters of Joseph backstage, and fan-girling over their whimsical vocals at their LA show. If you haven’t seen them on tour yet, grab some tickets here

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