Who are some of your main musical influences?
JC: Some of my main influences include Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Thelonious Monk, Nobuo Uematsu and Ryuichi Sakamoto.
What are your top 5 favorite albums/works of music?
JC: The Beatles “Revolver”, Joanna Newsom “Ys”, Thelonious Monk “Brilliant Corners”, Phantasy Star Online “Original Soundtrack” and most music composed by Nobuo Uematsu for the Final Fantasy video game franchise.
What are some personal highlights of your playing career?
JC: I had the opportunity to play two vaporwave festivals in Brooklyn and Hollywood in fall of 2020. I also have played some pretty large livestream music festivals on twitch and YouTube over the past year since the pandemic.
When did you start playing music?
JC: I started playing music when I was 8 or 9 years old in a school band but then I started guitar a few years later.
Who were some of your musical mentors?
JC: Wichita local guitarist Craig Owens, two USD259 music teachers Rhonda Branson and Ashley Reichenborn and Josh Thomas of the bands MEWL/High Diving Ponies/CVLTS.
You have received international notoriety and success with your project Golden Living Room, mostly through selling cassette tapes. How did you achieve such success while living in Wichita?
JC: I was lucky to be a part of a budding internet music scene as it was happening. I involved myself with every possible compilation, remix opportunity or collaboration that was available and made myself available to people. After developing friendships with dozens of people I have been lucky enough to ride a wave of steady success from putting all of my energy into being involved in the scene. These days I am not as involved but still participate in livestreams and collaborations when I’m asked.
Can you talk about the reemergence of cassette tapes and why you think they have made a comeback?
JC: I think the combination of the comeback of the 80’s and 90’s aesthetic in terms of fashion and even tropes in popular music have helped the culture reemerge. Nostalgia plays a huge role in that resurgence, though many of the fans who buy cassettes these days were not even born when they were popular. . It could also be the lo-fi quality of tapes because the sound contains a different feeling on that medium. It’s more warm and fuzzy like a comfy blanket.
You are a proficient jazz and classical guitarist, with masters degrees both in guitar and music education, but your main claim to fame is as a vaporwave artist. How do you balance all of your musical interests and to what degree does your formal training influence your creative life?
JC: Balance is something that I struggle with. The wellbeing of my family is foremost but keeping it all afloat can be challenging. I find balance for myself musically in teaching students different styles of music that they initiate learning from me. It helps keep me stay rounded and open to new music. I try not to let myself be defined by one sound for too long, though Golden Living Room will always be identified as vaporwave. Music theory, aural skills and jazz arranging courses were beneficial while I was in college. It was monumentally helpful for me to play live with other musicians, being in the hot seat where I was expected to be an accompanying guitarist playing fast bebop jazz tunes. That hot seat is where I learned the most. The skills I gained from school definitely aided my creativity and ability to analyze music. I was able to articulate and achieve the sound I wanted for Golden Living Room more easily with those skills.
In addition to private teaching at Air House, you are an elementary music teacher. What do you love about working with kids?
JC: I love the fact that I learn more from the kids than they learn from me. Spending time having no idea what were best practices helped me develop and hone my teaching strategies. Learning the quirks of keeping my students’ behavior addressed and morale high have helped me identify the weak spots in my life and have prepared me to handle challenging situations outside of teaching. As a teacher I am challenging what I think will work in class and trying it a different way and learning as I am trying to enact it. Working with kids has helped me gain an endless capacity to improvise.
Do you have any advice for creative musicians living in Wichita that are looking to export their music beyond the local scene?
JC: Use the power of the internet. If you find the right fanbase or community (whether it be on Twitter, Reddit, Discord, Twitch, YouTube or Facebook)that is where you can gain the most from a scene. Another motto I like to live by is to not take myself too seriously or think I’m doing something absolutely novel because nothing is original anymore. It’s best to play from the heart.
Listen to the official Spotify editorial playlist for Joel’s musical project, Golden Living Room: