José González and his bandmates Junip have justreturned home after three dozen-plus dates in America that included stops at SXSW and Bonnaroo. Late last month, they made their way to Prospect Park in Brooklyn for the Celebrate! concert series, and then Gonzalez was led to a rooftop party in the big city for a screening of the documentary film "The Extraordinary Ordinary Life of José González" and he played solo.
The songwriter is a bit split between the two worlds of his group and his thoughtful acoustic-based solo songs. It might have never been possible for Junip to move forward as a band in large markets like America were it not for the quiet acclaim and steadfast touring he did in support of his two full-length albums, "Veneer" (2005) and "In Our Nature" (2007). It was a combination of busy schedules and "laziness," as González' bandmate Tobias Winterkorn said, that prevented Junip from even making one full-length album until starting in 2008.
At last, "Fields" was released last year, and the band's subsequent tour may leave González' fans surprised -- not just at the quality of the effort, but that the quiet-voiced writer can rock so hard.
"From all 600 shows I've done solo, it's really helped me learn to stick to [playing] the nylon string guitar," González told me from backstage of his Brooklyn show last month. "Most people will just give up and settle for a crappy guitar sound or switch to steel stringed guitar or electric. The sound... makes it a bit unique."
It also doesn't hurt that the trio has known each other since the late 1990s, or that their previous bands were of the hard rock and hardcore variety. Based out of Gothenburg, the band has been carving out their own skills and sound as some particular scenes arose from their native city.
"Gothenburg is really well known for melodic death metal... and weird harmony indie-pop..." Gonzalez said.
"Y'know, like young boys who can’t sing, but sing loudly?" Winterkorn finished, laughing.
Junip has a handful of show dates overseas left, and has only one more U.S. stop (Outside Lands festival in San Francisco in August).
And today, Gonzalez announced he'd be playing two solo shows during that short jaunt, among his very few scheduled solo appearances this year -- which included opening for Arcade Fire in Austria. Of the two, July 26 at the Old Royal Naval College in London is his last one "for a while," according to a release.
It's sort of like his schedule for recording. Junip plans on starting to write for their sophomore set in the fall for a release in 2012; Gonzalez plans on releasing another solo album after that. Winterkorn said that the band is considering combining subsequent tours with Junip and Jose Gonzalez solo on the same bill.
"When we write for Junip, its always us three writing together. I never come prepared for those sessions. At home, I write for myself," Gonzalez said. "I have a lot of sketches, almost too many, so I'm having a hard time knowing which way to go."