Interview: Josh Jones of Univox

Modern Mystery: How did the band form? What is the story behind Univox?

Josh Jones: When we were 15 Kent and I got bored with calling each other gay so we picked up his parent’s instruments and started a band. We met Joe at our first show. His band was better than ours, and way cooler. They were like Sonic Youth and the Stooges. So we became friends and eventually all of our plans and friends abandoned us, leaving only Joe and me in the same area. Rob played drums in a bunch of pop punk and tough guy bands (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl5_-FBMk8I). Then we met working at the same bookstore and I gave him some tapes Joe and I had made. After that he learned to play bass and clarinet and proved that he was really serious about music. Then we moved to Philly and scraped Kent off the floor of a South Philly basement and chained him to a drum stool.

You are known as a staple in the Philly rock scene. How does it feel when you play in other cities? Was this your first time playing at CMJ?

A staple in the starving flesh of the Philly rock scene, hell yes we are. I personally love playing in other cities, it feels great when you aren’t already on a first name basis with the sound guy. But I bend both ways, familiarity is nice, but it’s extra exciting to be thrust onto a bill and have the opportunity to really excite all new people who aren’t used to the Philly flavor. This was our first time in CMJ.

How does the band write songs? Is it a collaborative effort or does everyone bring in their own ideas?

We don’t have any one process. Some songs are written in dreams, then hastily recorded in the waking world. That’s my favorite. I had a dream where the Rolling Stones were playing this really great song, then I woke up and realized they didn’t ever write a song like that so I figured it out, wrote out the lyrics and recorded it all in 5 minutes, then I had to go to work. We wrote the second half of Conan together based on a jam. Joe wrote Pi when he was sixteen based on a memory of a TV commercial jingle.

Where does the name Univox come from and what made you decide on that name?

Univox is an old amplifier and guitar manufacturer company. When the band was just Joe and I, we started out just doing experimental sound all mixed down and amplified through his Univox U-108. Univox is what Joe wrote on the tape.

Where does the name Univox come from and what made you decide on that name?

The best part is listening to what you’ve recorded for the first time, then hearing the layers build as you track.

What is your favorite part about play live? Where is your favorite place to play?

The only thing that matters when you’re playing live is energy. Everything has to be focused on that. Achieving the kind of energy that will make people bounce around like hot atoms is a life pursuit. And even when you prepare for years and pour over every movement in every song and you’re in the spotlight delivering more than your body can handle, people may still hold still. It’s like a sickness, that stillness. So to answer your question, my favorite place to play is the place where people are ramming their bodies straight into mine, waltzing when we’re not playing in threes and screaming through a broad and genuine smile.

What’s the craziest experience the band has had together while on the road?

There have been a lot. There was the time the K-9 cop was trailing us and we happened to have contraband in the vehicle and Kent said the dog wouldn’t be able to smell it because he hid it in a coffee can. Then there was the time Kent had us stay with a dominatrix who kept her place super dirty so her slave could clean it up the next day and we were supposed to leave before he showed up but ran late and had to hide in a bedroom while it all went on. Or the time Kent started beating on an empty canister of gas with a lead pipe at some dude’s house and then I joined the mob that was going after him so he wouldn’t get caught or beaten. Or the personal concert Kent put on under the El in the middle of the night and then woke up in a pool of blood because a guy broke his skull with one punch for waking up his kids.

What do you love most about being a band?

Making music with my friends and getting close to them through it.

Who are your influences and how do you incorporate them into your music but make them your own?

The Who, Kate Bush, David Bowie, the Stooges, Lou Reed, John Cale, Cat Stevens, King Crimson, everything on Blue Note, Ornette Coleman, the Four Tops, the Clash, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, New Order, Television, Randy Newman, the Zombies, Marc Bolan, Queen, Sonic Youth, Silver Apples, Suicide, Cody Chestnutt, Baxter Dury, Damon Albarn, the Troggs, the Kinks, Clinic, Koji Kondo, Dave Smolen, the Ramones, Tom Waits and others. The only way to incorporate it all is to let it all out. I don’t think any of us have ever written a song thinking, let’s make it sound like this band. When we’re arranging we might mention a performer to imply a certain affectation, but it’s never forced or contrived.

Now that CMJ is over, what is up next for the band?

We’re going to keep playing 1000 shows and recording tapes and making videos and ripping ourselves apart for the art, but not forever. Never forever.

Thanks for the questions. This was fun. Let us know if you wanna come out to a show sometime, we’ll put you on the list. You’re blog is awesome.

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