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Interviews, New Music

Philly’s JANK and the Art of Infectious Stoner Emo

JANK leader Matt Diamond discusses the 'weed pop' band and the Philadelphia DIY scene that forged it

jank band interview

Photos by Emily Dubin

Philadelphia emo-stoners JANK make jubilant, grunge-y pop that will lodge in your brain instantly. Listen to the band’s new EP, Versace Summer (streaming below), and you’ll be singing the refrain “Am I not cool enough for you?” for days.

JANK singer & guitarist Matt Diamond attributes part of the band’s memorable sound to the power of the hook. “Hooks are key,” Diamond said during a phone call. “Hooks are so important. Once you can understand and really start to master the way of the hook, it kind of becomes a no-brainer…. I try to use my vocal melodies as an extra instrument, as opposed to just vocals.”

As a teenager in Downingtown, PA, Diamond briefly took guitar lessons at a local School of Rock. “That’s how I started playing guitar,” Diamond says, “but then I started messing around in open tunings, and I started to craft my own style.” Matt performed with Panucci’s Pizza before forming JANK in 2015. The band consists of Diamond, drummer Sam Becht, and bassist Ruben Polo. Matt says he later realized that the style he had developed (including “syncopated licks and the hammer-on and pull-off style”) was in a similar vein as emo bands like American Football, Snowing, and Cap’n Jazz.

jank interview

JANK realized they were onto something shortly after the release of their debut LP, Awkward Pop Songs, in November 2015. “We put that album out, and we started getting tons of offers for shows, labels, releases. We didn’t really know what to do with it because we weren’t expecting it…. We don’t necessarily know one-hundred percent what we did – but I guess we did it right.”

The band describes their music as ‘weed pop’ for lack of a better term. “We say ‘weed pop’ just because it’s a funny thing,” says Diamond. “It’s become a serious label that we don’t take seriously.” Indeed, JANK love their weed. The band has sold weed-themed t-shirts, custom JANK pipes, and weed grinder/container devices. Diamond says, “It’s really cool to bridge that gap between music and stoner culture.” Asked for his wildest concept for weed merch, Matt replied, “We kicked around the idea of putting out JANK sunblock and having it be SPF 420.”

JANK hail from a fertile Philly DIY music scene. “It’s really become a huge mixing pot of so many different styles and genres – and scenes within Philly itself,” Matt says. “The Temple scene is house parties with a lot of garage rock-oriented stuff. Then you’ve got bands like Ghost Gum and The City and I, who put a lot of really cool, noisy post-punk aspects into their music. You’ve got dreamy pop bands like kississippi. One of my favorite bands is stippling, who put out an album earlier this year – it’s very bouncy, Glocca Morra-style emo pop. Honestly, I really couldn’t define Philly as one certain thing…. There’s so many different circuits going on.”

jank interview

JANK’s sense of humor translates well to its playful social media game, where the band can regularly be found goofing off with fans or shotgunning Mang-O-Ritas. Matt expressed a fascination with social media, and said “I really try to project that we’re just three regular people having fun.” The band’s most successful meme-ification occurred in January, when they posted a photo which Sam did not appear in, along with the caption, “So unfortunately Sam was arrested last night so our good friend Rachel is going to fill in drums for tour.” The caption was a joke (Sam had actually taken the photo), but the audience took it seriously. Matt says, “Everybody thought he was really in jail…. Sam started getting messages out the wazoo. His whole hometown thought he was in jail.” Thus began the #FreeSam meme, which later became the title of a song on Versace Summer

Versace Summer is streaming below now, and available for sale at JANK’s Bandcamp page. If the EP leaves you wanting more (it will), fear not: Matt says he’s already written seven or eight songs for JANK’s next record.

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