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The Popdose Interview: Joshua Ingram of Joshua and the Giant

If you read the bio on their website, Joshua and the Giant is “an independent synth-pop piano project out of Brooklyn, NY.” This is not untrue. What is also not untrue is that, when you get right down to it, the project is…or at least started out as…a one-man operation. That man’s name? Joshua Ingram. Popdose was charmed enough by Ingram’s latest endeavor, a song called “Sandy Streets,” that we wanted to talk to him about his musical efforts. Circumstances prevented us from posting our conversation in quite as timely a fashion as we might have liked, for which we can only offer our humble apologies, but it’s here at last, and trust us when we tell you that the music still sounds just as good now as it did when we originally conducted our chat.

Popdose: So what’s the secret origin of Joshua and the Giant? How did you first get into music originally?

Joshua Ingram: Well, I’ve been a musician my whole life, and my father’s actually a musician as well. He was a singer on Broadway for a long time. And I just grew up in New York, sort of surrounded by awesome music and going out and listening to bands, seeing jazz in the city, going out into the East Village when I was growing up. But the origins of it come from just me in a room with a piano, just sort of writing songs that for a long time never really saw the light of day. [Laughs.]

I’ve actually been a bass player for a long time. I’ve been playing piano and writing songs for my whole life, but I kind of picked up a bass when I was around 13, and I actually toured around the world with an orchestra when I was, like, 16. So I started playing bass and ended up touring over the last couple of years with a bunch of people, both in New York and around the country.

But these are songs that have been sitting around until I eventually decided, “Okay, you don’t want to be someone else’s touring bass player for the rest of your life.” I started getting into production, and then I went, “Shit, I’ve got a lot of songs that I’ve been writing, so let me produce them and try to bring them to fruition.” So that’s sort of where the project emerged from.

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So what made you want to go in a synth-based direction with the songs? Are you a particular fan of that sound, or was it just a desire to try something different?

Well, it’s funny. I spent about a year and a half touring with this girl Allison Weiss, playing for her and also doing backup vocals, and I just met so many people with her, including people who were producing. As I was touring and getting this experience on the road… You know, so much of it has to do with your tone: how you play the room and all that stuff. And I just became obsessed with synthesizers after that tour, actually. [Laughs.] I started collecting them and buying all of these obscure synths on hand. You know, cheap shit from the ‘80s and stuff. So I became obsessed with that, and, y’know, this whole “bedroom producers” movement that’s sort of happened over the course of the last couple of years, it’s focused on electronic music right now, and it’s just all around. It’s sort of where we are right now. But it’s probably from touring that I became so obsessed with synthetic sounds.

I’m curious: having toured with Allison, did you pick up any tips on internet promotion from her?

Yeah, she’s…I mean, she’s a super hard worker. I think that’s the biggest thing. She’s worked really hard. She’s also pretty funny. But, yeah, just working hard and building things. She tours like crazy. I think I’m coming into this sort of knowing a little bit of what the task in front of me is. I know what it’s like to sleep on the couch or share a bed with someone you’re playing on stage with. [Laughs.] Yeah, I think those are the biggest things that I learned from that whole experience.

“Renaissance” kind of kicked things off for you. When you recorded and released the song, did you think, “This is the direction I’m heading in,” or were you still finding your feet at that point?

Yeah, “Renaissance,” that was actually the first song I laid down, and I actually chose not to use any guitars or electric bass for that song. That was on purpose, because I kind of wanted to prove to myself that I could do an entire song without relying on the instruments that I’d fallen back on for so long. So for me, it was a cool challenge, an artistic challenge, to say, “Okay, this isn’t going to include the instruments that everybody knows me for. Nobody knows that I can do all this other stuff, even though I’ve actually been doing it longer than I’ve been out there playing for other people.” So “Renaissance” is actually huge for me as a musician, because I sort of proved something to myself. It was, like, “Whoa, I can do that!” [Laughs.] And now, with “Sandy Streets” and the rest of these songs for the record I’m just finishing up…y’know, it’s, like, I have guitars, and that’s okay, and there is electric bass, and that’s okay, too. That was a decision that I made, and I felt comfortable with it. But “Renaissance” was cool because I was limiting myself, and it worked.

There’s a retro feel to the Joshua and the Giant material, but there are plenty of current artists who have a similar feel.  Was there a particular template that you were going after, as far as another artist’s sound?

Yeah, I don’t know, man. I listen to some many different kinds of songs, so many different types of music. It’s sort of hard to compare because, y’know, just the whole process, from beginning to end, and where you end up from where you started writing the song. I mean, sure, I think you naturally take elements and cues from things that you’re listening to, but…no, I don’t think there was really a template.

You brought up that you’re working on a record. I was actually curious how you were planning to roll out future songs, if it would be on a track-by-track basis or as a proper album.

Yeah, I have an EP that’s finished. I hooked up with this guy, Ben Lindell, who’s a producer here in New York, and I’ve collaborated with a couple of other people on it. I think that’s going to be five songs, and that’s going to be coming out…probably this fall. So that’s in the works. I’ve also got a couple of remixes that I’ve been working on with a couple of friends who are in New York. So there’s gonna be remixes and original music as well!

What are your plans for supporting the EP? Are you planning to tour behind it, or are you still working out what’s going to happen?

I think there’s going to be some touring coming up this fall. Definitely around the release of that EP, for sure. I’m actually in the process of booking it right now, so I can’t say for certain, but it’s definitely looking like…regional stuff and hopefully getting out into other parts of the country as soon as we can.

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Are you thinking in terms of a one-man-band operation, or will you have a full band with you?

No, it’s definitely going to be a full band.

Lastly, as far as the sound of Joshua and the Giant goes, can you offer a general frame of reference to what your music sounds like?

You know, it’s funny, because when other people tell me what we sound like, I’ve heard a whole range of stuff, from MGMT to Passion Pit to Animal Collective. I’ve heard all those from people. But I’d say maybe Matt and Kim, but with more synthesizers. I hate to sort of put myself on a pedestal and say, “Aren’t we awesome?” [Laughs.] But I think I’m most influenced by people who do all these things themselves, guys like Bryce Avary (of the Rocket Summer) or…Darwin Deez is another guy. His sound is totally different than mine, but those are guys who I just really look up to.

It seems to me that there’s at least a little bit of Owl City, but is that too commercial a point of comparison?

[Laughs.] I can hear that, for sure. He’s definitely another guy who sort of does everything. I think that there might be some influences there…