The Joys Interview: SXSW 2010

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**This article originally appeared on AOL’s Spinner, now being spun off into a Slacker Radio channel.

She’s survived a life-threatening attack, made international news, released a certified Gold record in her home country and is now determined to conquer America to prove, once and for all, that Canadians really do know how to rock with the best of them. Spinner caught up with Sarah Smith — lead singer of the Ontario-based quartet the Joys — before SXSW to talk about surviving life on the road, healthy vices, and how the most horrifying experiences can be the greatest source of inspiration.

Describe your sound in your own words.

Our sound can be described as high-voltage rock ‘n’ roll. I definitely think that is an accurate description because we put on a high-energy show and perform great songs that are really honest and forthright. We really give it our all. I’d also elaborate and say Canadiana — Americana with a Canadian twist.

How did your band form?

Mike, the lead guitarist, and I have known each other for almost ten years. We were in a cover band called the Popjoys for a while, but the novelty started to wear off. That’s when we decided to form the Joys with our friends Kent and Kevin. We’ve been performing together for five years now.

What are your musical influences?

This may sound a bit cliche, but the BeatlesLed Zeppelin, and, especially, Janis Joplin were a huge inspiration to us. Mike, our guitarist, loves … what’s the group who sang ‘Hot For Teacher’? Oh yeah, Van Halen. And he thinks Eddie is brilliant.

I guess that answers the infamous Beatles or Stones question.

Yeah, the Beatles are the best.

How did you come up with your band name? 

When we decided to form the band, we were all on a similar path in life and the biggest goal for us as individuals was finding our inner joy. Hence “the Joys.” We really relate to people on a basic level. We’re not trying to be rock stars. Instead, we see ourselves as average, normal people with exceptional gifts when it comes to music. We’re definitely accessible, and people are able to connect with us because of that.

What’s your biggest vice?

I know this might sound really boring, but my biggest vice is exercise. Whether it’s walking my dogs or running, I have to do it as often as possible. There’s a lot of energy involved in performing a set, and in turn, the crowd reciprocates that energy. We tour so much that I need that outlet to keep myself sane.

What’s in your festival survival kit?

We are heading down to Austin again for SXSW this year, and I’m really excited. One thing I’d like to mention is that it’s a really bad idea to drink in the afternoon. It gets really hot in Austin during March, and the alcohol consumption can wipe you out before the evening’s festivities. As for a “kit,” I always bring a hat to block out the sunlight on my face, a reliable cabbie’s number I got last year, and, of course, my boys.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?

Spice Girls. I’ve seen their movie, ‘Spice World,’ more than I care to mention.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen or experienced while on tour?

On September 11 of last year, our band’s van was hijacked while I was still inside. The group of girls who stole our van drove to an apartment complex a few miles away and proceeded to beat the hell out of me. I had never been more frightened in my life. It made headlines in the news all over Canada. The emotions I felt due to that experience coupled with the overwhelming love and support from our fans in the aftermath really inspired our latest album. Because of this, it’s going to be our most amazing release yet when it comes out in the near future.

There are nearly 2,000 bands descending upon SXSW come March. Of all the parties and showcases, why should people make it a priority to see the Joys?

There’s a longstanding rumor that Americans, in general, think Canadian music is not that great. I want to prove them wrong and show them what a real rock ‘n’ roll show is really all about. I’m not your typical female lead singer. I’m not that whiny, obnoxious girl and I’m ready to prove the naysayers wrong.