Johanne Swanson (Yohuna) | The Family Interviews

 
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Meet Johanne Swanson

Born and bred in Wisconsin (Does she like cheese? MAYBE. Does it matter? MAYBE), this NYC transplant writes poignant music about the choices we make, steeped deep in synth and heavy with texture. Yohuna’s a bright spot in the local Brooklyn scene, creating music with a certain poignancy and immense amount of emotion. 

Below we craft a tale of George Washington, learn of her hypnotist dreams, and her connection to “Call Me Maybe.”  She also throws in some really SOLID life advice at the end, so do yourself a favor and READ THIS INTERVIEW.

 
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George Washington:

A MAD-LIB By

Johanne Swanson

George Washington, the Father of our CAT, was a very SLOW man. When George was a SIMPLE boy, he took his COWBOY and chopped down his father's favorite CANTELOPE. "STRANGE!" said his father. "Who has SWAM through my FOG?" Then he saw George holding sharp FRENCH FRIES in his hand. "Father," said George, "I cannot tell a lie. I did it with my IPHONE." His father smiled and patted WARREN FROM ORCHID TAPES." You are a very honest CHRISTMAS LIGHT," he said, "and some day you may become the first DANCER in the United States."

 

Would You Rather…

be the greatest juggler in the world or the greatest hypnotist? What would you do with your new found powers?

Greatest hypnotist. Then I would help my friends who are trying to quit smoking.

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Some Questions With Johanne Swanson

Would you ever play a prom if invited? If no Why? If yes how would you do it?

I would do it. I played in a Carly Rae Jepson cover band a couple Halloweens ago, I imagine it wouldn’t be that different. I would not make a bunch of high schoolers dance to my music at their prom, but being in a cover back is always fun.

Do you find writing music to be a therapeutic process?

Yeah, it always has been a space for me to work things out. I come from a family of musicians, and my mom does music therapy. It was definitely introduced to me as a practice that could be private, safe, healing.

What does your family think of your music?

They’re proud! There’s definitely a generational misunderstanding when it comes to me doing the DIY thing and the ways the music industry has changed. My dad especially doesn’t get why my music might be playing on the radio, but I'm unable to support myself through making music alone. He’s an old school classical pianist. I went on tour supporting TV Girl recently and he asked me if it was my job to “warm up the crowd”. I was like, “Kind of!” My mom has come to the shows of bands I’ve played in since high school, and she facetimed in on the album release show in Brooklyn last week. It was sweet.

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What is the meaning behind the name of the album "Mirrioring"?

It means a lot of things to me, I recently wrote an essay about that for the Talkhouse. Some places on the album it’s shorthand for psychological projection, other places it’s the trappings you fall into over and over, and then of course, the idea of reflecting and sitting with difficult feelings.

Where would be your dream venue to play?

If I had endless money and time, I would love to write something that could live in a space as more of an interactive performance piece. I see more bookers approaching their work as artists, working towards curatorial experiences that I admire. I think the Hundred Waters folks doing FORM Arcosanti is incredible, I’d love to play that festival. I played 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis off my first record, Patientness, in 2016. It’s the smaller venue at First Avenue, which was Prince’s venue, and I was seeing my favorite indie bands there in high school. It meant so much to me to come back to the Midwest and see old friends and family in such a special space. I also got to play the MoMA sculpture garden last summer in Mutual Benefit’s band, which was a performing highlight. I guess I don’t care about venues so much as experiences.

With now having two albums under your belt, what was the release show like at Baby’s Alright?

It was cool. It felt like everyone in the room was a friend. Rachel Levy took me on my first tour with this project in 2011, so it was amazing having her play. We had a cake in the back that said “Mirroring” on it. An old friend that has moved away from NY was in town and it was her birthday at midnight, so we all sang to her.

Do you think your music could be played in a first-grade classroom?

I work with kids and can say with certainty that it could be played in a first-grade classroom. They roll with anything. I’m actually helping out with a summer camp soon that will be making a music video for “Mirroring”! Children love Tame Impala and the song “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne. Bruno Mars too.

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What is the most useful thing you own?

Lol what a question. My laptop?

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What is the most memorable thing to happen to you on the NYC subway system?

A lot of terrible things come to mind first… a bomb scare, or, a man threw trash at me once. I have a 45 minute commute that I’ve turned into some of my most cherished time. I make a thermos of coffee, listen to ambient music, and read a ton of fiction. I guess it’s weird to have your *me time* surrounded by hundreds of people, but that’s New York.

Any final comments? (This is your electronic soapbox for one last answer.)

Calling it a soapbox is prompting me to give some advice or a call to action. I am not trying to be virtue signaling here, but I will say living each day can be so tough and the general state of things is awful. Take care. Go easy on yourself and be patient. Engage in what brings you joy, challenge, inspiration, and don’t be afraid of severing relationships with people or things that don’t.

 
Sean Maldjian