A band whose music exists somewhere between dream pop, shoegaze, indie rock, and prog, Jo Passed balance languid melodies and blissed-out vocals against guitar figures that are by turns artful and aggressively physical. The Vancouver-based group was formed by guitarist and songwriter Jo Hirabayashi in 2015, originally as a two-man recording project with drummer Mac Lawrie; this edition of the group produced two EPs in 2016. After a sojourn in Montreal, the band expanded to a quartet with the addition of guitarist Bella Bébé and bassist Megan-Magdalena Bourne.
Following extensive North American touring, the group landed a deal with the respected American indie label Sub Pop and released their debut album, Their Prime, in May 2018. Self-described “freaky music weirdo” Joseph Hirabayashi had been making music on the independent music scene in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada since he was a teenager, first with an experimental punk project, SSRIs, and later with the angular psych-prog combo Spring. After Spring split up in July 2015, he immediately began making music on his own, recruiting longtime friend Mac Lawrie to play drums. Hirabayashi named his new project Jo Passed, which was also an alias he used in Spring; the name was a play on the name of jazz guitarist Joe Pass, as well as referring “passed,” a slang phrase among Hirabayashi’s friends meaning tired or burned out.
The first Jo Passed recording, a five-song EP called Out, appeared in January 2016, and was recorded and produced by Hirabayashi using his own gear in a variety of spaces. By the time Out arrived, the band had pulled up stakes and moved to Montreal. There the group provisionally expanded to a quartet for touring, playing up and down the East Coast of North America. By the end of 2016 (and after the release of a second EP, 2016’s Up), the band returned to Vancouver, and Hirabayashi added multiinstrumentalist Bella Bébé (who had played on Up) to the band, with her exploratory synth work and guitar playing giving him a valuable foil. Megan-Magdalena Bourne, a multimedia artist who had helped Jo Passed with a video project, fell in with the group and became their bassist, solidifying their first definitive lineup.
As live work and positive press helped spread the word about Jo Passed, they were scouted by representatives of Sub Pop Records, and in February 2018 the band announced they’d signed an international recording deal with Sub Pop (Royal Mountain would handle Jo Passed’s releases in Canada). Their debut album, Their Prime, was released in May 2018; taken from sessions recorded in 2016 and 2017, for the album, bassist Spencer Hargreaves and drummer Daniel Ruiz played on the majority of the tracks.