I’m Joe Nora I make beats and sometimes pretend to be a photographer. I was born and raised in San Francisco and came out to Chicago to attend Columbia College. I like to make music that makes you feel like you are floating, swimming or in love.
When did you first start getting into making music?
I started making beats my freshmen year of high school with my best friend Ayani who later became the other half of Moon Man & Benjamin. One of the seniors at our school gave a presentation to the whole school on the music he was making on his laptop and we were instantly obsessed and did everything we could to get the software and start producing. This senior who gave the presentation and inspired us went on to become a producer by the name of G JONES. One of the teachers at our high school gave us a copy of Reason and from then on it became my obsession. That was about 8 years ago.
Recently you put out a new EP, LUNAJOE. How did this come about?
Lunajoe is a project that I made entirely with my girl Lunah who is a beautiful jazz singer. We always showed each other the music that we were working on but never collaborated. I happened to ask her to sing a part for a song that still has yet to be released and probably will never be. However, working with her even that little bit made me realize that we could potentially make something special if we tried working with each other more often. So I had her improvise on my favorite beat I had recently made. I told her not to worry about lyrical content, to just feel it out and that I would edit my favorite parts together. This worked out super well. Making this first song, which became “Weightless,” really gave me the idea to make it a whole project with that same style and tone.
Moon Man & Benjamin is another music project you’re apart of. Do you approach these sounds differently from your own?
Yea Moon Man & Benjamin is a project that started in High School with my best friend Ayani as I mentioned before. We approach it in our own weird slightly dysfunctional way. He is an amazing musician in addition to a producer whereas I am more of a producer and not as much of a musician. So our songs usually start with a groove that I start and then before it gets too far along I pass it over to him to lay some awesome melodic content and then I hop back on and edit my favorite parts of what he did and consolidate it a bit. We each have skills that the other is not as good at so it balances out. We have been working remotely because he still lives in San Francisco while I do not. So our progress has been slow but we have slowly but surely been finishing an album over the past 4 years or so… We are taking our time, being dumb perfectionists because it has already taken this long and we would rather it be exactly the way we want and super late than not right and on time.
On top of music, you’re also into photography. What do you like about photography that you don’t get from making music?
My mom is a photographer and I grew up helping her out on photo shoots now and again. Because of this, I think it never really appealed to me until college when I picked up a film camera. It grew from a hobby to a networking strategy and most importantly it gave me an artistic outlet to explore that gave my mind and ears a break from music. I am able to spend a day walking around with my camera and kind of decompressing from the stress of trying to stay super productive with my music projects while also feeling productive and happy about how I spent my time. I also think having a visual creative outlet is important to people who work solely with music or audio. Even if you keep all your visual creations to yourself I think it helps with your creativity in general, although I can’t speak for everyone. I started using only my own photography for album artwork. I realized that the mood or style of my photos usually matches with my music and trying to connect the two might help people understand the vibe of the music a little better.
I know you just put out an EP, are you we going to be expecting more music from you anytime soon?
Absolutely. After giving the EP some time to circulate I will start releasing singles every couple weeks like I have been doing most of this year. My productivity has greatly increased this year. I am also trying to work on another vocal project with some of my favorite vocalists that I have worked with over the years. So that is in the works but has yet to really take shape.
Let’s finish off the interview by going deep into a few of your songs. What inspired 75°?
75 degrees was inspired by springtime in Chicago. Those first warm days when it’s just perfect out where it’s not too hot yet but not cold anymore either. And that’s really about it. I was really going for a minimal track that fit the feeling perfectly without any extra stuff. I think that’s what makes it one of my favorite songs is how minimal it is. I went through a big minimal phase which I have kind of started to move away from. But I don’t want to leave it completely. Minimalist done well is always my favorite and is definitely some of the most difficult to make in my opinion.
And last but not least, how about impaala?
Impaala is definitely one of my less minimal songs. I kind of went all out on it trying to amp up the “cool” factor. I like songs that make me want to drive fast and this one definitely gave me that feeling so I tried to amplify that and also give it some fun textures. I wasn’t sure what to call it and my favorite picture that I had recently taken was of an Impala and I wanted to use that picture for the art so the name just kind of made sense.