Junior Mint Prince - I Saw Freak Joy

Junior Mint Prince (JMP) is a multimedia sonic duo consisting of two joy-seeking freaks: Lula Asplund and Naomi Harrison-Clay, Formed in 2018 while studying at Mills College, JMP draws from free improvisation, freak folk, spoken word poetry, computer music, Deep Listening, and performance art.

In their debut album, “I Saw Freak Joy”, Junior Mint Prince tucks listeners into bed with
folk-inspired lullabies, acoustic noise improvisations, whispered poetry, and meandering sonic landscapes, immersing willing bathers in a sound-swaddle both spicy and sweet.

Recorded over the course of two years in Oakland, Chicago, and various campgrounds
across the Southern US, “I Saw Freak Joy” collages together studio-recorded songs, archival recordings from live performances, found sounds, and a slew of scavenged instruments to procure a raw coming of age testimony to long-distance friendship; a sonic communal hearth sung by a nest of lost elves; a sketchbook of dream translations; and a celebration of that true, delectable joy which sticks between these muffled freaks.

JMP uses vulnerability and raw emotionality to channel wayward spirits and inner children through an orchestra of guttural squeals, hypnotic sonic gestures, absurdist ritual acts, and carefully crafted whispered words. Their toys include found objects, homemade instruments, computers, transducers, analog synthesizers, field recordings, acoustic guitars, puppets, trash art, and more. By exposing themselves like amoeba under the harsh light of the stage, they hope to make their audiences blush.

For their 2023 album-release tour, “Freak Joy”, JMP has commissioned sibling duo Pupik Bolfth to join them in holy cacophony. Pupik Bolfth uses movement and sound to correspond with ancestors and enemies, answering to spontaneous inspirations in multiple tongues. They will serve as trickster limbs to visually animate, disrupt, and tickle JMP’s soft body.

Sweet Wreath Speaks No. 19 Interview :

What is the story behind the name junior mint prince?

junior mint was found in a muck of prebiotic broth; she had no ancestor but the empty sky.

junior with her heavy crown emerged into a silent scape; it was a time before life.

she wandered for 20 years, her wings sagging beneath the weight of wordless saliva.

no silence could be greater than the silence which immersed her.

one day, she met a giant who extended a limb towards the wheel of her core.

she wafted towards this majesty, where clouds hung like necks with undying grace for impassable light.

the giant brought her elsewhere to see what she could not bear.

life was big and rowdy –– it came down from the mountain and landed in her ears.

and it was loud to see so much.

please take me home she said, but you are home she said.

but i am not home she said, but you are home she said.

how do i get there she asked, but you do not she said.

when do i land, she asked but you do not she said.

junior bathed her aging bread soggy in the sink.

now she’s getting so big –– wings stretched like perigonia across the counter, water all over the damn floor.

there is life all around, life jumping, life waking, life still.

the magic plate holds the fruit of her wanting, and her wanting is so loud.

“sing! sing! sing! sing!”, says the giant, folding her into the dough of the earth.

and so she listens,

and when she sings, it is this singing that makes her a prince.

what are some of your visual art influences?

The mystic legends Hilma Af Klint, Marjorie Cameron, Petra Vogt, Leonora Carrington, and Agnes Martin.

Sumayyah Sumaha, Golnaz Shariatzadeh, Cecilia Vicuña, Timothy Ely, Alison Knowles, and Saint Profanus.

Alejandro Jodorowsky, Guillermo Gómez Peña, and Asher Hartman.

Věra Chytilová’s “Daisies”, Ken Russel’s “The Devils (1971)”, Christiane Cegavske’s “Blood Tea and Red String” and Albert Maysles, David Maysles and Ian Markiewicz’s “The Beales of Grey Gardens”.

The brilliant assemblage art of Lonnie Holley.

Julie Harrison, who has been an inspiration since birth.

And many, many more.

what kinds of found objects can be heard in your music?

pots & pans

ping pong balls

metal hose

aluminum foil

toilet paper tube

wood, metal, glass

sticks & stones

broken instruments

You've mentioned some of the sounds were recorded at campgrounds. were there particular natural locations that inspired you? what kinds of sounds did you record there?

