Portland-based folk band Joseph, which is comprised of sisters Natalie Closner Schepman, Allison Closner and Meegan Closner, came onto the music scene with their 2014 debut “Native Dreamer Kin.” This past summer they followed up with sophomore effort “I’m Alone, No You’re Not,” produced by Mike Mogis, who has worked with the likes of Jenny Lewis, Rachael Yamagata and Bright Eyes. They launched a North American tour earlier this year to promote the record, and this weekend stop in the desert for Coachella 2017.
WWD caught up with Natalie over the phone from the tour bus, ahead of the festival.
WWD: You’ve just wrapped touring in Europe, and are now on your North American tour. How is playing for an American audience different than abroad?
Natalie Closner Schepman: Honestly, we’re pretty new over there, so it’s still kind of small rooms. Just getting to play for a smaller crowd, getting to connect and hang out with those people was really cool — to get back in that zone in those kinds of venues. They were amazing. Everyone was so warm, and it always is incredible to show up in a city all the way across the world and have a hundred people there to hang out with you. It’s wild.
WWD: Is most of your fan base still U.S.-based?
N.C.S.: We’ve been touring in the States for almost four years now, so it’s still ingrown and when you go overseas you have to start from scratch. You have to build it over there too. So the crowds are different, and it was really refreshing, honestly, to be in really small intimate venues and get to connect with people because it had been a while.
WWD: How did you and your sisters get started with music, growing up?
N.C.S.: I’m the oldest, and I always was singing, and kind of took that on as “my thing,” and I think because of that, Meegan and Allie never really considered it. When I went away to college, our dad encouraged me to study music, and so from there I tried to learn to write and play and figure it out. After my senior of college, I ended up writing a little EP and recording it, and then, basically, went on a little bit of a tour. I was doing that for a while, and I ended up doing a couple of tours like that and then a friend, who is also a musician, sat me down and was like, “You don’t really seem to believe in this anymore, and why in the world would you? It seems like you’re kind of, like, making songs to see if people like it, but it doesn’t seem like you actually love it yourself.” I liked the idea of doing music, but hadn’t really found a way to mean it, you know? He encouraged me to think of a way where I would be compelled by my own heart, and want to race it into people’s hands and that was the minute that I thought about Meegan and Allie.
WWD: You recently moved from the Northwest to Brooklyn; has that been a culture shock?
N.C.S.: You know, it hasn’t been, but only because the last four years we’ve been [touring]. New York kind of embodies so much of what touring life is like anyway, you know? There are so many cultures all around you — rich, rich culture, amazing food, amazing events and that’s kind of what life has been like anyway. It feels really, really good for this kind of life.
WWD: As a family band, how does your collective upbringing factor into your work?
N.C.S.: I feel like adulthood is working out everything that you were as a child, and trying to add and subtract the things that should stay and the things that should go. I mean, we have some really specific examples of songs — like a song from our first album called “Wind” is about being a family, and working through conflict together…yeah, it’s definitely an influence.