Review for The Revised Hierarchy Of Human Needs
Joe DeVita Interview 2/13/2015
JOE DEVITA IS LIVING HIS DREAMS // AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT
Joe DeVita was 1,800 miles from home when a five-car collision almost left him paralyzed in Durango, Col. In hindsight, he called it “one of the best things that ever happened to [him].”
DeVita, now a 36-year-old musician and guitar teacher in Birmingham, Ala., had been hitchhiking westward from New York, performing solo at venues all over the country. Moving from place to place, not every show was planned too far in advance.
“One time I was in a Wendy’s somewhere in Ohio, and a bunch of seniors were having their weekly meeting there,” DeVita said. “They asked me to play, so I did a weird half-hour gig in the middle of a Wendy’s. It was pretty hilarious.”
The accident stopped him in his tracks, and DeVita had two months in a Durango hospital to think about what had brought him there. Now he’s ready to add another album to his body of work, “Liquid Slumber”, including some of his most accessible and carefully-crafted music to date.
“The first couple of days I was laying in the hospital bed, they had these weird heated socks on my legs,” DeVita said. “They were constantly checking my circulation to see if I would walk again. . . Once you realize it could’ve been that much worse, it’s kind of a good kick in the butt.”
Recovering in the confines of a brace, he spent three or four hours a day practicing guitar in a park along Colorado’s Animas River. For the first time in a while, he let life come to him, and some of the people he met were just as exciting as life on the road.
“I ran into one of Steve Miller’s songwriting partners [Steve McCarty] there, who was walking his dog,” DeVita said. “He said ‘hey man are you a songwriter! Let me play you a song!’ And he sat down and played ‘Wild Mountain Honey,’ which he had written. His wife showed up and they started harmonizing.”
Before leaving New York to travel with his music, DeVita had felt he was in a rut. He was looking for something to reignite the love for music he had as a teenager.
“I had set up a groove with the local music scene and I was kind of getting burnt out,” DeVita said. “I had gotten to a point where music was paying the rent and putting food on the table, and it had started to feel more like a job. Which there’s nothing wrong with, but that youthful energy and enthusiasm wasn’t there as much. The whole hitchhiking thing, playing more or less anonymously . . . just got me back to what I love doing.”
DeVita said he realized the value of living out his dreams. It slowly became clear that his heart was in adventures, not repeating the same thing every Saturday night. When his legs were back in working order, he biked to Wyoming. From there, he hitchhiked to California where he took on music students and kept performing around the state.
“It made me realize humanity isn’t such a bad place,” DeVita said. “You meet wonderful people on the road.”
His love for teaching arose barely a year after he picked up the guitar at age 16, helping other beginners around his high school cafeteria table.
“Once I started, I would take my guitar with me to high school and I was always practicing on my lunch break,” DeVita said. “Over time people started coming over to me and asking me to show them things on the guitar.”
The music scene on Long Island was not particularly dynamic, especially for a teenager, but he latched on to whatever he could in terms of like-minded performers. Coffeehouse singers in the neighborhood were usually “very vanilla,” and DeVita couldn’t get into age-restricted venues that better suited his taste.
“At that time, as far as teenagers were concerned, there was only one club that catered to a teenage audience,” DeVita said. “That got shut down pretty quickly. People started to get scared with all those kids congregating.”
He was craving the feeling of performing, not for attention but for the satisfaction of sharing his music. He had seen his uncle perform when he was younger, and was awestruck by the connection he made with the audience.
“The way he delivered things really amazed me, and I felt a genuine emotion in the song,” DeVita said. “He brings out these feelings that you’re not quite able to articulate.”
After almost ten years of performing, he made his first album using only a Casio keyboard. His roommate had left the instrument in his apartment, and it was easier to record than his guitar.
“I found out that I could arrange all the parts, the strings were halfway decent, I could play the drum set on the actual keyboard,” DeVita. “It was the first opportunity I had to build all the parts from the ground out.”
Since then he’s incorporated everything from jazz to the avant garde into this music, always keeping the seed of his rock upbringing. On The Antihero, he dabbles in humor and comic book drama.
“I’m always curious about something,” DeVita said. “I’m always finding myself interested in things. I guess when you’ve been playing music for 20 years, you want to keep it fresh and challenge yourself as well. It’s really a goal to keep myself out of my comfort zone and see what I do.”
Now on “Liquid Slumber”, he incorporates an instrument that he’s used for years without mastering: his voice. He says it’s an equalizing tool, a sound that anyone can identify with, and he’s put a lot of effort into hitting the right pitches on the new songs.
“For a while there I could have called myself completely tone-deaf,” DeVita said. “I really had to work my butt off to get to this point, and I have to work even harder to get where I want to be.”
DeVita flexes his 2-3 hour daily vocal practice on the promo track “Ocean Song,” an arena rocker compressed into something intimate and inviting. “Alex McKinley” is a Beatles-style ballad, weaving a tale of a mysterious disappearance in a mournful, eulogizing melody.
