Following the June release of their debut album Distance Keeps Me Distant, Boston-based independent band, Juniper— composed of Scott Johnson, Ahren Shreeve, and Alejandro Marin—, had their first Manhattan live show at the Berlin Underground theatre this past Wednesday, October 13th. Lead vocalist Scott Johnson described the experience as “something you dream of.” Not only was it a packed crowd for a Wednesday evening, Johnson mentioned his awe at how interactive the show was: “It blew me away, not only as validation for what we’re doing, but as in, people are showing up and wanting to be a part of it.” The set consisted of the band’s new tracks, mixed with a few covers.
Throughout Juniper’s five years of existence, releasing an album was always the long-term goal. Touching on themes of distance, love, and anxiety, Johnson describes this album as one based on relationships. Stemming from the idea that “the most authentic thing I can relate to that other people can share, is relationships, whether that be with a significant other, or with friends and family, with the world around you, or with yourself, and how that changes as you continue to live, especially during the pandemic.” Johnson continued to discuss how being forced into isolation changed his outlook on relationships and the everyday decisions he would make. It’s from this notion that Juniper developed the title and central theme for their album (and the title track): “Distance Keeps Me Distant.”
When speaking on the album’s recording process, Johnson explained how the making of the album was not linear, but rather eclectic: “it’s a process of reacting and listening at the same time, and that kind of drives the creative process.” Some of the recording was done in Maine, at drummer Alejandro Marin’s family home, and some was done in Johnson’s bedroom closet. The different locations and recording process is what gives the album such a variety of sounds and, ultimately, enables it to feel more their own. Johnson explains, “We make what we feel in that moment.”
Songs like “Angelina” and “More Than I Can Handle” have an indie-pop tone, while “Puzzle Pieces” and “Overthinking” lean more in the indie-folk direction, “Out of Nowhere” and “Fighting Wars From Every Direction” have an alternative rock vibe, and songs like “Daydream” and “Driving” maintain more of a soul and R&B sound. This wide variety of genres and influences throughout the album make the listening process fresh and avoids it from feeling oversaturated for both the band and the listener.
Johnson discussed the writing and recording of the ninth song of the album, “Overthinking,” which was written during the height of the pandemic within a time-span of about 45 minutes. Describing it as a “more introspective song, that is vulnerable…I try to lead with vulnerability with my writing, and after I came up with the first progression on the guitar it felt like such an emotion.” The tone and the energy of the chords was the driving force in how the band came to the idea of overthinking: “your mind is racing like a highway, and each thought is like a car driving by.” This resonates with the band’s TikTok bio which reads: “if you’re overthinking, send a text.” Johnson felt that being really specific with the writing of feelings and emotions is what enables the listener to relate more closely to the song. So for the closing verse of the song, “we wanted it to feel like this big cataclysmic moment of realization and energy.” It’s rare to find artists that can convey raw emotion through both their lyrics and music, but this is exactly what Juniper does by being vulnerable in “Overthinking.”
New music and more shows are in Juniper’s future, as they’ll be playing another live show in Manhattan at the Bowery Electric on November 12th, and at Pearl Street Warehouse in D.C on November 19th. Ultimately, Juniper wants “to maintain this mentality and identity of feeling and sounding like a band, but with modern production.” They want to be that next big band, and with what they’ve been able to accomplish thus far as independent artists, their goals may not be so far out of reach.