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JOYBOMB






Embarking on a musical journey from Newton, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee, Joybomb’s lead vocalist Grant Beatty shares with us his love for music, and the struggles of keeping it together.

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Originally, I’m from a small town in central Mississippi called Newton, which is about an hour outside of Jackson. My family is from the area. I actually grew up with my dad as the mayor of the town. And his dad was the mayor before him. So, it sort of felt like a legacy thing.


So I grew up with my dad working in public service, and he and my mom also ran an insurance business. It was a small enough town that it didn’t really feel like it came with many perks like one would think. But, I did grow up goofing off in City Hall.


My parents aren’t musicians, but they sang in church and music was always in the house. And whenever I’d ride around with my dad we listened to Led Zeppelin and Stevie Ray Vaughn.


My parents were sort of the Reagan-era Republicans, you know, kind of old school conservatives. But they sort of flipped the script when the war in Iraq started. Which was around the same time that I started to become aware of social politics. And it coincided with me getting into, like, rebellious music — punk rock.


And so there was this big push, you know, the sort of like, ‘not my president,’ during the Bush administration. There were a lot of musicians changing their perspective on not just political leanings, but, you know, social responsibility and opposition to the war. And so I saw that and sort of took it and ran with it.


I was growing up in this very southern, conservative town. But, it offered a good launching pad for, you know, resistance.

I was growing up in this very southern, conservative town. But, it offered a good launching pad for, you know, resistance.


Everything changed when I went to see ‘School of Rock’ with my folks. And it just landed at the right time. It planted a seed. I wanted to do that.


I’d been listening to rock music and a little bit of heavy metal and nu metal at the time, and I just started to get into pop punk. But ‘School of Rock’ really pushed me over the edge.


And so yeah, I got a guitar when I was 11 — a Peavey Raptor.


Pretty soon after, I started my first band, Left Handshake, with some buddies in Newton. They were two cousins, Joey, who played drums, and Jamie, who played guitar.. I tried to get Jamie to play the bass but he said no. And I definitely wasn’t going to play bass because I was the frontman, so we just didn’t have a bassist.


We covered the Ramones and Green Day and Blink 182. We had a couple of originals that were okay.

My first show ever was us playing the Loose Caboose Festival in Newton. It’s one of the city’s annual celebrations. We killed it.


Shortly after that, my parents decided to move to Starkville. It was crushing. My parents broke up the band. But, once we settled in Starkville, I met a handful of folks, and kind of realized it would work out.


I was in eighth grade when we moved. I got more into punk rock, and started wearing studs, leather jackets and the whole shebang. That look didn’t really fly in my small-town private school before, but now I was in this big public school where there were a lot more diverse groups of people.


As soon as I got my legs under me, I started trying to form another band.


That’s when I met Adrian Lewis. He was a cool little weirdo. So, as it happens, we’re hanging out in his room. And I knew that he played cello, but in the corner of the room, I saw a bass.


My eyes lit up, and I asked him if he ever played. He said, ‘No.’ And I said, ‘Well, you’re about to.’

I introduced him to some of the classics I liked to play, and we started riffing on some of that stuff, you know, the Ramones and Dead Kennedys and stuff like that.


He had an eclectic taste, and was really into the Blue Man Group, Cake and System of a Down. Which was great, but I said, ‘Let’s go a little harder and a little faster.’


Then one day, our buddy Collin came over while I had the drums setup and was just goofing off. I needed someone to play the drums in the band, and so I asked if he could hold a beat, and he could. So, naturally, we had a band – The Jarheads.


We needed a name for the talent show at school. At the time, I had seen the Jake Gyllenhaal movie ‘Jarhead’. It was sort of the height of the ‘f the war’ era and I wanted to kind of use that as a tongue in cheek reference.




We played in the gym at school among the chaos of a thousand 13 year olds. We just tore it down. After we finished, all of the kids rushed down to the floor and literally picked us up. I felt like a rockstar. I was like, Okay, well, this is what it’s like. This is what I want.

We rehearsed our butts off for the middle school talent show. It was probably like 1,500 kids and we played in the gym at school among the chaos of a thousand 13 year olds. We just tore it down. After we finished, all of the kids rushed down to the floor and literally picked us up. I felt like a rockstar.



