Reading into Junip: interview with Jose Gonzalez


by Matt Caprioli

Argentine-born Jose Gonzalez’s trademark voice remains kind in the most stressful of situations. Quip spoke to Gonzalez while a soccer riot was going on in his hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden, as he was fleeing a helicopter before the interview began: “I’m sorry, let me get to a quieter place, just one moment please.”

What Rolling Stone calls a “pastoral kindness” echoes through Junip, the band Gonzalez got his start with, and is returning to with renewed energy. Junip consists of Gonzalez, Elias Araya (drums), and Tobias Winterkorn (organ, Moog Synthesizer). The trio settled on “Junip” 15 years ago, long before Gonzalez’s cover of The Knife’s “Heartbeats” became an international hit. Partially because of his own unexpected personal success, Junip has only produced one full-length album and two EPs. The band has released two full length albums in the last three years.

Explaining the name “Junip,” Gonzalez said, “It doesn’t mean anything, but the sound of it is great. We just like the aesthetics of the letters, it felt fun. And it was a reaction to bands with long names.”

More importantly, Junip reflects the band’s creative process: a mood passes through them that triggers their body to make certain sounds or grab objects that will symbolize what they’re feeling; they then find the appropriate words. This was the approach Gonzalez took to “Walking Lightly.” Playing some black major keys reminded Gonzalez of a springy anthem. “When I was trying to find words to match that feeling, the only words that came up were, ‘Walking Lightly.’ This is the anthem of ‘slowly moving forward, and enjoying life.’”

Junip’s eponymous sophomore album is certainly an extension of the band’s style, but Gonzalez disagrees with some reviews that say there is little difference between the first and second albums.  “Since Fields I’ve taken every song on its own merits. I avoid complicated words, just make it less brainy. The second album is more personal. There are more dark parts, and, I think, brighter parts,” Gonzalez said.

While Junip was released on April 23rd to generally positive reviews, the videos for the first two singles, “Your Life Your Call” and “Line of Fire” have been greeted, in general, with irritable confusion. The band gave free reign to fellow Swede Mikel Cee Karlsson to make whatever of the videos he wanted.

“The story in ‘Line of Fire’ is his idea,” Gonzalez said. “I wouldn’t say it’s an interpretation as much of as an additional story to the album.” When asked what he thought of the general puzzlement toward the video expressed in YouTube comments, Gonzales said, “It’s very interesting to see how people react to insinuations. He did a great job in making people react, which is all we would hope for,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales said he’ll spend the rest of the day making sure everyone in the band and production team has a passport for their American tour which begun on May 29 in West Hollywood. Once he knows everyone’s passport is in order, Gonzales said he’ll spend the rest of the evening doing some recording. It’s concern for others and passion for his art that may make Jose Gonzalez the sweetest man on earth.