“I try to make it so anyone can listen and pick something out that they like,” DeVita said. “I try to put a lot of ear candy on there.”
A self-labeled perfectionist, DeVita cut himself off from tweaking and editing and called it finished, knowing he would polish it forever if he could. He’s anxiously waiting to hear what other people think of it.
“I haven’t listened to it at all,” DeVita said. “I left the room when I played it for my fiancée. I trust her to tell me if I need to throw it out and start over.”
In the meantime, DeVita still finds joy in teaching, with pupils from five years old to their fifties, and with origins from Pakistan and Brazil to native Alabamians. Whatever direction his music goes next, he knows the factors that will be constant.
“Life is going to happen to you regardless,” DeVita said. “It really depends how you react to it.”
“Liquid Slumber” is available March 15, and song previews and pre-orders are up now at joedevita.com
Liquid Slumber Review 1/12/2015
It’s not too often you’ll find me speechless not quite knowing how to describe what I’m hearing…forgive me if I stumble a bit here in this review for Joe DeVita’s latest album, Liquid Slumber…
It starts with beautiful, haunting guitar work that literally gave me chills. From there…it’s a series of interesting choices, some of which worked for me instantly, some grew on me, some I’m still not sure worked even now after several listens. The opening track “By The Water,” for instance…right near the beginning there’s one quick bar of guitar-rock nestled in there…which is an indication of course of where this track will grow and swell to, but I didn’t feel that part fit into the beginning at all…just that one moment I felt shouldn’t be there for a preview; that ending should hit with the impact of its massive sound through the journey we’ve taken to get there. It sounds nit-picky I know, but this of course, is how it goes sometimes when you’re reviewing music on a critical-level; and if I’m hearing something it’s fairly safe to assume that lots of others are as well.
Aside from that…this acoustically-driven track is equal parts of sweet & haunting. I’m not honestly sure if I was sold on DeVita’s vocal tones as a singer – but I can certainly say that the song he’s written here is a subtle-gem of a track. It sounds isolated…small…lonely…and lyrically reflects this with a tear-jerking melody to go along with tones of hope. I was just told by the longest standing girlfriend I had of some five total years off and on, before I met my wife of ten years; that she’s packing up and moving to England. I don’t know what it is about this extraordinary combination of the information I’ve just taken in along with the emotionally sullen tones of “By The Water,” but Joe’s already got me listening in close. Searching for hidden applicable meanings I suppose…music is always about timing. And it certainly attaches to memory and your own personal experiences…watch out… This is a heartfelt opening and a really good song to hear at a time when I felt like I needed it most, and the more I heard it the more I was able to appreciate the way Joe had approached it through the vocals.
“Ocean Song” is where he also snapped me back to ‘regular’ life and out of my over-emotional states. It starts out with loud crashing guitars coming right at you in this first-promised single from DeVita’s new album. It’s big and has a groove that certainly catches on quick, with crunchy guitars gnashing away behind and in front of a sparklingly toned lead soloing like there won’t be a tomorrow. The hypnotic element of DeVita’s voice continue to grow on a listener, and by the end this whole song sounds like a heavy twist on your transistor radio in a perfect ending to a big, big song like this. Massive contrast here between this designated-single and the subtly-sweet opening track!
Returning to the soft-side, the next track “Alex McKinley” is a piano-driven track with an acoustic guitar backing…a flow that has a similar nature to something like “Going To California,” or the lighter side of Led Zeppelin…it has a classic nature to the sound. I mean, it could be something like “Tangerine” or something…but that essence is unmistakably there. I think this proved to be the biggest challenge for DeVita on a vocal level…spots where he hits it perfect, others not so much, but again another well-written song.
Into the final half of this 6-song adventure, DeVita takes us into the ocean once again with “At Sea.” There’s a great atmospheric mix to this track…almost the opposite of the isolated beginning. Much like the subject itself, this song sounds completely wide-open. There’s a dramatic element to this track, and towards the two-and-a-half minute mark features one of the real highlight moments from Liquid Slumber. Listening to the bittersweet lyrics, it’s an interesting tale that offers a unique take and perspective of life & death and how we feel about it while we’re busy living.
Wrapping it up is the airy & lightness of “Aurora;” a track that sounds like it was recorded amongst the clouds before descending back to Earth for the piano-driven final track “Radiogram.” I appreciate the emotion that Joe puts into the songs he writes; he clearly writes from the heart and that translates easily to a listening ear. I also dig the innovation in this last track as Joe finds a way to hang in until the final bell is rung here on Liquid Slumber, delivering solidly between the loud and the quiet in “Radiogram.” There’s definitely moments on this album with authentic tone and emotion that are unmistakable…and those are the parts you can’t teach a person. In time…the cracks in this material will sort through themselves as Joe continues on to build on his strengths and true voice as a singer/songwriter.