I was like, Okay, well, this is what it’s like. This is what I want.


We played some backyard parties and stuff that summer before highschool. Just kind of getting our sea legs as a band. And so I got into ninth grade and we played another talent show that fall and won.


We really beat out some stiff competition that year. There was a step group that was really killing it, but we brought in some original material that tipped the scales.


A guy who was very instrumental in my life was Todd Rowan, my guitar teacher and de-facto mentor. He played in a band called Young Agent Jones in Starkville. They were really good and they sort of brought us young guys under their wings.


I had chops with guitar, but I always knew I didn’t want to be just a shredder; I wanted to be a songwriter.


When I was 14 or 15 I was still taking lessons from him, and he was like, ‘Look, man, you can still go hard. You can still go fast. You can be angry. But playing punk doesn’t always have to be how you think it has to be.’


He showed me bands like the Pixies and Siouxsie and the Banshees. It was weird to me at first, and I didn’t know what to make of it. But he told me, ‘You can still have the energy, without everything having to be so straight forward.There’s just so much more out there.’

He was just watering the plant.


My guitar lessons from Todd ended up morphing into band lessons. He started coming to our practices and was kind of a drill sergeant for us.


He toughened us up, and told us what we really needed to work on — the things a highschooler really doesn’t want to hear. He made my voice better, my songwriting better. So we went from being a kid band, to a pretty good band in a fairly short time.


By sophomore year we played this festival in Starkville called the Cotton District Art Festival, which was a big milestone for us.


There were a bunch of underground shows happening at the time. We had a spot called ‘The Shop,’ which was at Adrian’s parents house. They were architects and at some point his dad’s workshop caught fire, but the shell of it remained intact.


So, Adrian’s dad cut us a deal because he was tired of us playing in the house. Essentially, if we helped him gut this thing and spend a summer putting in the work to help renovate it, we could use it as a practice spot.


By the start of junior year we had finished it and christened it with an inaugural band practice. I remember immediately looking at Adrian and being like, ‘Well now we have to throw a party here.’

And for the next couple of years, and even into college, it was a cool place to have shows. When you live in a place that doesn’t have much to offer for teens, then you have to create your own stuff to do.


Strangely enough, even though it’s a college town, there really weren’t many other bands, especially not in our age range. And when we’d play with older bands, it kind of always came with conditions, because these bands or bars didn’t want a bunch of high schoolers showing up.


There was no real indie scene or punk scene at our high school. We definitely embraced the outcast role, even if we were the only ones. But, by the end of high school, it didn’t matter.


We graduated in 2011, and that’s when things got a little bit hairy for the original lineup. Adrian and I decided to go to Mississippi State, but our drummer went to Alabama and that kind of marked the first big change up for the band.


We got a new drummer named Austin Healy, who was from Columbus. We kept it alive for a while, but there ended up being some personal drama.


The summer before my last semester of college, in 2014, I booked a summer tour. Basically, up the East Coast and a little bit of the Midwest and then back down South.


I got a taste of the road life and I enjoyed it. I liked going places and being around new types of people. It was much different than at home.


We had released a couple of EPs and LPs, but I felt that tour marked the end of an era. There wasn’t even a hint of the garage punk revival in Starkville. The bands that were there were very much jam bands and blues acts. But, there were indie and garage scenes that were blossoming in Oxford and Jackson and Memphis.


But, we were a punk band. You know, we were playing fast, melodic music that was loud and angry. We just really didn’t fit in a lot of places. In those days, we weren’t indie enough for the indie kids, we weren’t garage enough for the garage rockers, and there just weren’t enough punk acts in the surrounding cities to develop a base.


People didn’t really know what to do with us. Our sound was becoming kind of all over the place. It seemed people liked us and musicians respected us, but there wasn’t any substantial consistency.

People didn’t really know what to do with us. Our sound was becoming kind of all over the place. It seemed people liked us and musicians respected us, but there wasn’t any substantial consistency.


I realized we needed to rebrand. By the end of college the name had baggage. And so as we got more into indie punk, we were trying to separate from that mohawk, anti-flag kind of image, and were heading towards something more nuanced. I realized that this was the time to sort of shift direction, and maybe become a bit more cohesive, intentional and a bit more pop sensible.


