Volume Denver Interviews: Joy Subtraction

This is the first in a series of interviews with local bands who are in the latest round of Volume Denver artists. If you've not already checked it out, Volume is a project by Denver Public Library to gather and share the amazing local talent in this town. You can listen to full albums and songs, make playlists, and even download music to keep, using your library card.

I spoke to Brian Polk​, who plays drums in the band Joy Subtraction, which has released two full-length albums. He also plays in the band Simulators, which has a record in the works. He​ is the author of the novel, Placement of Character. His first book, Turning Failure into Ideology, was self-published in 2006. He publishes the zine The Yellow Rake, which began in 2004 and has released 30 issues over its existence. For more info, go to brianpolk.org.

Joy Subtraction consists of four lads who play loud rock and roll and have all of your best interests at heart. 

How did you and your bandmates meet?

I met the singer Abe in passing several times at various shows and literary readings around town. When he began questioning local artists about starting a new band, a poet named Charly "The City Mouse" Fasano told him that I played drums. Then one day as I was dutifully working as a shelver in the Children's department downtown [at Denver Public Library], he came up to me and said, "I heard you play drums. Is that true?" Then we found a bassist, Matt, who recorded an album with us and then left. And then we found another, Dave, who is still with us for some reason. 

What’s your favorite Denver venue to play and why?

We like 3 Kings and 7th Circle. The former because it's a great stage, spacious venue, and the owners really seem to value the artists' interests. The latter because it's an all-ages, all-inclusive venue that really seems to value the interests of younger kids. (It may be hard to believe, but we were younger kids once. A long time ago. Before electronic mail even!)

What is your most memorable show and why?

We've had so many. But we were just in the Bay Area last December playing a handful of shows with Victims Family. On the last night in Petaluma, California at the Phoenix Theater, Victims Family invited Jello Biafra (of the Dead Kennedys) and Les Claypool (of Primus) to perform a rendition of California Uber Alles. That was pretty cool. 

What’s the story behind your band name?

Abe came up with it because he fancies himself as quite the jokester. It's a play on Joy Division, only with a different mathematical operation, because we subtract the joy of our audience members. 

Describe your band’s sound in one sentence?

We play loud, fast rock and roll that melds equal parts Black Flag, Future of the Left, and Nomeansno, with lyrics that sometimes lament the disappointment and cruelty of life, though sometimes we sing about pressing political matters and one time we did a song about falling in love with a homemade robot. 

What has been your best audience heckle?

You mean us heckling the audience? That's Abe's department. He's said some funny and mean things to people that have heckled us first, but I don't think any of it is printable in any respectable forum. Come see us and insult us between songs and experience it in real time. 

If you could open for any other musical act, who would it be?

Since Nomeansno broke up and we already played with Victims Family, I would have to say Alice Donut or Future of the Left. (I wouldn't be picky.)


Check out more great music and inspiration at your local library, and see events (including live music!) here.

Written by Jennifer D on February 3, 2018


Anonymous on February 10, 2018


Who are they? Who cares? Why? Lame


Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for your questions! This band is Joy Subtraction, a local Denver band. Read above for their bio. As for who cares, we hope that folks looking for great music in Denver will enjoy this Volume Denver interview series. We love connecting people with music, movies, books, you name it, and that's why we're blogging about these bands.

Eric Shown on February 10, 2018


Is that flea from the RHCP? Who is the guy in the window?


It is not Flea! But we see the resemblance. It is Johnny, member of Joy Subtraction. As for the gentleman in the window, he has not been identified. Thanks for your comment!