Between albums, Simon Joyner has writer’s block.
That may be hard to swallow when listening to his new album, “Ghosts,” for which the Omaha music scene godfather wrote prolifically. The double-vinyl album contains 17 songs, all sonically diverse.
“I have writer’s block until the album comes out,” Joyner told me recently. “Once ‘Out Into the Snow’ was released, I started writing songs again... With this one, there were a lot of different angles to approach the material from different perspectives, which meant a lot of songs. I started to figure out that this was going to be a double album instead of a single album.”
With so much material, Joyner decided a regular studio session wasn’t going to work. A week in the studio wouldn’t cut it to record all 17 songs the right way, plus he wanted more time to experiment and add unfamiliar instruments and sounds. Instead, Joyner recorded in a non-studio space over a few months with nights and weekends devoted to recording the album.
The more experimental, jangly noise of “Ghosts” is something that Joyner wanted specifically for the album. He thought the songs lent themselves to a “loose and jagged” sound because of the heavy themes, which have a lot to do with death and relationships.
A number of Joyner’s close friends have passed away in recent years and it was really on his mind, he said.
“I was dealing with it either personally or empathizing with the family of these people or putting myself in their shoes and trying to understand their decisions,” he explained. “As a songwriter, I always try to approach any kind of subject from all the different perspectives to get a more three-dimensional view of whatever the situation is.”
A personal favorite is “If It’s Alright With You (It’s Alright With Me)” whose two parts end the first LP and begin the second. Part one is more straightforward and something fans of Joyner would expect while part two is clinking, clanging and dissonant.
Joyner actually recorded the song twice: First as a straightforward rock song with his band and the second time with drum machine, guitar and violin. It was his homage to Neil Young’s “Tonight’s the Night.”
“I took the first half of the full band version and used the even darker, dissonant version for the second half of the song,” he said. “It’s kind of similar thematically to what was going on to the Neil Young subject matter, so I thought that would be a nice way to make a nod to that.”
Joyner also funded the album through Kickstarter, a website where artists and creators can solicit donors by laying out funding goals and rewards for those who donate. He asked for $6,000 and ended up with nearly $12,000, enough to help pay to record, mix and press the vinyl.
“Basically, Kickstarter is like having 200 labels pitch in $50 to put out your record,” he said. “Asking Team Love or Jagjaguwar to put up $10,000 because this thing has to be a double album and these songs are gelling together — they’d do it, but it would be hard on them because it would take a while for them to get their money back.”
Catch Joyner’s album release show Friday at the Sydney in Benson with openers Solid Goldberg and Lightning Bug. A $5 cover gets you in the show, but if you buy the a copy of “Ghosts” (vinyl only with a digital download card) at the door, you can skip the cover charge.