We had a couple of options for new names. The two main contenders were ‘Debutante Bomb’ and ‘Joy Bang.’


But, Todd, my mentor had already called dibs on ‘Debutante’ and ‘Joy Bang’ just sounded ridiculous to me. So, ‘Joybomb’ it was.


We had a pretty dense catalog of songs from over the years, so it was still pretty much the same sound, if not just with new songs, and a clear vision of how we wanted to, I guess, brand ourselves. Because now branding, all of a sudden, was a thing I needed to consider.


I finished college that December with a degree in philosophy, but I had no real plan — actually no plan at all — I just enjoyed playing. I wanted to be a rock star. I wanted to push my limits. I wanted to give it a real go, but I just didn’t really know how. I could have worked harder, looking back, at the time. But there just weren’t a lot of opportunities getting thrown at me with the band.


Luckily, my parents always supported that dream and I’m really grateful for that. There was never this, ‘You need to grow up’ moment with them. This was something I needed to do.


After graduation, I was living at a spot with Adrian, close to my folks’ house. I was going through a breakup and was just hanging out, being a wild and aimless college kid. I realized that wasn’t working, and I needed to get out of town, even if for just a bit. A buddy of mine had moved to Memphis, and had a three bedroom house in Cooper Young. I never really spent much time in Memphis, and didn’t know much about Cooper Young.


I came up to visit him for a few days and there ended up being a bad snow storm, which extended my stay a bit longer than I had initially planned. It gave me the chance to explore Midtown, and I just really dug it.


He offered to let me move in with him for pretty cheap rent, and I said, ‘All right. Let’s do it. I’ll be a city boy.’


By March of 2015, I officially moved to Memphis. I started working at Mulan Bistro and started to scope out the music scene and bars.


Adrian didn’t come originally, but I was doing reconnaissance to convince him it’d be a good idea. I realized it could be an exciting place to play music, and definitely a bigger, more lively city than Starkville. So I convinced him and before I knew it he moved into the other bedroom at that house.

Essentially two thirds of the band moved to Memphis, and Austin, the drummer, still lived in Columbus, which isn’t too far. But we started booking shows at the Hi-Tone and Murphy’s and The Buccaneer, and we started making friends and getting more shows.


By 2017, the insanity of the Trump era was getting pretty out of control and people were getting jazzed up across the board. I vividly remember election night of 2016 and the day that followed. I got into work so exhausted and so angry, I told myself, ‘I have got to do something.’ I had no real plans for a professional track and it didn’t seem like the band wasn’t going to find any real success anytime in the immediate future.

By 2017, the insanity of the Trump era was getting pretty out of control and people were getting jazzed up across the board. I vividly remember election night of 2016 and the day that followed. I got into work so exhausted and so angry, I told myself, ‘I have got to do something.’


I had no real plans for a professional track and it didn’t seem like the band wasn’t going to find any real success anytime in the immediate future.



So, I applied to the University of Memphis to work on a masters in political science.


It’s 2019, I’m 27-years-old and I had this feeling of just ‘shit or get off the pot’ with music, I finished my masters and started teaching as an adjunct at the university.


I was getting my life together, but I knew I wasn’t done with Joybomb, I was writing a lot of new songs. I was motivated. Something new needed to happen.


Joybomb needed a record. I needed to make a record.


So, in early 2019 I reached out to Todd Rowan, my guitar teacher and mentor, and asked if he would join Joybomb as a drummer, with the goal of putting out a record in the near future. He said, ‘yes,’ and I had the dream team.


Young Agent Jones had either broken up or was on an extended hiatus. Todd is a great musician and a great songwriter so I knew we could do something really cool together.


Adrian’s folks had moved to Nashville and opened up a studio called Ivy Hall Studio. We decided to record there in early 2020. We revitalized some older Jarhead songs, some Joybomb songs, and we started writing new songs. Me and Adrian would drive down to Starkville every week or so, just hammering it out, perfecting the songs with Todd.


We played a few gigs during that time, but we were mostly preparing for this record.


We’d had our fair share of lineup changes, but that one felt like a perfect working mechanism. We all knew each other really well, we knew how to work together and play music together.


