Joywave Break Down New Album Cleanse Track by Track: Exclusive

A deep dive into each song on the Rochester rock trio's latest studio effort

joywave cleanse
Joywave, photo by Evyn Morgan

    Our recurring Track by Track feature gives artists the chance to break down the inspiration and stories behind each song on their latest release. Today, Joywave’s Daniel Armbruster offers a deep dive into the band’s new album, Cleanse.

    Joywave have returned today (February 11th) with their fourth studio album, Cleanse.

    Frontman Daniel Armbruster tells Consequence that the story of Cleanse picks up right where the Rochester rock trio’s last album, Possession, left off. Released on March 13th, 2020, it dropped the same day that the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “We had been on tour in Europe while the virus was spreading there so I knew it was going to be bad,” Armbruster recalls. “I was scared, but I was also actively fighting the idea of writing new music. We had JUST released a record we had spent years making. Everything I had worried about on Possession was coming to fruition at an astonishing rate.”


    Despite Armbruster’s best efforts, he wound up in his home studio anyway. “I have always been a ‘music is my therapy’ type of person and eventually I had tried everything else,” he explains. “No one asked me to make another record. It just happened. And unlike albums of the past, we weren’t compiling 40 demos and talking about what songs should make the cut, etc.”

    He continues, “A body of work emerged that was a true snapshot of this (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime moment. Reminded of my own mortality by every headline, I began to think about the things I’d want someone to know about me or what advice I’d want to leave behind if this record was the last thing I got to share with the world.”

    Prior to the release of Cleanse, Joywave shared a string of singles including “Cyn City 2000,” “Buy American,” “Every Window Is a Mirror,” and “After Coffee.” In support of the album, Joywave have mapped out a North American tour kicking off later this month. Snag your tickets here.

    Stream Cleanse and check out Daniel Armbruster’s Track by Track breakdown below.

    “Pray for the Reboot”:

    Given what has transpired since Possession was written (a global pandemic, societal and political chaos, etc.), this was the logical choice to lead off Cleanse: “It’s midnight, when the truth’s in the user we’ve all lost the future/ A timeline darker than the one I was dealing with the last time.”

    The song is kind of agnostic about our planetary shit storm. Maybe we’ll decide some type of societal restart is necessary. I don’t know. I’m just one person. They do that all the time in TV and movies, though. How many Spider-Men are there now? I’ve lost track. Whatever humanity decides, very cool. I’m in. Just let me know. Would love to be part of it.


    “Buy American”:

    I have long been obsessed with the idea of poorly chosen and/or misinterpreted campaign rally songs. Think “Born in the USA” blasting at a Reagan ’84 event. I thought our idiocracy deserved a song with lyrics like, “Let go of empathy, that’s negativity/ Why are you worried ‘bout someone you’ve never met?” dressed up in red, white, and blue.

    It’s fairly clear the song is sarcastic and chock-full of bad advice packed into its 3 minutes and 22 seconds, but it touches on a few patriotic slogans of the past in a way that maybe it’ll get played at a rally or two before someone says, “Hey, you know this song is mocking our obsession with individual freedoms in the face of common sense reforms that could stop things like [insert societal problem of your choice here], right?” Just so we’re clear, don’t do anything this song tells you to do. And definitely don’t buy the extended warranty.

    “Every Window Is a Mirror”:

    One of the greatest mysteries of the past two years or so for me has been people’s inability to understand that their experiences are not universal. Your opinions about how someone else should live (or not live) is based on YOUR experience, which is not THEIR experience or THE experience. You’re always looking through YOUR window and that means there’s always a bit of you reflected back in what you see.

    You can never truly observe someone else’s life or situation in an impartial way. I absolutely despise internet shouting, and I think if we were able to grasp this concept as a society, we could start to have meaningful conversations about how to live together instead of trying to dunk on each other constantly. People who are different than you are not going to go away.

    “Cyn City 2000”:

    Optimism. I said half the record was “I am grateful.” At various points over the years, I have been guilty of comparing myself to others. I’m not going to say I was able to completely let go of that during the pandemic, but I worked hard to get it in check. I think that’s a constant struggle for most people. If you’re constantly running comparison math in your head, though, you will NEVER be happy. There is ALWAYS someone who has more than you.


    Everyone feels under-appreciated sometimes or like things could be better, but be thankful for what you have. The album could have started here, too, I suppose. You can feel Possession being jettisoned into oblivion in the first line of the song: “The last idea I had got swallowed by a black hole/ I could cure cancer but they’d give the prize to some asshole.” I don’t want to be cynical.

    “After Coffee”:

    I’m so glad we released this song first ahead of the record. It came out when people were still hiding indoors and I think that allowed it to resonate in a way I hadn’t really intended when writing it. I’ve described it elsewhere as a “celebration of the mundane,” and it is, but it’s so personal to me. I had stuff on my calendar most days for six or seven years straight, then it got WIPED OUT. This was my longest continuous stretch home since we started touring full time in 2014. I developed routines. I had a normal sleep schedule.

    And on this song, I entertain thoughts of making these new developments permanent: “After coffee, sitting all alone in thought/ Wondering if I should give it up/ Move away and find a little spot on the coast/ No reception and my secret goes unknown.” Writing and producing has always been my favorite part of being an artist, and I’ll always be grateful for the unchecked creative time of 2020 and 2021 (a silver lining in the chaos).

    “We Are All We Need”:

    This was a difficult one to write because it required admitting to myself that I was carrying around a giant chip on my shoulder. It took us so many years to get Joywave off the ground. I attribute a large portion of that to being from Rochester, New York and staying there (52nd largest metro area in the US!). For many years, I was resentful of people who had success at a young age or those who I felt like hadn’t put in the work, but were having better/faster results than we were. And there was a bitterness in my personal life as well, left over from anyone who ever told me I couldn’t do something or made fun of me growing up.


    You hear those types of things enough times and you form a prickly, sarcastic shell as a defense mechanism. Sure it can be funny or entertaining sometimes, but eventually you have to let some of that go or it’ll eat you alive inside. This song is an admission of that crossed with a celebration that I still get to do what I love with people that I love. “We are all we need/ We got them other boys talking nervously/ We are all we need/ We got ‘em all to take a swing with jealousy.” It’s the soundtrack to Paul, Joey, and I becoming friends in my first car (not dissimilar from the one featured on the record cover) when we were teenagers driving around Greece, NY with nothing but time.

    “Goodbye Tommy”:

    I got very into a German show called Deutschland 83 during the pandemic. There was a scene in the first season that depicted an event similar to the Pulse Nightclub tragedy. It really hung on me. I tried to shake it for a few days and I just couldn’t. I decided to rescore the scene around a fictional Tommy character to try and get it out of my head. I don’t know why, but it helped.

    We played in Paris a few weeks before the Bataclan attack in 2015, and I remember all the news coverage was right outside the hotel we stayed at. There are so many places that are supposed to be fun or safe, people just trying to live their lives, and every time one of these things happens the news cycle grieves, nothing changes, and we move on. Infinite repeat. Our music video for “Like A Kennedy” is a pretty heavy commentary on that cycle.