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Joyce Tratnyek: “When I find the perfect rhyme, chord, or drum part, there’s something so satisfying about that”

Cards on the table…We’ve loved Joyce Tratnyek since the very beginning! Originally from Portland but now based in New York City, she’s an artist who leans into the dream-pop and shoegaze genres with aplomb. Her debut album ‘Solastalgia’ was released earlier this year – a record that we quickly labelled as bold, audacious, and truly remarkable.

Desperate to get to know her a bit better, I was thrilled when Joyce agreed to chat with us! Taking us through her brand new single ‘Still’, what her general songwriting process looks like, and some of the challenges she’s faced as an independent artist, please give a warm welcome to one of our favourite musicians around – Joyce Tratnyek! 

Hi Joyce! I’m so excited to re-introduce you to our ever-growing audience! Now, we’ve been following your musical journey since 2022, but for those who haven’t discovered your artistic prowess just yet, who is Joyce Tratnyek and when did your love affair with music begin?

Hey! I’m a singer/songwriter and music producer originally from Portland, Oregon! Currently, though, I’m living in New York City and studying graphic design in college. 

I’ve always loved music, but the first song that really showed me the brilliance and emotional possibilities of music was ‘The Long Way Around’ by The Chicks. I have a vivid memory of sitting in my dad’s car as a child while that song played – and being swept up in the melodies and storytelling. 

However, I didn’t start making music until a few years later, as a 9-year-old, when a friend gave me a Taylor Swift CD for my birthday and I decided I wanted to be a songwriter like her! Ever since then, I’ve known that making music is my one true passion.

‘Still’ is your brand new single, and it’s another moody and atmospheric tune that we at Mesmerized have fallen deeply in love with. Thematically, it deals with the very personal topic of depression and healing, but what else would you like our readers to know about your latest track?

I’ve written lots of songs about depression, but ‘Still’ takes a bit of a different angle since it’s a bit of a response or rebuttal to the people who don’t understand that type of long-term illness, and who were expecting me to magically get better. 

But it also has sort of a double meaning, saying that I’m “still here” meaning that I’m still struggling, but also meaning that I’m still alive! I like that sense of stubbornness, and how this song mixes stubborn darkness with stubborn hope. 

Now, I’m sorry to pose such a tough question so early on, but what song of yours are you most proud of releasing and why?

I’m most proud of my debut single, ‘Just Goodnight’, which I put out in 2021. That was the first time I’d ever produced a song from start to finish, and looking back now there are some things I would change, but I’m proud of myself for making that song from scratch as a high school senior during the height of the pandemic. Now that I’ve released more singles and an album, it’s not so overwhelming as I understand the process, but ‘Just Goodnight’ was the first song that showed me I could really do it all by myself. I put a lot of trust and heart into it. 

Who would you put down as some of your biggest musical influences and who would you ultimately credit for helping shape and mold your overall sound?

Overall, probably my biggest sonic influence came from just one song – ‘Modern Girl’ by Sleater-Kinney. The first time I heard that song, I completely fell in love with the distorted, almost shoegazey sound it had, although I wouldn’t learn the word “shoegaze” for another few years. It just felt huge and expansive and made me feel things no other song ever had before. 

Ever since, most of my “sound” is based on that recipe of heavy distortion and reverb, usually with a guitar base, to create a cathartic and vast feeling. 

Aside from Sleater-Kinney, I’d say my biggest influences today are Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Hozier, Joni Mitchell, Chappell Roan, Ethel Cain, Zoe Ko, and Olivia Rodrigo.

Please tell us a bit about your songwriting process. Not specifically for any song but just in general. How do you take an idea and turn it into a piece of music?

Usually, I start with lyrics, but sometimes I fiddle around on my guitar or keyboard until I come up with a riff or chord progression I like, and make a quick recording of it in hopes that I can someday marry it to a set of lyrics. Most of my songs, at least recently, are autobiographical, but I’ve gone through phases of writing songs based on movies, books, or just things I’ve heard about. 

For instance, I once had to read a short story called ‘By the Waters of Babylon’ in my high school English class, and I thought it was so darkly charming that I wrote a song inspired by it called ‘Waters of Babylon’. It’s a lot more experimental than the songs I write these days, but people still seemed to like it when I played it at open mics in my hometown, so maybe I’ll release it on my next album. That is one song that began with a guitar riff idea, which came to me one morning while I was playing guitar before having to head to school.

I find that I need to keep consciously pushing myself to write songs, or else I will struggle to keep my momentum and end up going months without writing anything. Once I force myself into a creative “mode” inspiration usually comes easily, even when I’m scrolling through Instagram or something. Once my brain is “on” like that, it’s a lot easier to notice interesting things, but it’s hard to maintain that state for a long time since it’s a lot of work for my brain. But it’s crucial to open myself up to receive or find ideas.

What do you love most about being a musician? And on the flip side, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced so far?

My favourite part of being a musician is listening to my songs come together. When I find the perfect rhyme, chord, or drum part, there’s something so satisfying about that, and I feel like it gives me energy and a feeling of purpose. It’s like searching for the right key for a lock, when you find the right one, everything just comes together and feels like it was meant to be.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced so far in my career is getting exposure for my music. I’m just one college student without a manager, publicist, or some huge marketing budget. It’s hard to get people to pay attention since our attention spans are so limited these days and people tend to prefer things that are already familiar to them. There’s so much self-doubt that comes with being an independent artist, wondering if making and releasing music is even worth the trouble. It can often feel like I’m singing into a void.

OK, Joyce – desert island time! You’re allowed to grab 3 albums before being stranded on an island. Which do you go with and why?

Oooh, that is a hard question! 

Maybe this marks me as a stereotypical Gen Z, but I usually listen to songs over albums. But if I had to choose albums, I’d probably say:

Nirvana’s ‘MTV Unplugged’! 

That album made me realize the insane beauty and emotional potential of a stripped-down live performance. I would listen to those songs as lullabies to help me relax or fall asleep.

‘Wasteland, Baby!’ By Hozier!

This album is just so gorgeous. The production, performance, and songs themselves are just immaculate. I think it really captures the feeling of apocalypse, or endings. I’d listen to it to feel like I was the main character in a movie or something, to romanticize the fact that I’m stuck on an island! 

And for the third album, I’d choose ‘The Percy Jackson Lightning Thief Musical Soundtrack’. 

I love songs that tell stories, such as show tunes and songs from musicals, so I would listen to the sonic story of Percy Jackson to keep me entertained while I am stuck. Most of the songs are pretty upbeat too, for when I would want a break from the darker, quieter, moods of ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ and Nirvana’s ‘MTV Unplugged’.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, Joyce! It’s been a real treat! Before we say farewell, what comes next for you musically?

Well, I’m already working on my second album! Probably shouldn’t have said that, but it’s too late now! Until then, I’ll be working on releasing a few more singles and hopefully doing more shows (only in NYC for now, but I’m hoping to start touring in earnest next summer once I have more songs and a college degree under my belt.)

Thank you so much for chatting with me!


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