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The Humble House-Show Beginnings of Joseph

Portland alt-rock trio visits the Vogue on Feb. 16

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Long before their days of packing nightclubs, Portland alt-rock trio Joseph could be seen performing in someone’s living room.

“When people ask us for advice, one of the things we say is, ‘Go out and play shows. Get in people’s homes,’” says Meegan Closner, who shares the spotlight in Joseph alongside sisters Allison and Natalie. “House shows are massive [in importance]. It makes a personal connection with people that they aren’t going to forget.”

On Sunday, Feb. 16, Joseph will perform at the Vogue in Indianapolis, with opening support from Deep Sea Diver. Ahead of their show, Seth Johnson chatted with Meegan Closner over the phone, learning more about Joseph and their humble beginnings.

SETH JOHNSON: I know your mom and dad were both musicians. What was your home like growing up, especially when it came to music?

MEEGAN CLOSNER: We grew up in a pretty musical household. My dad was a jazz vocalist. In college, he was in a bunch of jazz vocal bands. He’s still buddies with all those people, so we grew up with them singing these crazy jazz harmonies. Our mom is also a theater teacher, so there was a lot of musical theater that we were a part of and listened to.

So we all kind of grew up singing. Natalie was publicly singing, but Allie and I loved singing in the car. Iit was definitely a huge part of our growing up.

JOHNSON: That said, jazz and musical theater are both very different worlds from what Joseph sounds like today. When did you first start to find your own musical taste?

CLOSNER: There have been so many different phases of it. We grew up in a religious household, so we really only listened to jazz, Christian music and musical theater. So the first music that I really started loving in high school was country music. And then, when Natalie went off to college, the whole world was opened up. Like, “Oh my gosh. There are so many bands we have not listened to.”

Honestly, it’s a continual, constant education. We totally feel like we’re behind the times. But in our adulthood, we’ve really dug into the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and all these people, who we were just falling in love with for the first time. So there have been a lot of different phases, but country music is still the thing I return to when I want to feel good.

JOHNSON: You mentioned that Natalie was the first one to really start singing publicly. That said, when did you three sisters first play music together, and what did that music sound like?

CLOSNER: I’m pretty sure it was 2013. Natalie was doing her own music and touring as a solo artist. And then, a friend was basically like, “Hey. It doesn’t seem like you actually believe in this. What’s it going to take to make you believe in what you’re doing?”

At that point, she texted Allie and I and was just like, “Hey. Do you guys want to be in a band with me?” [laughs] There was no way we could have ever known what we were saying yes to at that point. We started singing backup on Natalie’s songs at that time. And then, she had this vision of it being a three-person band where we were all singing, leading and helping write. She really just made a lot of room for it to become what it is.

So it’s grown organically into what it is now, but that was really our first time ever singing together. Before that, truthfully the only time we sang together was in the car.

JOHNSON: I know that Joseph built its fan base through playing house shows. Can you elaborate on the importance of house shows to your growth as a band?

CLOSNER: House shows were really the foundation of what we have now. At the time we were doing house shows, it was when people were kind of getting famous on Instagram. We also reached out to some “influencers” and were like, “Hey. If you like this, post about it.”

That season was so influential because it really laid down the groundwork with our fans as this very personal experience. And to this day, we’re still really good friends with a lot of the people that we played our first house shows with.

JOHNSON: In one of your most recent bios, there was a quote from you about your latest album Good Luck, Kid. You said, “For me this record is about stepping out of being a victim, and I’d love for it to help people feel like they have the power to change their own lives too.” Can you elaborate further on that? What do you hope people get out of listening to Good Luck, Kid?

CLOSNER: This album is us coming into each of our own selves and each of our own power. Natalie wrote the song “Good Luck, Kid,” and it’s about her turning 30 and being like, “Okay. I’m the adult now. No one else is going to do this for me.” She kind of quotes her husband. He said to her one day, “It’s kind of like the universe handed you the keys, and said, ‘Good luck, kid.’”

So I think a lot of the record is just songs about us finding our power and finding our voice. In songs like, “Revolving Door,” it’s like, “I don’t even know what to believe anymore.”

“Good Luck, Kid” is obviously the biggest example, but I think there are just themes of it all throughout the record, where we’re finding our voice and feeling powerful to be adults.

JOHNSON: With your upcoming visit to Indy, you’ll have Deep Sea Diver kicking off the show. I’ve noticed you often tend to have women-led acts open for you. Is there any intention behind that? Along those same lines, what are your thoughts on female representation in the music industry?

CLOSNER: On that second part, wow, the Grammys. Did you watch them? They were amazing. I was so stunned by all the powerful women that were up there and who were nominated. Freaking Alicia Keys. She was like a mother to everyone in that whole experience with Kobe and everything.

Personally, I feel like there’s been such a huge shift in the music industry, and I think the Grammys were a great representation of the shift. Women are crushing it right now in the music industry. I think there used to be this mentality of, “There’s only space for a small amount of women.” They kind of fell in this trophy role.

As far as how it’s shifted, I feel honored and privileged in this moment to be a woman in the music industry. I know it hasn’t always been like this. Even recently, like 10 years ago, it wasn’t like this. I don’t know if everyone would agree with me, but I feel really proud.

As far as women opening up for us, we have had some really kickass women open up for us. It has been half intentional and half not. It’s just people we genuinely want to see.

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Seth Johnson can be reached by email at sjohnson@nuvo.net, by phone at 317-254-2400 or on Twitter @sethvthem

Writer - Music, Comedy & Sports

An Indianapolis native, I love all things music, especially of the local variety. My other passions also include comedy, social justice, and the Indiana Pacers.

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