Rising out of the ashes of her solo project Natalie Closner Schepman decided to form Joseph with her sisters Meegan and Allison. The Oregon trio had to learn quick as neither of Natalie’s sisters had been playing music since school, but quickly motivation as they hit the road. Touring American and getting to work with musician’s like Chance The Rapper has inspired them to push themselves to the grabbing artists they are now. We caught up with Natalie before the band’s set in Montreal at Osheaga on Friday August 4 to talk starting over and how the trio has made it all work.
Northern Transmissions: How did you guys move from separate projects to working together?
Natalie Closner Schepman: I’m the eldest, so Meegan and Natalie wil say I was always the singer identity in the family. I was always the kid who had to get in front of the camera, the “LOOK AT ME” disorder. So I’d always pursued it, and our parents were very supportive. My dad said “You should just go on tour, let’s call everyone we know.” At that point with the songs I was writing, I was in that point in the creative process where I was just copying stuff that I liked. Later you realize “I have to do something that’s me.” That inciting moment came for me when a friend of mine said to me on one of my house-show tours “I don’t think you believe in your own music, you’re just singing songs you think other people will love but you’re not loving it.” That’s when it occurred to me to reach out to Meegan and Allie and see if they could be a part of it.
NT: How was the switch for Meegan and Allison, since I know they didn’t really play much before this project?
NCS: They didn’t do anything before. They’d both sung in a high school production and sung the national anthem at basketball games several times. It wasn’t on their radar, Allie told me at one point she’d never be a musician even though she liked to sing, she thought that was just my thing. They didn’t know what I was inviting them into, and I didn’t really know what it could be. I remember the first time having them sing, and thinking “Wow, this is really special.” I had to take them to shows to show them my vision, have them feel it themselves. It’s a steep learning curve when you realize you’re going to do it 300 days of the year, but you’re falling in love with it every night.
NT: What was your biggest takeaway from getting to do the Superjam at Bonnaroo with vastly different artists?
NCS: As in any field, there are tiers and level of status. When someone at a higher tier welcomes you and acknowledges what you have to bring, it’s like a parent cheering you on. The Chance the Rapper thing happened because we were in the room and a lot of us came up for vocals on his cover of “Hey Ya.” You see yourself grow but seeing someone on that level, puts a kind of buzz in the air. It makes you want to step up. I don’t consider us virtuoso instrumentalists, so it’s intimidating to go into a room where everyone knows the language. Being asked to be a part of that is humbling and challenging, and you walk away from that better.
What did Mike Mogis bring to your album and what did you feel he brought to your performances?
He’s a genius. He’s responsible for 70% of the instruments on most albums he works on. The most amazing thing was witnessing the landscape he creates, the textures and feel of the songs. He does a lot of that after you leave the studio. It will be a little barebones and he’ll just have it all mapped out and send it to you later with lush instrumentation.
NT: How does the song-writing process work between the three of you, does somebody take the lead or is it a pitching process between all of you?
NCS: Everything is a collaboration. Meegan and Allie’s raw instincts are incredible. I’ve been coming at it from this place of studying song writing for the past five years, I was thinking about what was right and wrong about song-writing. They just blew that out of the water when I said they could write too. Their lawless approach was so guttural and real that it took me by surprise and allowed me to sing things simply. Allie sees things in images and feelings, so she’ll say “This moment needs a bird flying overhead” and a producer knew exactly what she meant and put the wolf sound on “Eyes To The Sky.” What they bring is so fresh, each song is different but we each bring different ideas, come together and feel it out.
NT: Do you already have plans to add instruments to your sound going forward?
NCS: We’ve been touring with a band, and it’s amazing how it opens up the possibilities dynamically. The most amazing thing to me is dynamics, the mountains and valleys of the sound, it’s just so much more raw with a band at your disposal. Allie is learning bass, and playing with a band has started to change the song-writing.
Words by Owen Maxwell