That Joe Payne to release new solo album Bread & Circuses next week
That Joe Payne releases his new album Bread & Circuses next week, the follow up to his 2020 debut solo album By Name. By Nature.
Bread & Circuses has been described by Payne as an album with two distinct ‘sides’ which showcase the different elements of his music – both set to a socio-political theme which runs throughout the record.
“I’m really excited about this one, it’s my best work. I’ve never been so free when making a record. There's nothing about it that pandas to anyone,” he explains.
“I was just allowed to have fun making it. It's really a ‘no rules’ album but it’s also the first time I’ve really written an album where I'm not really writing music about myself and my own feelings.
“There's a little bit of that in there, but largely I'm writing from a broader point of view, trying to see the world through the eyes of the populous.
“It’s got this kind of socio political slant to it, hence the name Bread & Circuses which is all about how those in power can keep the masses at bay from revolting, just by making sure they have ‘just enough’ to eat and just enough to keep them entertained and distracted – and then they sit quietly in their homes, eat their food and do what they're told.
“We're given just enough to not feel it's worth rocking the boat. We might want more but we're not going to risk losing what we have.”
Payne has spent most of 2023 working on Bread & Circuses, after being preoccupied last year making his Christmas album, Ding Dong.
“I think I decided to make that first because I was anxious about doing the follow-up to my debut,” he explains.
“That album was a reflection of my crossover period, coming out of The Enid into my solo career.
“Whether on a conscious or unconscious level, I might have been afraid of alienating an audience I had spent years building. So, on my debut it was still pandering a little to that in a kind of fear of losing anyone.”
Payne recorded the album in his home studio with partner Max Read, having previously recorded at The Lodge Recording Studio.
Read worked with Payne on the arrangements and orchestration and the record also features guitarist Joshua Ryan, bassist Esme Edwards and drummer Jake Perrett.
Bread & Circuses opens with Falling In Love Is Easy (which was released as a single in May) alongside River Run Dry, My Heart, Plastic Grass, Live The Dream (also a former single) Despite Everything, F***ing F***ed and Bread & Circuses.
“I always look at an album as how it’s going to fit on vinyl,” explains Payne.
“The tracks need to be distributed in a way that suits the listener experience for them having an ‘A-Side’ and switching over to the ‘B-Side’.
“Track one to four are me living my best mainstream pop life. You get everything from synth rock to a James Bond theme, to a 90s club trancey ballad thing and me delivering my best ‘Phil Collins’.
“Then, you flip it over and it’s the theatrical side of me coming through completely.
“Despite Everything I think is my masterpiece. Of all songs on the album, it’s my favourite and as a composition it’s my greatest accomplishment.
“It's basically about the kind of people who stick up for politicians no matter what it is they might have done to put you off.
“It’s like when someone says, ‘Oh yeah, but what's the alternative?’ and make excuses for corrupt behaviour. It’s laughing at that really.”
The title of the track comes from a running joke between Payne and Read where one would say, “I love you,” and the other would reply, “Despite Everything.”
Payne said: “When the melody came to me, I knew I had a really special idea and it couldn’t’ be more perfect for this record.”
Bread & Circuses opens with a track about Brexit, border patrols and the impact leaving the EU has had on touring musicians.
“People love to say to me, ‘oh, it’s not that different’, but it is. It really is, trust me. I’m living it,” he says, before going onto explain the levels of paperwork and customs declarations musicians now need to fill in if they want to tour abroad and take merchandise to sell besides equipment.
“Try making your costs back on a European tour. Just forget it,” he adds.
The track River Run Dry was inspired by Payne seeing droughts across Europe last year and the impact it had on countries while people were fleeing to the continent because of more severe weather conditions in their own countries.
He said: “We actually have it pretty good in Europe, we’re pretty stable. However, we have a problem coming environmentally and we’re starting to see the impact of it.
“What would it be like for us if we were faced with these situations all the time and we had permanent drought, what would we do? There would be millions migrating looking for water.”
While many fans know Payne from his time playing keyboard and singing in British prog rockers The Enid, in recent years he has been growing his fanbase in the LGBTQ+ community.
He said: “It makes sense to me because they're the people I have the most in common with and they seem to understand my music better than anyone else because they're just like me.
“I kind of built the foundations of my career in prog. The ones that have stayed are welcome because I love them and they've decided to stay because they like what I do.
“The ones that are gone, they were going to go anyway!”
To celebrate the release of the album, Payne is playing a launch gig at Queens Park Arts Centre in Aylesbury on Saturday, September 16.
Despite living in Northampton, Payne was born near the town and still regularly performs there.
The two act show will feature the whole of the new album in the second half.
Reflecting on the album and recent years, he said: “The pandemic kinda of broke my spirit in some ways.
“The only way to carry on through has been to kind of change my expectations in some of the areas of what I’m trying to do. Maybe I was stuck in a bit of a negative loop.
“To have finished the record and for it to have exceeded my expectations is great, it’s so much better than I could have hoped it would be.
“I’m so proud of it and I can’t wait to share it with people.”
Bread & Circuses is released digitally on Friday, September 22, and CDs are available via Payne’s website.
It is already available on ‘early access’ via www.patreon.com/thatjoepayne and a vinyl pressing is due to follow next year.
Tickets for Saturday’s launch cost £20.50 in advance before fees via https://bit.ly/3r3E4L9
Following the album launch, Payne will head into the end of 2023 with a Christmas tour to support Ding Dong, which will include a gig at Northampton’s Black Prince.
For more information, visit https://www.thatjoepayne.com