We put together a group of songs to record that March that would end up becoming America Cult Candy. We got there, got comfortable, and as soon as we started, COVID hit. Luckily we were in lockdown at the studio, which Adrian’s parents happened to own. Since it was under his parents house, we didn’t really have to worry about leaving.


It felt apocalyptic. You know, and a lot of the song content focused on social dysphoria and the fervor of the Trump years — sort of just commentary about those things. And those feelings were amplified during the recording process by every major news channel running headlines on this scary new virus, which made for an interesting recording experience, and ultimately an interesting record.


That initial recording phase was getting the core tracks done. We might have done a little vocals that week, but basically getting most of the instrumentation out of the way.


As the pandemic kept going, everything slowed down. The demand to churn out work kind of fell to the wayside.


I had gotten one semester in teaching during the normalcy of pre-pandemic, and then went fully online, which sort of freed me up to be able to go back to Nashville and sort of tinker with the record — hunker down with it.


So yeah, I kept doing that. And am still doing that, teaching at the University of Memphis. Back then, It was nice to be able to work on the record whenever I wanted to, add instrumentations, retract vocals, and breathe with it.


It felt like it took a really long time to finish the record.


During the summer of 2021, I was still making trips to Nashville to work on it. I was booking a lot of shows, just trying to ramp this thing up. I was really trying to shoot for the stars with this release and I was probably being a little militant about it.


Eventually Todd knew that he wasn’t gonna be able to do what I was asking of him. There were a lot of creative visions competing, and in Todd’s words, ‘This is a band with two Dave Grohls, and it needs a Dave Grohl and a Taylor Hawkins.’


And at the end of the day, he was like, ‘Well, this is your band and you need to do what you need to do.’


Not long after, Adrian told me that he needed to take a step back from the band. You know, the older you get, the more life gets in the way and sometimes you have to make those choices.


Then there was just me, and it felt like I didn’t have a band anymore.


Then there was just me, and it felt like I didn’t have a band anymore.

By the end of that year Clanton Blaylock, a friend from Newton strangely enough, joined on as the drummer. And, shortly after a dear, handsome friend of mine referred me to a bassist named Connor Booth. We found a drummer, and got a second guitarist for the first time ever.


So, for the first time in over a decade, there was a new lineup.


In August of 2022, we released American Cult Candy. And I was in the process of starting to rebuild a band to play the record live.


To do that, I needed another guitarist. That’s where Lyric Brock comes into the picture.


I’d always been super particular about letting guitar players into the fold, because a big part of Joybomb’s sound is the flow of how the guitar and the bass play off of each other in Joybomb songs. And a lot of it was me wanting to keep control of the project.


People have their own flair, their own panache, and it’s hard to let go of what I hear in my head.

But what’s been interesting with this new creative force is that once they got the album down, we started working on a handful of new songs, and now we’re a whole new band.


I’d always been stringent about letting another guitar player sort of twist the vision, or change the integrity of the song. But when I saw Lyric playing out for the first time it just felt different. He has chops and great taste.


I invited him over and I asked him to learn a couple of the songs. He came over and I was immediately impressed that he had learned the ones I had asked him to, and perfectly. After we played through those, he told me he had learned the entire album already.


One thing I’ve learned over the years is that having other people in the songwriting process only makes it stronger. You’re mixing different experiences, styles, wisdom, talents, and so on. And, when you have other people checking you on your vision and checking you on your faults, you’ll end up with something cooler than what could have just come out of just you.


It checks your ego, which I need sometimes. And, I’m of the mind where, if you have a better idea, please, let’s do it. Because ultimately, I just want to make great music. And I’m happy we’re doing that. Today, we’re still pushing the record, watching as it slowly falls into the right hands, the right audience. I feel like we’re growing a bit of a following. I’m grateful. And, we’ve got a bunch of new material waiting to be recorded, too.


Memphis now excites me more than it did before the pandemic. I think I took the power of this city’s community and the scenes for granted. Live music isn’t about just getting to hang out with your friends, but it’s about supporting that creative and living energy that comes with this art-centric community. It feels like there’s more authentic support now locally than ever, and I’m excited to be a part of it.



Live music isn’t about just getting to hang out with your friends, but it’s about supporting that creative and living energy that comes with this art-centric community. It feels like there’s more authentic support now locally than ever, and I’m excited to be a part of it.

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