Joy Again are the kind of artists that make wiggly, amorphous, bright and starry-eyed, weird pop music with a ticklishly cynical, wry sense of humor. The kind that inspires lore and bootleg CD singles and an air of mythic mystery. Anything you’ve heard about Joy Again may or may not be true.
Arthur Shea and Sachi DiSerafino, the two twenty-two-year-old songwriters behind the project they call Joy Again, met a long time ago, way back in kindergarten. They lived five minutes away from each other in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, and played on the same baseball team when they were in the third grade. Then they weren’t friends for a long time — until they reconnected via Facebook freshman year of high school and bonded over a shared love (and hate) of music.
So Arthur and Sachi started playing music together, and then Sachi transferred to the boarding school Arthur was at, Westtown, where the pair shared a dorm room for the next two years. During that period they used to stay up ‘til the wee hours watching Breaking Bad and sleep talking to each other in that room. Joy Again’s early singles, the hazy, anxious crush songs “How You Feel” and “Looking Out For You,” came from that time.
A lot has happened since then.
After high school, Arthur and Sachi moved into a house with some friends in South Philadelphia, in order to make music all the time. Over the years, Joy Again sprinkled a smattering of infectious EPs and singles, and in spring 2018 released 30 tracks they’d recorded from 2014-2015, their senior year, which they titled Forever. Joy Again, which Sachi and Arthur refer to as more of a collective than a band, toured with Rostam at the start of 2018, and with JPEGMAFIA that summer.
Arthur and Sachi are the principal components of Joy Again. But their bandmates, bassist Blaise O'Brien, drummer Will Butera, and keyboardist Zachary Tyndall play crucial roles in song construction as well—as do their consistent collaborators including producers Caleb Laven (Frank Ocean) and Matthew Tavares (BADBADNOTGOOD). They’re all part of the gang, the sprawl that is Joy Again: “All of our friends are always welcome to have input,” Sachi says. Arthur adds, “If you wanna be part of the band you just gotta do it. You can't like, wait around and see if we're gonna tell you to do something.” Their 2019 record, a seven-song EP titled Piano, had been a long time coming, written and recorded over many different little sessions.
Arthur and Sachi have historically written and recorded their own songs separately; that’s how you get the duality of releases like 2017’s double single “Kim” + “On A Farm,” with Sachi’s grimly romantic power pop on the former and Arthur’s misty musings on the latter. Arthur says his songs sound “slushy, like a swamp or something,” and that Sachi’s sound is more like the theme for Dr. Wily’s Castle in the classic Nintendo game Mega Man.
You can fully hear that on the opening pair of songs, “Abaigh’s Song” (Sachi) + “Special Secret Medicine” (Arthur), a duo of tunes — the former an effervescent, super poppy ode to Sachi’s long-term girlfriend, the latter a mercurial, zig-zagging track that exemplifies Arthur’s kooky style — that mirror that last recording. Electronics are amped up on the new songs, like on “Country Song,” which is classic Arthur — twangy and twisty with warped vocals, singing sweetly about wasting time. “Couldn’t,” one of Sachi’s winding, dreamy tunes about love and mistakes, is deeper, more stratospheric, even, than ever.
Joy Again is a collaborative project that has served as a coming-of-age musical outlet for Sachi and Arthur to bring together their array of influences – experimental pop, indie rock, shoegaze, lo-fi, country – and a community of people around them, as they create the music that’s leading their sound to a more dynamic place. They also agree that Joy Again was once more of a straightforward rock band. But now — “It’s like, I don’t even know what the fuck it is,” Sachi says. And that’s the beauty of Joy Again. Who even knows?