Some bands’ sounds are fueled by past loves and worldly turmoil, others by pizza and beer. Joan and the Rivers are an experimental three-piece rock band from San Jose—and a trio of kindred spirits.
They all seem to finish each others’ sentences; they’ve all worked hourly jobs together; two of three live together. When I met the band members for an interview over dinner all three ordered French dips.
“Until it stops being fun, we will always play music together … my girlfriend fucking hates it,” bassist Mike Hickel says.
Joan and the Rivers’ music is freeform, and accordingly, they call themselves a jam band. They epitomize “experimental,” sonically and visually. In fact, even the band’s promotional art was created by their singer/guitarist, Eric Smith, based on his hand-drawn and Photoshop-enhanced experiments.
Pizza Foam is not simply their newest release. It’s also the disgusting glue holding together a collaboration with the band Failure Machine. Joan and the Rivers connected with the Reno-based band during shows at the Caravan. It’s been a whirlwind of road trips, shows, pizza and beers ever since.
The smitten bands spent a day recording in the midst of the aforementioned whirlwind. Each contributed two songs to the split and shared the fifth. Failure Machine will join Joan and the Rivers for their upcoming show at The Blank Club on June 14.
So what’s up with the name? The group toyed with different ideas in the beginning and stuff like Danny and The Devitos kept popping up. When Joan Rivers was suggested, it struck their funny bones and stuck.
“We started playing shows and no one got the joke,” Smith says. “Everyone was like, ‘Which one of you is Joan?’”
Like most artists, these three are dedicated perfectionists. Hickel wishes they could record every take. They have to force themselves to cease re-recording. However, the band’s work ethic is inversely proportional to the meanings behind their name and song titles.
They take turns picking titles—no emotional stake is needed. They keep lists of silly strings of nouns on their iPhones. “Jabroni” and “Picolonely” are their contributions to the recent split. The trio laughs while naming off past song titles, acknowledging each inside joke.
“We just get drunk,” Hickel says. “We spew things and write them down.”
Joan and the Rivers
The Blank Club, San Jose