For People Who Like Reviews And Such
Joe DeVita Interview & Antihero Album Review
On March 15, 2013, Joe's forthcoming album "The Antihero" was reviewed on JP's Music Blog. You can read it here
One of the greatest things about DeVita’s music is his ability to take chances with his music. The “Antihero Theme Song” is a funk-drench instrumental that has some nice guitar work flowing through it. The album draws similarities to Frank Zappa’s “Joe’s Garage” as DeVita proceeds to tell his story, but the beats and guitar work in “Open Mic Night” and “Infiltrating Snuff Boy’s Chicken House” become the bigger focus of the album. His progressive jazz/rock side some through on the 11-minute “The Populace Takes Over,” before closing the album with more great music.
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Absolute Punk Interview
On March 13. 2013, Joe DeVita was interviewed on Absolute Punk.Net . You can read it here.
1. How did you get your band name?
It is my birthname. I know, not that original...
2. How did this band get started?
I used to lead Jazz groups, trios, quartets, etc. I spent quite a bit of time learning how to arrange different instruments by using composition programs like Finale. Eventually I got to a point where I was using sequencing programs and gaining a better understanding of them. I gradually shifted from leading groups to producing music via programs. I didn't really intend to use computer composition as my main method for my music to get across to people. However, those who heard what I was doing seemed to like it. That encouraged me to carry on exploring the potential of computer based music. In retrospect, it was a natural progression and certainly, a less stressful one.
3. What bands are you influenced by?
I'll try to keep this list short as there are so many groups that I've learned something of value from. The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Swans, Janes Addiction, Fugazi, The Grateful Dead, The Beastie Boys, the last Miles Davis Quintet, John Coltrane group w/ Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, Sonny Sharrock, Pink Floyd, Portishead, Radiohead, The Slits, Teenage Jesus, Sly and the Family Stone, Funkadelic, Talking Heads, James Brown, Bjork, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Beck, Squarepusher, Radiohead, The Meters, MMW, Smashing Pumpkins, The Flaming Lips, The Pixies, The Bad Brains, Daniel Johnston.
4. If you could tour with any bands, past or present, who would they be and why?
Probably Fugazi, if they ever got back together. I respect how they operated. If I think of the DIY mentality, Fugazi is at the top of the list.
5. Best food to eat on tour?
I wouldn't say it's the best food so much as the most cost effective. As much as I hate McDonald's, their dollar menu has saved me more than once while on the road.
6. Why should people listen to your band?
I don't have the foggiest why anyone should listen to what I am doing.
7. If you could be any athlete, which athlete would you switch places with?
I don't know anything about sports. I'd like to keep it that way.
8. If you won a Grammy, who would you thank?
Probably my mom. She's alright..
9. If you could change something about the music industry, what would it be?
At this point in my life and creative endeavors, I don't take the mainstream music industry into consideration. It will do what it has always done, whether their formula will continue to work is anyones guess.
10. Memorable tour experience?
Playing an impromtu concert for a bunch of senior citizens in a Wendy's in Ohio.
11. What does AP.net mean to you?
I am always on the hunt for new and interesting sounds. AP has been good in pointing my toward some groups I wouldn't have known about otherwise.
12. What is your favorite song to play?
Lately, Lazy Flies by Beck. The line," The skin of a robot vibrates with pleasure" puts a smile on my face.
13. What is your vacation spot of choice?
I kinda like Kansas, just fields forever..
14. What music reminds you of your childhood?
15. If you could have any super power, what would it be? Why?
The power to make all adult occupants of this known universe have an orgasm simultaneously by snapping my fingers. No one gets hurt.
16. Any pre-show superstitions or rituals?
Sometimes I meditate.
17. What is something that most fans don't know about you?
I hate talking about myself.
18. What is your assessment of the current state of radio?
Do you think it's a place where your band could flourish? I would listen to the radio when I lived in San Francisco. They had a great station that played everything from Punk Rock to Hip Hop. I forget the name of it but when I did listen to the radio I listened to that station. I can't really tell you about the current state of radio because that and my television generally stay unplugged. As far as me thriving on major radio in the states is concerned, I would find that very doubtful. My music is usually played on radio in Europe, that just seems to be the audience that has been more exposed to my music. If I had any criticism for radio in the states, I would say that the programming is a bit shallow. I don't see why a station cannot have an hour dedicated to a different style of music. Perhaps they are taking the path of least resistence by playing what they think everyone enjoys. Unfortunately, everyone get short changed by playing and listening to the same ten bands over and over.
19. What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like reading. If I'm temporarily burnt out on making music I'll try another creative medium, usually something I'm horrible at but enjoy doing. I try to meditate daily and go walking around the area in which I live.
20. What kind of hidden talents do you have?
The beauty about having a hidden talent is that when the talent is presented, people are dumbfounded. That being said, I'd like to keep my hidden talents to myself until further notice.
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