Joyce Prescher is a Dutch-born, Melbourne based folk musician who caught my attention in recent weeks. There’s a real intimacy to her music that warms over you and in effect inspires repeat listens. On her latest single Sleep Now, Joyce casts an emotive spell with haunting melodies and delicate vocals that examines how losing yourself in someone else can bring on feelings of despair and a longing to be remembered for who you are. That said, I recently reached out to Joyce to talk about her latest single and delve a little deeper into her life as a folk musician.
Joyce, you were born in The Netherlands but I imagine you happily call Melbourne home?
It varies between feeling at home and feeling like an outsider. But it feels like that in the Netherlands now too. It’s great cause you have two homes, but there’s a real sense of longing and nostalgia that comes with it. Like there’s always something missing.
Most people would describe your sound as folk music with hints of Americana and country leanings. Why is folk music so important to you?
Well, firstly, I grew up with folk music. My parents were big music lovers. They were both teenagers in the late 60s/ 70s so many of the artists from then were played at home when I was growing up. I was quite musically aware from a young age and growing up in the 80s, at that time I much preferred the music prior to that decade (though I was a big Bangles and Madonna fan around age 7)
I also think I just love how real those genres are, the instrumentation can be quite sparse which leaves the performers vulnerable and exposed. It makes it very real. I like vulnerability, rawness, I want music to punch me in the gut and leave me gasping for air. I just need to feel it basically.
What themes to do like exploring as a songwriter?
I don’t really sit and think about what I’m going to write about perse, I let it happen naturally and then wonder after, ‘where did that come from?’. But the themes in my music I think are things that I notice around me or that occupy my mind. That might be from listening to other people’s stories or music, experiences, or just a feeling I woke up with that triggered a particular thought.
You recently released your immersive new single Sleep Now. Talk us briefly through how your new song came to fruition?
It was a pretty eventful time when I wrote Sleep Now. I wrote it quite a while ago now actually, but only recently released it. There was just a lot of stuff happening in my personal life, which then flowed out in my writing. I guess I saw first hand how a person can care so much for or about another person, that they forget about themselves and their dreams. It made me think a lot about life.
One of the lovely, striking things about your song arrangement for Sleep Now is the evocative sound of I believe a violin. What inspired this stark choice?
It’s actually a cello, truly one of my favourite instruments. I went to watch a show once at Bakehouse and this girl there was playing a solo cello show. She just took my breath away. I fell in love with her instantly. So I asked if she would be interested in playing together and luckily she said yes! We became great friends in fact. She came up with beautiful lines for the song. Her name is Francesca Mountfort by the way. I saw her yesterday after not seeing her for about 1.5 years? It was quite emotional.
She’s not in the recording, sadly, but that’s another story altogether.
The new single is also accompanied by a music video that provides a wonderful aesthetic aid for listeners. Can you elaborate a little bit about that?
The video was created by Georgie Durham and singer/songwriter Delsinki. Great team to work with and beautiful people in general. I showed Delsinki my recordings on the way home from a run of Sixpence shows, and he passed the song on to his partner Georgie, who is a video director. Georgie really connected with ‘Sleep Now’ and was excited to work on a video clip for the song.
The video showcases Georgie’s affection for working with nature’s treasures: shadows, leaves and water, recurring themes in my songs too, and so beautifully synced with the songs instrumental and vocal lines. I love how they’ve captured both the fragility and strength present in the song.
Was the guitar the first instrument you played?
No, the first instrument my hands ever touched would have been a piano! Or the organ we had in our family home. I used to just play random melodies on my uncle’s piano – he was great – and pretend I was really good. I was not. It’s my big regret, that I didn’t learn to play keys. I think I’m going to take it up though. I spoke to my friend Bec Sykes about it the other day, it’s going to happen. My mum played guitar so I had access to that and it just happened naturally!
When growing up, what sort of music were you exposed to?
Gosh, I mean, everything? In the 80s and early 90s it was whatever my parents played plus the artists that were popular then, like Madonna, Bangles, Michael Jackson, Roxette but also Bonnie Tyler and Meat Loaf. There was Elvis, Barbara Streisand, Queen. Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers. I also listened to Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder, then Alanis Morissette, Jewel, Tracy Bonham.
In the 90s I started collecting vinyl and buying my own albums. I had my own collection of folk records, like Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Boudewijn de Groot, Melanie, Simon & Garfunkel and other favs like David Bowie, Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, Janis Joplin, Fleetwood Mac. My twin sister got given a massive record collection when we were around 17 that had lots of Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Beach Boys and the artists already mentioned.
And then there was super exciting music happening in Europe. I love Pulp, Suede, Radiohead, Placebo, Supergrass and there was great stuff happening in Belgium at the time too (dEUS, Zita Swoon and others). We went to so many festivals. Then there was PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, Bjork, Tori Amos, Heather Nova, but also Marilyn Manson and Tool. I could keep going.
Europe is also big on hard rock, metal, electronic. Lots of friends were into HipHop. You name it, I’ve probably heard it.
Sorry, I went on a rant but you asked! I try and discover new music all the time and really love when people send me recommendations.
Who are you listening to now that inspires your mood?
Music is very mood dependent! I listen to many friend’s albums actually. There’s such great stuff here in Australia. This week I listened to Bec’s new single, Abby Dobson, Lachlan Bryan, Emily Barker, Charm of Finches.
I also revisited Father John Misty, Bon Iver, The Kills. Courtney Marie Andrews is getting quite a few spins at the moment. I had Lera Lynn on earlier and have had an Iggy Pop duo in my head most of this week.
Finally Joyce, can we expect more music from you soon?
Yesss! There’s a single coming out this month, and a show that we’re about to announce. Probably another couple of singles and then we’ll release the album. An exciting year ahead!