Behind the dreamy world of JOON is Yasmin Kuymizakis. Growing up in Malta, she made music as the more traditionally minded YEWS but a sound production course in London set her on the path of becoming JOON.
However, when she returned to her home island, Kuymizakis found she had no female role models for making electronic music.
Inspired by the Yorkshire Sound Women Network, she co-founded the Malta Sound Women Network with composer and academic Jess Rymer to bring like-minded women together.
Her positivity after a life-changing car accident helped clarify her musical ambitions and a pointer to her take on life comes via her playful cover versions of pop classics ‘Cruel Summer’ and ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’. Recently releasing her appropriately titled debut album ‘Dream Again’ on Italians Do It Better, the 12 track collection co-produced by Johnny Jewel ranges from bouncy blippy numbers to more introspective personal songs which although tinged with melancholy, are ultimately positive.
The music of JOON is an optimistic dose of inspiration and a universal message for everyone as to how to overcome. With the release of another single ‘Whisper’ from the album, she spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about why now is the right time to ‘Dream Again’.
So how and why did YEWS end and JOON start?
I had been meaning to change my artist name for a few years actually. When I joined Italians Do It Better it felt like the right time for a fresh start. Out with the old, in with the new.
Did using technology lead you to writing songs in a different way than you had before?
Yes definitely! There’s so much you can do with technology. Sonically it’s limitless and it gives me plenty of room to experiment
Who were the acts that influenced the JOON sound?
GRIMES, MOLLY NILSSON and THE KNIFE.
How did the Italians Do It Better connection come about?
I emailed them with a link to ‘ET’ on April Fools Day 2020 thinking they would never reply. They did that same day… we even had a phone call a few hours later. For the next 2 weeks, I kept thinking someone was playing an April Fools joke on me.
Johnny put a lot of thought and love into my songs. I sent him stems and he just made it all sound better by working on the structures and re-playing some parts using his amazing synth collection. He recorded new lines on some songs and created beats too. He produced the backing track for ‘Wait’ from scratch and it went from being the weakest song to one of the strongest. He really elevated all the tracks!
The bouncy avant pop of ‘ET’ ended up on the ‘Animal Crossing’ digital fashion show which was surreally fitting and it features this amazing Theremin-like sound on it, how did you produce that in the studio?
I wrote ‘ET’ very quickly, in a few minutes. I had used Ableton and created that simple bassline without thinking much and just kept building from there. The vocals were most fun. I was just really letting go and having fun with it.
‘Good Times’ was most welcome with the onset of lockdown fatigue but what was the original inspiration behind this song?
I wrote that after a day at my 9-to-5. I guess I was feeling nostalgic and was remembering about the times when it was all easier to go out, flirt and have some fun.
The comparatively abstract instrumental ‘I.You’ displays your musical diversity, are soundtracks an area you would like to pursue in the future?
Oh yeah! I love soundtracks! I have done quite a few for short films, video games, theatre etc. In a variety of genres too. Always happy to do more.
‘Orqod’ is a gently waltzing ballad sung in Maltese, did you feel it was important for you to make an artistic statement in your own language?
It actually wasn’t intentional at all. I always found it hard to write and sing in Maltese. But somehow I was very in the moment and ‘Orqod’ just came to me very naturally. I was going through a hard time and I was living in London at the time. I would love to write more in my native language but when I force it, it just doesn’t work.
The original ‘Watch the Sky’ that I wrote years ago was quite rocky actually! It had guitars on it. When I was going through it to make it work with this album, I was struggling. Luckily my friend and frequent collaborator Ian Schranz from BARK BARK DISCO was there to save the day. He wrote that funky bassline and co-produced the song to make sense with my sound today.
You have released a number of collaborations with BARK BARK DISCO, so how does your approach to composing change when you are working with him?
It’s interesting working with Ian. He writes fun catchy songs so easily, he never ceases to amaze me. We challenge each other quite a bit and I’ve learnt that I can be quite a control freak but luckily we always agree in the end. I love working with him and hope we find time to start a fun crazy side project together. We already have a stage name. All we need is time!
What inspired you to include a cover of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’?
It was a last minute decision actually! Johnny came up with the idea. That song brings so much joy and I feel that’s my mission in life… so we just went for it.
Although not featuring on the ‘Dream Again’ album, you released a cover of BANANARAMA’s ‘Cruel Summer’, or was it the ACE OF BASE version that you heard first?
‘Dream Again’ is a very varied album but which tracks resonate the most with you?
‘Home’ and ‘Me & My Sea’ resonate a lot with me! Every time I hear them I can somehow tap into the exact emotions I was feeling when I wrote them.
You played your first gig as JOON recently, do you think it went ok and are there more planned?
My first live performance was amazing! I got some of my favourite local musicians to join me on stage and it was such a joy. I have some solo gigs planned now, in Malta and Europe.
There’s always many things to achieve with MSWN! Right now we’re actually on hold for a bit due to Covid-19… trying to find our feet again at the moment. But we will get back to giving workshops and organising events soon.
What’s next for you?
Perform and write again and again.
Any hopes or fears for the future?
Hope to get to tour and meet all the lovely people I’ve gotten to know this past year and half from JOON. No fears as such… maybe that this pandemic will make it all a little harder.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to JOON
Special thanks to Frankie Davison at Stereo Sanctity
‘Dream Again’ is released by Italians Do It Better and available via the usual online platforms
Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Maria Galea
14th August 2021