If the ghost of Elliot Smith joined forces with The Pixies the result would be the experimental pop sound of The Juniper Berries. Their debut album, Don’t Breath In Through Your Mouth not only demonstrates the band’s obvious musical prowess but also their dynamic as a group.
The band started as the brainchild of Joshua Stirm, a current third-year at Southern Oregon University. In late 2015 he released a solo EP, titled Baby Face, in which he wrote and performed all of the instrumental parts. After asking close friend and drummer, Alec Moore, to help provide some drum parts for his early songs, their collaboration quickly turned into a live incarnation of Baby Face-era songs. Following Alec’s inauguration was Nina Myers on keyboard and finally, Jesse Eells-Adams on bass.
Don’t Breath In Through Your Mouth was written and recorded in a handful of different houses, dorms, porches, garages, and several other locations around Ashland. Unlike most bands today, The Juniper Berries don’t rely on fancy digital recording gear and expensive instruments. The album instead was recorded on 4-track tape and then digitalized after. Despite the risk of poor sound quality, the group faced the challenge of lo-fi recording head on, producing a unique homemade sound.
Though some individual songs on the album stand in stark contrast to each other, they manage to move together, painting a bigger picture. Take for example, the songs “Second Story Bedroom Window” and “Misguided Cult.” The first is an up-tempo power ballad. It’s raw and energetic, as if Iggy Pop had a liberal arts degree. And yet it flows seamlessly into the haunting, finger-plucked “Misguided Cult,” a song reminiscent of something the late Elliot Smith would write. Individually all of these tracks stand out. Collectively they create a mosaic of emotional musings, vulnerable and sweet, yet powerful.
One of my personal favorites on the album is “Untitled (Sweet Complicated Dreams).” This song is simplistic and beautiful, featuring Joshua with an acoustic guitar and nothing else. It speaks of the sweet naivety of youth and ties into the greater sentiments of the album. Another notable track is “House DJs,” which revels in ironic postmodern self-awareness.
The Juniper Berries thrive in house show settings. At any given show you might see Joshua towering over everybody in packed, sweaty living rooms or garages, his face completely shrouded by his long brown hair. Broken strings hang limp from his battered guitar as he hurls cigarettes into the crowd. Behind him Alec resembles the late Keith Moon with a bowl cut and bell-bottoms. Jesse grooves on the bass straight-faced while Nina head bangs behind her keyboard like a punk-rock Tinkerbelle. During a performance they are deranged rock gods but once their set is over they revert back to their mild-mannered, goofy selves.
As one of the bands breathing life back into the Ashland music scene, you can find them filling up house shows throughout the Rogue Valley.
Their next show is at the Brickroom on March third where they will be playing with Slow Corpse. They also mentioned the possibility of a tour from Ashland to Washington in springtime.