A rock club and recording studio, MilkBoy is an integral part of Philadelphia’s music scene. Tommy Joyner, founder of MilkBoy, is now creating and releasing music of his own as Pep Rally. Earlier this spring, Pep Rally released their debut song and music video, “Turn The Radio Up (Own The Night)”. VENTS recently had the pleasure of interviewing Joyner all about Pep Rally’s beginnings, “Turn The Radio Up”, and more.
When and where did you begin your musical journey? How did the band first come together, and what makes this particular group of talented musicians work so well together?
I started my studio MilkBoy to work on my own music, then found myself putting it on the back-burner to pay the rent. I suppose it’s a good problem to have, but I found it really hard to work on and finish my own stuff. I was so worried and uptight that I was forgetting something or had I put this chore on my to-do list?… Then I got diagnosed with ADHD and getting treatment for that changed my life. I was able to let my shoulders down and feel less stress that I wasn’t going to remember to do this or that, and it let me finish songs – finally! I got really inspired by the happiness I was feeling and how that didn’t match with the amount of pain and hostility people are wearing on their faces in America right now. I feel so “on the outside.” So, from the outside looking in, I wanted to share. That music is Pep Rally.
Making music since the year 2000, how has Pep Rally’s unique sound changed over time?
The music I was working on was never my own. Over the years Miley Cyrus, James Taylor, Silk Sonic, Lizzo, Dave Matthews have all used the studio to work on their records, and that was my focus completely. So, the influence of making records for other people changed the way I approached music because I came to realize that music isn’t a collection of notes, it’s a feeling, and that’s what we’re doing with Pep Rally. We want to invoke the feeling of togetherness and happiness.
Where did you find inspiration for “Turn the Radio Up (Own The Night)”? Why is the message significant and relevant for new and returning fans and followers?
The song, to us, is about feeling free. It’s kind of a hard construct because we are all distracted and side-tracked by regular life, but WHAT IF we just let that stuff go and drove around the world. It’s a freeing feeling! That song makes me feel good, and that there are other freaks like me who are in the same vehicle, that we’re in this together to have a good life. And why not? It’ll be gone before we know it.
What story is being told through the “Turn the Radio Up (Own The Night)”? How do the many sub-storylines join together to get the overarching theme across?
You mean the video? It’s a story of trying and failing, and then trying and succeeding. What separates the two and the role that the pressure we put on ourselves contributes to the cycle of failure. The lead, played by Jordan Hunter-Fidalgo in the video, is working out a cheering routine in the park, trying to make the team. Her character stumbles over god in this park, and doesn’t recognize the little kid as god, because he’s just a little kid. She’s so self-absorbed that she is mean to him and he cries! Later my character comes in through a chance encounter to act as a balance to lower her stress and get her to a good place so that the next time she tries the cheerleading routine, she nails it. It’s stupid, a cheerleading routine, right? But to this character it’s so important that she can’t see the stuff that really matters.
What was it like shooting the video in Philadelphia? What is the setting’s significance, and what makes the inclusion of the Milkboy venue so special?
Philly is the best, it’s an incredible, musical place with lots of culture. I didn’t grow up in Philly and when I moved here, I really didn’t know a soul. I just went to see shows and went to Open Mics and created a circle of friends and creatives that have sustained me and fed my soul. MilkBoy the Studio became a special place and my partner Jamie Lokoff and I opened the MilkBoy venue to host other artists. The Belmont Plateau (where we shot most of the video) is a famous place in Philly that had this ancient sugar maple tree that was sick and dying and we wanted to capture some of that goodness before it was cut down, which it was. It signifies a lot of what the song is about – “what if we grab the wheel and live life till we’re gone?” because life reeeally isn’t that long and your friends and your feelings are all that we have that matters.
When can audiences expect more Pep Rally releases? What projects are on the horizon?
There are one or two more singles coming this summer and then the full-length at the end of the summer/early fall. I imagine there will be some shows accompanying the release! More videos, more fun!
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