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By Jordan Morningstar

For Mike Mckyes, lead guitarist of the London, Ont.-based band The Joys, it’s all about the fans.

“I call them friends. ‘Groupies’ sounds subservient,” insists Mckyes. “These people that come to our show, they’re more than just groupies or fans — they’re helping us create what we’re doing.” Mckyes’s philosophy explains a lot about who The Joys are and how they’re attempting to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pop-punk acts littering Toronto’s music scene. The band was started a few years ago by lead singer Sarah Smith, rising from the ashes of the cover band Popjoy.

The Joys are currently busy developing their own blend of original music. They say their only influences are each other, and their liner notes include pictures of fans and stories detailing the origins of how their songs were written. “Our music is a snapshot of where we are musically and where we are as people” says Mckyes. “It’s not like we’re trying to mould something, so that it’s like, ‘This is what we want people to see.’ It’s more real and organic.”

Since opening for Matthew Good at Ryerson’s 2004 Parade and Picnic, The Joys have continued to build a strong, loyal following by presenting a regular, everyday image. Mckyes’s method is refreshingly simple. “I play guitar, whereas somebody else might drive a bus. We see ourselves as another piece of the puzzle of society,” he says. “We’re just people who enjoy doing something.” The Joys are best known to their fans as Sarah, Mike, Shaun and Archie.

At any one of the 200 shows they play every year, the Joys can be found hanging out and talking with their fans before and after they hit the stage, and sometimes even during live performances. When there’s a reasonable enough crowd, Smith demonstrates her energy by joining the party on the dance floor while belting out pop-infused punk vocals. When it’s too packed to dance, she crowdsurfs instead. Word-of-mouth has been a crucial element to the band’s success as of late, and Smith insists they show as much love and appreciation to their fans as possible.

Fan photos, either shot by concert-goers or featuring them, regularly appear on their website and in the cover jacket of their latest full-length album, Anyone Who Cares. To boot, fans also who pre-order their new upcoming album get a personal thank you in the liner notes.

Despite all the obvious adoration for their fans, there’s one fan in particular who stands out: Gary the Merch Guy. According to Mckyes, “We were playing a show in Belleville, Ontario and there was this dishwasher — his name was Gary. “He’s just got such a sweet soul; he’s such a kind human being. He made us laugh, just by being him, and ended up moving to Toronto, just to be closer to us. Everytime we play in Toronto… he’ll be there.”

The band’s third album is set for release sometime this year. Although it has yet to be named, Smith and Mckyes promise it will be much darker. “This band is all about growing and experiencing things with each other, and we’re exploring a bit more of the rawside of human emotions. We’re trying to go with something that’s not so trendy. We want something that’s timeless, honest and heavy,” says Mckyes.

“Oh, and we want to rock your fucking soul to the core.” Of course.

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