‘That still quiet place’

The sisters of indie-pop trio Joseph turn inward on ‘The Sun’

The Closner sisters Meegan, Natalie and Allie of indie-pop trio Joseph come to the Boulder Theater on May 11. Photo by Shervin Lainez.

Sisterhood can be a superpower. Just ask Natalie and younger twin siblings Allie and Meegan, who together make up indie-pop trio Joseph. For the last decade, the sisters’ three-part harmonies and songwriting prowess have propelled the Portland, Oregon-based family band into three successful studio albums and some 280 touring days a year. 

But sisterhood can make creative endeavors that much riskier. Undertaking such an intimate project with those closest to you has higher interpersonal stakes if it doesn’t work out. 

“We’re not just friends,” Allie says. “There’s too much on the line for anybody to start building resentment or anything. We need to make sure everybody feels good before we’re 40 and not talking anymore.”

Joseph’s fourth LP, The Sun — released April 28 on Dave Matthews’ ATO Records — represents a recommitment to each other as siblings, bandmates and to music as an artform. The album was the sisters’ process of “returning to self and returning to a sense of OK-ness and goodness, regardless of what you can do for the world around you,” Natalie says. 

Personal dynamics come into play as bandmates, and one family trait, according to Natalie, is the tendency to hold feelings too close to the chest. The desire not to overspeak has often led to outbursts of emotion once it all bubbles to the surface. And she adds, it usually takes some outside force to catalyze the deeper conversation that leads to more understanding, depth and growth. 

Joseph’s fourth LP, ‘The Sun,’ is out now via ATO Records.

‘The hardest thing we could say’

Such was the case on tour a few years ago, when an argument led to a minor car accident that became a major moment for the band. After months of ensuing reflection on their relationship to each other and the music, the sisters eventually had a heart-to-heart in which they gave each other permission to back out of the project.  

It was “literally the hardest thing we could say in the context of this endeavor,” Natalie says. But admitting out loud that perhaps they didn’t want to keep touring and writing songs together diffused the power of the idea and allowed them the freedom to be honest with each other. 

“In that particular moment, I think we just needed to be given the choice again,” Allie says. “I think had we not done that, the possibility of things imploding were definitely a lot higher.” 

It was then that each sister individually recommitted to each other and to Joseph. The decision itself didn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but the conversation did. It was a change in old communication patterns, where permission to share openly and authentically hadn’t always been the norm. 

“We can look at each other more honestly now,” Natalie says. “We’re so much closer for having told the truth in that moment and then deciding to keep going as a result of it.” 

Individual therapy helped all arrive at this juncture, and also heavily influenced the latest album. The sisters were working through a series of events and life circumstances while touring that could have separated any band. Allie was experiencing intense anxiety; Natalie got divorced; and Meegan left a toxic relationship. 

“Each of us has our own scary dungeons we moved through,” Natalie says.

Photo courtesy Joseph

‘Love is flowing’

Production on their latest album was the first test for the sisters — a chance to see how they had internalized the lessons learned in therapy, and an opportunity to move through challenges differently. 

Meegan wrote the titular track “The Sun” about leaving her previous relationship and the band workshopped it on the road all last year. On stage, it was a somber, yet powerful rendition. But in production, producer Christian “Leggy” Langdon turned it into something entirely different, using Meegan’s empowerment and triumph as the inspiration for the sound. The three sisters sat together and cried the first time they heard it. 

“What she’s saying is sad in moments; it’s heart-rending that she felt so small,” Allie says. “But for Meegan, I think it felt very triumphant and felt very much like, ‘That’s what I want to focus on — the goodness of that and the victory in that.'” 

In the studio, the sisters were able to find their own ways to counter the broader cultural conditioning and gaslighting that had been weighing on them. They were able to voice their opinions with more clarity and stick to their boundaries of what they really wanted the record to be, rather than succumbing to what they thought their label or audience wanted to hear.

“In the process of trying to express ourselves and create art that is honest and real, the songs are served best by each little production decision,” Natalie says. “And some of the things that we were talking about and working through in the songs, we actually had to exemplify and move through in real time as we made it.”

In the closing track “Love is Flowing,” Joseph centers themselves in life and goodness and love, positive forces they choose to amplify. In creating The Sun, they realized they can either bend to the world’s expectations of the music or be “led by that still quiet place.” Rather than finding their sound outside themselves, the Closner sisters find it within.

ON THE BILL: Joseph with Flyte. 8 p.m. Thursday, May 11. Boulder Theater. 2032 14th St. Tickets here.


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