“This is the story of Jonah and the Big Fish,” says Joanie Leeds, one half of Americana duo Joanie and Matt. “We dissected the story word-from-word, and we focused on the part where he’s in the belly of the fish.”
Further elaborating, Leeds tells PopMatters, “I feel like it’s our ode to depression and hopelessness. I think many people can relate to that. When we were recording it, I was very specific about what I wanted Matt to play on the banjo. He was so mad at me. I wanted the vocals at the end to be a call and response but overflowing into the next line and keep it coming, like you’re tumbling through the waves and up to the surface. I always thought the story was really interesting, strangely esoteric and very poetic. You’re at the bottom of your emotions. You want to find a way out.”
This sort of creative process lies at the center of Joanie and Matt’s latest endeavor, Sterling. The forthcoming album is set for release on 19 July and features a broad collection of stories lifted from the Hebrew Bible and reinterpreted in a way that strips away their long-set misogynistic nature while setting them to music. With each of them having grown up with Jewish heritage and into progressive values and ideals, their renovations of these ancient stories frame them into the context of a feminist lens. If the easy-going, rootsy sway between their bluegrass, country, and rock backgrounds present in “Coming Up” is anything to go by, the forthcoming seven-track LP will be one to keep an eye out for.
Ahead of Sterling’s release, Joanie and Matt will be performing at Philadelphia’s World Cafe Live on 5 July and at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City on 18 July.