Analogue Music | Generationals


By Matt Conner

At some point, you stop paying attention to the paradigm shifts.

For any veteran musician these days, the industry continues to change so much, with metrics that move from absolute to obsolete in a matter of moments, that it's impossible to stay on top of it all—to check off all of the boxes that an artist or band is supposed to in order to successfully do what they do. It's enough to make some musicians quit. For Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer, it just made sense to stop paying attention.

Together as the pop band Generationals, Joyner and Widmer have seen the ebbs and flows of the industry for 15 years. After sorting through or succumbing to the ever-changing demands for well over a decade, Generationals found the energy and effort to record a new album, Heatherhead, in time for a late spring release.

We recently sat down with the pop duo to hear more about their persistence in the industry and the romanticism that's driven them all along.

Analogue: I first spoke with you guys a long time ago and it made me realize that you’re still going when a lot of your contemporaries are not. Do you ever think about that?

Ted Joyner: It’s funny you should ask. Heza just hit its 10-year anniversary and Grant and I have been combing back through old folders and hard drives and emails from that era to reconstruct the timeline of how that record came together specifically. Once you have a decade on something, it’s like A.) Has it really been 10 years? and B.) You realize you should write it down to remember it for all time because it will continue to slip away.

I like that we’ve managed to stick around as long as we have, and Grant and I have known each other a decade and a half prior to that. If you get too deep into the numbers, it starts to get kind of scary. [Laughs]

Grant Widmer: Yeah, I’m more Wile E. Coyote in my approach where I try not to think at all about it and that will keep me from falling off of the cliff. If you never look back or look down…

"There aren’t a lot of peers from when we first started that are making music, at least the way that we were. Everything’s changed so damn much." -Grant Widmer

Analogue: Then you can still run in place in the air—

Grant: Exactly! As long as you don’t think about reality, it’s fine. [Laughs] But you’re right. There aren’t a lot of peers from when we first started that are making music, at least the way that we were. Everything’s changed so damn much.

When we started, blogs were king and it seemed like there was an encyclopedia of how zines used to be. You could get one off of the ground, and if you had a voice and were consistent about posting, and had a love for writing about it, you could get a good blog going. Then maybe bands would show up and play something. That doesn’t work anymore, does it?

Analogue: Not that I know of. It’s all a bit Wild West these days.

Grant: Even Twitter was new when we started, but now it’s a totally different thing than when it started and to the extent that it even works for anybody anymore, I don’t think it works for bands. I was just looking at a band I just found out about called Nation of Language. They’re awesome and it seems as if they’re blowing up and then I find them on Twitter and they have a couple thousand followers. It feels weird. It’s hard to even know what the metrics are to see if anything is getting through. Maybe it’s on TikTok. People seem to be talking about TikTok a lot. We don’t have one, but that seems to be one of the avenues that people are finding out about stuff.

Ted: There are no rules anymore. Paradigm shift. It’s all changed. You’ve lived through a couple of phases of someone explaining to you, ‘Everything you thought you knew has all changed and now it’s all about this.’ Maybe that’s just a way o realizing it’s in constant flux and we still do the same things we more or less liked to do in the beginning.

Grant: There’s an interview out on Pitchfork with Caroline Polachek. She talks about the idea of mentoring young people and what she would tell them. She said the paradigm shifts every five years and the music industry has a major change. If you go back to Chairlift days, which was roughly when we were getting started, which means we’ve been through three or four paradigm shifts.

She was literally saying, ‘What am I going to do? Tell some young artist to get in the van and do all these shows?’ That doesn’t even exist in the same way anymore because of the financial realities of touring. That’s not even good advice.

Grant: I still think it’s a good thing to do.

Ted: Yeah, if you can! There’s no better experience than that. But the point being, whatever the relevant advice would have been that we learned, it’s not applicable anymore. We’re living in a weird, decontextualized thing.

Generationals  Heatherhead  Final Cover  Digital
Generationals Heatherhead Final Cover Digital

Analogue: Is any of that demoralizing?

Ted: Well, you kind of resign yourself to the fact that if there’s one fundamental core aspect to this that I still like doing and is the reason that we started, then paradigms can keep on shifting. You have no control over where it’s headed, but if you still like doing the one thing… Core parts of it have changed. But kids want to go to shows and have the music be loud and have their life changed by seeing a great show. Not saying that’s always our show, but I’m still in touch with the very romantic kernel of why we got into this to begin with. It’s still intact and all of the other window dressing has become just a part of the job.

Analogue: I love that you used the word “romanticism”. Is that something you have to work hard to protect or is that natural to our personality bent to be able to live from that?

Ted: It must just live somewhere, because every time I think that part of me is fully dead, when I get cynical and there’s no music, then something will surprise you inevitably. I agree that it’s good to be thoughtful about protecting it or being intentional to keep it a part of my life. But other times, you can get pretty cynical and think that whatever it was inside of you has probably died and that’s what getting older is. But then something surprises you, some song will hit you or you’ll see a show and you realize it still lives. Grant, chime in. I’m bearing my soul here. [Laughs]

Grant: That’s all we’ve got. Everything feels so unmoored in the sense that it was probably always an illusion that there was a path to follow—that you knew what to do and when and what the metrics were to measure and it all coincided with a progression that happened outside of that. We told ourselves that we did this and that and it all led to something. But if that ever existed, I feel like it doesn’t anymore and that’s destabilizing.

As humans, I think we want to understand why things in the world are happening, so when you feel out of step with that or things don’t have a causal chain you can understand, you feel like an infant. You feel like the world is happening to you. So that part has become so destabilizing to me that the only way I can find a positive aspect to it to live on is that romanticism. I have to believe in some idea that there is some alchemy behind the curtain, that I don’t know how it works and maybe that’s okay.

We have to believe the potential for that spark still exists, that this release could find a new audience or more people or that people who liked the last thing might like something new here. I don’t know how to make that happen in a causal way, but the fact that it could happen is enough to keep me going.

VISIT: Generationals

Photo: POND Creative