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DIY songwriter SoyJoy uses genre as expression

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Juniper Lee, singer-songwriter behind Soyjoy — Courtesy photo
Juniper Lee, singer-songwriter behind Soyjoy — Courtesy photo

Juniper Lee, the singer songwriter behind SoyJoy, is selling their newest album's cassette tapes over Instagram, managing the labor with the help of friends instead of a record label.

Image courtesy of the artist  

Titled Not in Service, it features distinctive, colorful, and calming guitar chords, is in the indie folk rock realm. SoyJoy's full discography encompasses a wider variety of genres, including electronic and rougher folk.

Characterizing their style as "a little bit all over the place," Lee says they're comfortable with the mix. "My music is mostly a means to express my different facets. I really like experimenting, and I don't like being bound by genre. I like using genre to express myself."

Lee started playing guitar when they were young and their mom had them pick an instrument. "I picked the guitar after watching School of Rock when I was 5," Lee said.

They got bored of playing other people's songs when they were 12, and starting coming up with their own melodies. In high school, they sang in choir and held jams with friends. When they were 19, they made a Bandcamp for SoyJoy.

The name "SoyJoy" is a reclamation of the term "soyboy," a slur used to insult male femininity in some online spaces. Lee says the reclamation includes the gendered part of the term.

"I wanted to twist that and kind of mock that, reclaim that," Lee said. "Soy is a big part of Korean culture and cuisine, and food is really sacred and medicinal to people around the world. I wanted to find the joy in soy and remind people of something wonderful."

COVID hit shortly after they created the Bandcamp, so they weren't able to play shows, but they have been playing more gigs since summer 2022. They met Freddie Lee Toyoda, an Enby Party organizer and active member of Vancouver's music scene. The two bonded over shared identities and will be playing together for the PNW tour.

"We're both Nonbinary, Trans, and mixed Korean, so we had an instant bond, and we collaborate really well together," Lee said.

Lee says Vancouver's gentrification has made it hard for the music scene to thrive. They and other artists, organizers, and listeners are working to keep it alive.

"Everyone's working so many jobs and really broke but still coming out to shows and doing their best to support the artists," Lee said. "There's a lot of systemic barriers, like racism and transphobia, that make it difficult for a lot of musicians impacted by those ... to be able to create and share their art in the scene up here."

The folk artist of many genres has visited Seattle from Vancouver in the past to play at Enby Party — a yearly music and art show focused on Nonbinary artists — and will be visiting again for a tour of the PNW (starting in Vancouver) alongside Freddie Lee Toyoda. In Washington, they'll make stops at Olympia, Seattle, Tacoma and Bellingham, starting Sept. 15.

Lee hopes people will come out to see them. "I hope there will be a lot of cultural exchange," Lee said.

As for after the tour, they say they're going with whatever happens. They hope their music will bring people together.

"I just hope that my music can give people a lot of food for thought," Lee said. "I want to show and remind people that you can just make art on your own."

Lee can be found on Instagram @soyjoymusic, where they have a link to their new album, Bandcamp, Patreon, and Spotify. They will be playing in Seattle on Sept. 16.