My first encounter with New Invisible Joy was at a NXNE show at C’est What back in 2000. The Pittsburgh-based four-piece was the first space-rock band I ever saw live. Their music was drenched in reverb and my friend beside me joked about just how much drugs they must’ve been on at the time. In C’est What’s cramped space they seemed absolutely gigantic. (an aside – Feist was the opening act and nobody really knew who she was). After the set a wide-eyed younger me acquired a copy of their debut “Pale Blue Day” and it became my default bedtime record. (I used to put a CD on before bed every night. I’ve since changed my routine to involve six-song playlists on my iTunes library which is why I share six-song playlists on this site every Monday)
The following year they returned to play another NXNE showcase at Cameron House. To my disappointment they had abandoned all of the songs from Pale Blue Day and instead showcased material that would end up on their self-titled EP. Their onstage demeanour changed too as vocalist John Schisler adopted a more animated persona. Much too large for the tiny stage at Cameron House. Alas, neither showcase resulted in a record deal (but really, how often does a NXNE set result in a band getting signed anyway?) and they never returned to Toronto.
Years later I had the good fortune of being in New York City at the same time as them and saw them play a five-band bill at a bar called Pianos. It was one of those stupid shows where they ask you up-front which band you’re there to see. At this point New Invisible Joy had completely transformed from space-rockers to arena-sized melodic pop-rockers. Though guitarist Mike Gaydos’s ability to get great sounds from his guitar setup was undiminished. Try to imagine U2 but without any of the pretension and you have a pretty good idea of what the band sounded like at the time. One Halloween they even did a U2 tribute-set and dressed as the band. This sound would be represented on their final two albums “Trust” and “Kontakt”. Anyway, the Pianos show was absolutely wild and Schisler gave me some valuable advice that I’d put to use for my own band that was just starting out at the time.
I still like “Pale Blue Day” best. It has the distinction of being their most psychedelic record and also possesses the hardest edge. Album opener “New Orleans”, on top of being one of the most beautiful songs laid to record, possesses a unique dreamy vibe. “Ms. Universe” rides a huge guitar/bass riff into outer space and just drifts. “Goldwish” makes great use of processed guitar sounds and “Tidepool” is simply hypnotic.
The band has been on hiatus for years now. They still get together for one-offs every couple years in the Pittsburgh area, but the odds of them ever returning to Toronto are nil. Their last show was three years ago to this week. So if that indeed was the end, then rest in peace New Invisible Joy. You will be missed.