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Indie pop duo joan makes Boston debut

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Indie pop duo joan makes Boston debut

joan members Steven Rutherford and Alan Thomas perform their first song,

joan members Steven Rutherford and Alan Thomas perform their first song, "take me on."

Photo by Nia Beckett

joan members Steven Rutherford and Alan Thomas perform their first song, "take me on."

Photo by Nia Beckett

Photo by Nia Beckett

joan members Steven Rutherford and Alan Thomas perform their first song, "take me on."

Nia Beckett, lifestyle editor

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White lights and a bright marquee spelling “JOAN” glowed onto the crowd as the duo took to the stage.

The indie pop duo joan performed at Brighton Music Hall on Friday as an opener for the band half•alive. Alan Thomas strummed his electric guitar, singing lead and dancing on the balls of his feet. Bandmate Steven Rutherford played the drums while singing backup as they began their set with the first song they wrote together, “take me on.” Much of joan’s music has an electropop sound reminiscent of the John Hughes-filled ‘80s, but the duo never intended for fans to label their music as heavily ’80s-influenced.

“It was never really an intentional ‘We’re gonna be ’80s,’” Thomas said in an interview. “It was more ‘We just really like certain sounds and a certain vibe that makes us feel good.’”

Thomas and Rutherford both grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas. Their former bands frequently played gigs together, leading them to try writing together, Rutherford said. They released “take me on” in 2017.

Midset, Thomas referenced their EP portra, evoking a quiet cheer from the audience.

“Ten of you have heard of it, that’s good,” Thomas said.

Though much of the audience probably hadn’t heard joan’s music before, many danced along to the group’s upbeat sound.

Before joan took the stage, another opener, Austin Prince, performed with his band. Prince’s career is just beginning, with two songs released on Spotify last year.

During his set, he thanked half•alive for allowing him to perform.

“It’s kind of a family affair — Josh Taylor is my cousin,” Prince said, referencing the lead singer of half•alive.

Prince closed with his most recent song “Sadie,” surprising the crowd with a man in a bird costume joining him on stage, similar to the man dressed as a bird in the music video.

Following joan, half•alive opened with their acclaimed 2017 song, “the fall.” During the song, numerous audience members waved their phone flashlights covered with cutouts highlighting the band’s logo. A fan handed the blue pieces of paper out before the show.

The band incorporated dancing throughout their performance, with Taylor joining two dancers in abstract poses and synchronized motions during breaks in the lyrics.

Most of the crowd attended Friday’s event to see half•alive, the slightly more well-known, yet still on-the-rise band which formed in 2016.

Boston high school junior Jordan Davis hadn’t heard of joan’s music. He was drawn to half•alive’s music based on their Twenty One Pilots-influenced sound.

“I saw a lot of videos on YouTube and a lot of people talking about them,” Davis said.

While joan realizes they’re still building their fame, their main goal is to “be a working band.”

“I think for us, our long term dreams are stuff like writing for other people or working with people we’ve always loved or respected and stuff like that, but also we’re excited to do headline tours,” Rutherford said.

Thomas and Rutherford expressed a shared love and appreciation for music.

“We love listening to music but we study it too,” Thomas said. “It’s kind of like science to us — trying to figure out how, ‘Why did that melody that that person wrote affect me the way it did, and how can I do that same thing?’”

At the end of their set, they played one of their newest songs, “drive all night,” ahead of its release.

They plan to release multiple new songs this spring, some of which will encompass more modern influences as they expand their sound.

“You can’t stay in the ’80s forever,” Thomas said.

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