Naomi - The majority of the recording done on my end occurred in 2021 while I was living and traveling in my van, so recording locations varied a lot and spanned through Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and New Mexico.

Much of the album was recorded in Cape Canaveral, Florida –– inspired by the bright pink roseate spoonbills and the resilience of the ocean transforming trash left on the beach into nature. During this period, I was doing long tone saxophone meditations on the beach every morning, watching tiny sand crabs poke their heads so slowly out of holes in the sand. This pace definitely resonated in my contributions to the album.

Other recording locations included west Texas’s Davis Mountains, and the high desert of New Mexico, where I slept amidst an endless beige sea of flat land. Here of course, it was the stars that inspired –– their erratic patterns carved into timeless stories, their apparent stillness despite the unimaginable speed of their light, and the pure beauty of their essence –– how simply they can draw tears just by calling us to look up out of our hives and into the cosmos. They told me that as musicians, our job is to love them by evoking just a fraction of what they possess; to ignite wonder, joy, grief, and beauty.

can you speak about elves?

When I was a kid, I formed an extensive relationship with the fairies that lived in my apartment –– I wrote long letters inquiring about their species’ traditions, obsessively waited for their responses always written in small cursive on little pieces of brown paper, and built elaborate “fairy houses”, placed in hidden corners with carefully crafted maps to guide willing creatures to my cardboard nest. Elves are very different than fairies, but for me, they both represent a broader enchantment with the hidden beings that animate our lives. Rekindling relationships with these beings brings us closer to our ancestors who knew that our world is alive with magic.

My favorite stories about elves originate in Iceland, where folktales tell of “the hidden people” acting as allies to the people during the Christianization of the land by taking revenge on authorities who banned dance parties in the twelfth century. Elves were said to be creatures of joy and peace that danced and feasted all night long to their heart’s content. They represented the collective memory of abundance and aliveness during a time of cultural repression, acting as symbolic guardians of tradition, dance, and play.

So maybe for me elves hold the weight of a fantasy of a pre-colonial world….. or maybe they are just fun, hilarious, seductive creatures –– with the ability to heal and to disrupt; a representation of freedom, and spiritual connection to nature.

what is it like to be a child?

when a child is sad, she wails. when a child is happy she squeals.

a child is still sticky from the womb ––

she remembers what it was like to be suspended in water; to live inside another being; to be fed.

she remembers what it was like before she was in the human body.

she is still so chaotic, messy, magic-infused. filled with curiosity, presence, deep intuitive emotion, and joy in daily experience.

she is still so wild, entertaining, messy, needy, and stinky.

relentless, passionate, frustrating, humble, and proud.

faithful, forgetful, absorbent.

soft, expressive, reactive and blunt.

her essence is fleeting; every day she grows bigger.

as children, our eyes and ears are wide open. as children, we are honest to the sensations of our body; emotions are something to release and revere. as children we have so much to learn about this world –– and so much to teach it, too.

can you connect these dots: deep listening. long distance collaboration.

Collaborating through the computer requires a new level of listening –– listening is the only tool we have. Our long-distance process involved sending a single Ableton session back and forth to each other over the course of many months, recording, editing, and collaging together bits and pieces in order to continuously transform, dissect, destroy, and reassemble the conglomeration of sounds we were working with. We rarely spoke about what we intended to do during this process - instead, we let the sounds completely speak for themselves as our mode of communication around the project. This necessitated an immense amount of trust in each other, and in the autonomy of the breathing work of art we were nurturing.

Working in this way invited two other collaborators into the process - the computer and time, as co-conspirators in the compositional collage. These friends gave so much to us when we were able to listen to what they had to offer.

And of course, we learn immensely from the legacy of Pauline Oliveros, who was hugely innovative in her experimentation with and excitement about long distance collaboration using early technological devices including her self-devised Expanded Instrument System ​(EIS), used for live performances of improvisation.

what other projects are you each working on currently?

Naomi - I am editing an epistolary poetry book written with Tal Mor in 2021 & 2022. I’m also learning to build giant paper maché puppets!!!!!!

Lula - I am working on my first solo album delving into the minutiae of vocal textures and electronic processing.