Most of us have memories of the 80’s – the hair, the music, and the search for a good time. Jonnie Rockwell and Joy Tolbert, aka Jonnie & Joy, have memories of their own.
Back then they were members of an all-girl band called Starchild, playing all over the island of Manhattan at clubs like Trax, Gildersleeves and Limelight, as well as amusement parks and other events.
Why did they split? Jonnie & Joy – the moniker of their fresh, explosive, very contemporary new duo – can’t recall the specifics. All they remember is the magic they created back then, and the foundation it laid for their dynamic musical partnership. And now, reunited after their mutual association with guitarist Justin brought them back together more than two decades and many musical lifetimes apart, Jonnie (keyboards, backing vocals) and Joy (lead vocals) are focused on the future and jamming full steam ahead with the release of their fiery and infectious pop-rock driven debut EP.
Running Home was produced by the legendary Gary Katz, renowned for his groundbreaking recordings with Steely Dan as well as legendary figures Diana Ross, Joe Cocker, Laura Nyro, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and many others. Recorded at Avatar Studios, Alchemy Post Sound and The Bunker, and mixed by Gary Katz and Aaron Nevezie, tracks the title song as well as “Night Stalker,” “Can You Hear Me,” “Hold Tight,” “Lost Soul” and “Never Gonna Cry.”
Every song on this EP is amazing, reminding this reviewer of the great tunes from the musical Rock of Ages. Listening to these songs feels like cruising the Sunset Strip, long hair blowing in the wind, and rock music screaming from the speakers.
“Never Gonna Cry” starts out sounding like Abba and ends up sounding like Night Ranger, with a touch of Journey and Pat Benatar thrown in for good measure. Every song that follows builds that momentum, but our favorite was “Lost Soul.”
So how did this new collaboration come about? After the band broke up, Jonnie played with Scarlet Fever and Baby before quitting music to become a doctor. However, her love of music never stopped. She gradually began to return to music by combining her love of sci-fi with music to mount an off-Broadway show called The Anthem, which ran for eight weeks in 2014 at the Lynn Redgrave Theater. Joy, on the other hand, toured and recorded with her band Restless Soul and scored a unique recording credit when former Iron Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno asked her to sing the background vocals on a cover of the T. Rex song “Children of the Revolution” by his band The Killers.
About two years ago, Jonnie called Joy out of the blue and asked her if she might be interested in resurrecting and re-recording some of their old tunes. Joy agreed to re-join her fabulous friend and see what kind of magic their new creative journey would create.
Ironically, because of distance and their busy personal schedules, the two collaborated digitally for a while before actually meeting face to face. Joy says, “We exchanged MP3’s and booked studio time to record them, and I initially went into the studio alone to lay my vocals on these tracks without her. Then we booked a session at Avatar and recorded in the studio together. It brought back old times, and it was instantly comfortable yet also exhilarating because there we discovered so many new possibilities in these songs. Ironically, we had recorded at the same facility years before when Avatar was known as Power Station.” Jonnie adds, “Joy walked into the studio like she had never left. She was as brilliant as she had always been.”
Katz got wind of the duo’s recordings and listened to tracks on SoundCloud. They both loved the way Katz’s “golden hand” brought more depth to their songs. Jonnie explains, “He took the songs and made them sound more dynamic and exciting. He has the ability to bring out a deeper level of magic in a single take.”
“It was great to talk to Jonnie again after so many years,” Joy says. “We had a blast taking the core of them, changing things up and making them fresh and new.” Jonnie adds, “Joy was always so brilliant and beautiful, such a strong and insightful storyteller, sharing through songs her life experiences and the ups and downs of finding love and losing love. I consider these storyteller songs that perfectly balance lyrics and melody. We were always such a strong songwriting and performing team and working with Joy again is a delight and we are looking forward to an amazing ride.”
Running Home is amazing and strongly recommended by Indie Voice. We can hardly wait to see where this duo will go from here. Check them out on Facebook.
Special thanks to Jen Lyneis of Ue3 Promotions for turning us on to the band and for providing the background info.