The band's quality control resulted in some of the best songs of their career on Million Dollars, including the advance single "Think I'm Still in Love With You," whose massive guitar riff, irresistible refrain and not-as-sentimental-as-you-think lyric make it arguably Joyce Manor's greatest pop song to date. And not only is the song reminiscent of any number of '90s alt-radio classics, it's got a Buzz Clip-worthy video to match: a funny, densely plotted and visually imaginative clip helmed by Christopher Good (Mitski, Perfume Genius), which wouldn't be out of place on the Director's Label DVDs for MTV auteurs Michel Gondry or Spike Jonze. (For their part, Joyce acknowledge Good's genius but actually prefer the less-ambitious, Ebert-starring and karaoke-styled lyric video for the set's title track. "I don’t give a fuck about music videos," Johnson admits. "I had to fucking act. I hated it.")
And while the set resists easy narratives for the Internet to consume, it does throw the social mediaverse one pretty meaty track to chew on: "Friends We Met Online," which might be the first (mostly) straight-faced ode to web culture to appear on a major rock record. ("You and I are members of the same online community/ I know that it sounds kinda lame when said out loud," the song begins, amid chugging guitar and double-claps.) "I’m proud of it, because I really hate the Internet," Johnson explains. "But I think it’s difficult to try to write a song that talks about something positive about the Internet, where it helps some people be less lonely." In typical Joyce fashion, though, "Online" features a late-song twist, with Johnson asking "How can we mis-remember/ Such sad, horrible times?"
"I think that’s me just trying to be like, 'Look, I get it. The Internet, it sucks,'" he acknowledges with a laugh.
"Friends" was one of several songs from Million Dollars that Johnson originally wrote in an email collaboration with Rory Phillips, former frontman for '90s Texas ska-punks The Impossibles. The project was originally meant to result in a seven-inch release outside of Joyce Manor, until the frontman decided he wanted to preserve the sanctity of only releasing material through his band. "I didn’t want to do a fucking solo record, I didn’t feel like I was being creatively stifled in my band -- in which I am the songwriter," he says. "I don’t do projects, I have never done it -- anything musically outside of Joyce Manor. It’s already my fucking thing."
Even if he doesn't record outside of Joyce Manor, it's still easy to see Johnson following in the footsteps of pop-punk predecessors like Mitch Allan of SR-71 and John Feldmann of Goldfinger, and transitioning into a late-career gig as a songwriter to the stars. Johnson wonders if "Still in Love" could've been sold to Taylor Swift. ("She’d have recorded it, and been like, 'Yeah, I like this!' and then lost interest in it and not put it out," he guesses.) He even jokingly introduced a recent performance of the song on a Paste acoustic livestream as being specifically written for her. "I would totally do that," he says of the move. "I think if someone at Epitaph had heard [Million Dollars'] 'Big Lie' and been like, 'You know what, this song is amazing -- let’s see if, like, Carly Rae Jepsen wants to use it or something...'"
He never quite finishes that thought. "I love Joyce Manor, though," he stops himself. "I’m really precious about my songs, and I’m not extremely prolific [like] Ryan Adams." He also doubts whether he's quite top 40-ready yet: "I really don’t think I have that level of songwriting chops, honestly. I think I can write a memorable tune, but I don’t think I’m to the level of being able to compete with the big boys or whatever, the upper-echelon career songwriter people." He pauses. "But I dunno, I’d be open to give it a shot, and if there’s someone who wanted to pay me a bunch of money to do it…"
Until then, Johnson and Joyce Manor will most likely keep pumping out albums that capture fewer and fewer headlines while attracting more and more fans, keeping on the slow-but-steady progress they've made over a decade in the industry. "I’m so happy for 22 year olds to come to our shows and lose their fucking mind, because they work at the fucking Olive Garden and they don’t know what they’re doing with their life, forever," Johnson raves. "And I will continue to not know what I’m doing with my life, with them, till I’m fucking about to die."