Pittsburgh's independent music source
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Live & Direct: Joe P

Joe P is a New Jersey musician who was in a band until the pandemic sent them on their separate ways. During that time, he started putting his own songs online where they began to really take off. Joe P has a new record and a show at Club Cafe tonight. He joined us on Monday, Feb. 19 for Live & Direct session with WYEP's Joey Spehar.

Set list:
Color TV
Don't Wanna Love You
Birthday Baby
Off My Mind

Interviewer: Joey Spehar
Engineers: Thomas Cipollone, Tom Hurley

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Joey Spehar: It's Joe P Live and Direct here at WYEP today. That song is “Color TV.” Joe, I think I read that you like to open shows with that one.

Joe P.: Yeah I do.

Spehar: I think it's a good choice. But what draws you to introducing yourself in that way?

Joe P.: I like it a lot from a life perspective. It's really nice that, you know, because the instrumentation of the recording in the live kind of way we do it is, like, I play the guitar like one, two, three, four, and then the band plays the same thing, but louder, and it goes back and forth. So it's a really good kind of alarm clock in this, in a nice way to kind of get people like, ‘Oh, okay.’ You know, especially if you're opening or something to get people's attention. You kind of go from 0 to 100 over and over again and then you kind of dig into the song itself.

But it's a nice kind of wake-up call. So I'm really into that. And just the song overall is a good, like, rounded out, well-rounded version of kind of like what I'm trying to do. So I like it.

Spehar: Yeah, I think it works well. So you're a Jersey guy? And from what I can gather, being a Jersey guy in many ways is like being a Pittsburgh guy, which I can relate to. It's like there's almost this expectation of how you should be, what kind of music you should make, what kind of music you should like, what kind of beer you should drink. Now, sometimes I find that box to be a little confining, but also I find a little comfort there, too. Do you ever think about these sorts of things, Joe?

Joe P.: That's a great way to put it. I never thought of that. I mean, yeah, after traveling around the country and going to each city and each state or whatever, everyone has a thing about New Jersey, and it's just everyone makes fun of it. And it's really funny because I'm like, ‘I grew up in North Jersey where it's really nice.’ It's really beautiful and everything, and the food's amazing.

And, you know, you're so close to New York City that you're right there. You're right next to the action.

So I never understood, like, the jokes about New Jersey being like the armpit of America and all those things. And then you start, like, going towards, like Newark Airport where it's like that area. And I'm like, so now I understand because now that I've traveled enough and I've flown enough, every time I come home, I'm happy to be home. But I get in the car and I drive home and I get in the parkway and you're like, ‘Oh, this is what everyone sees when they land. We're about to leave the place. It's just wasteland, just just smokestacks and kind of insane things.’ So I get it. It's one of those things where I'm like, cool, keep making fun of it. Like, I'm going to keep living there, I love it.

Spehar: So what's the most non-Jersey thing about you?

Joe P.: Non-Jersey thing about me? That's tricky. I don't like Bon Jovi.

Spehar: Me too.

Joe P.: I love Bruce Springsteen, but I don't like Bon Jovi. Yeah. And I was hesitant with Springsteen because, like, I just didn't grow up in that area of New Jersey where it's like Asbury Park, the whole beach scene, that whole thing was like his world. He's like, you know, everything there. Being from North Jersey, having parents that didn't listen to him, I just never got it. Because when you're a kid, I listen to ACDC, Led Zeppelin and Hendrix, all that stuff because they're like superheroes to a five year old. And it’s just as cool to a 55 year old because it's Jimi Hendrix, you know?

But Bruce, you have to mature a certain amount to get it. And because he doesn't have that thing when you're little that you could listen to and understand because he's not really singing in a way that makes you want to sing that way. He's not playing guitar in a way that makes you want to play guitar that way, or, you know, so but then the songwriting got me like, I just kind of like I moved to that area and you're forced to listen to him, and, I got it. I was like, ‘Oh, I get why people feel this, you know?’ And I went to a concert and it was like my 4.5 hours, but it was mind blowing.

Spehar: Yeah. Look, I've been a hater for a long time, but I think you may have just opened up.

Okay, so a lot of people have been talking about how you used to be in a band, right? You started this band where you're in, what, eighth grade?

Joe P.: Yeah, something like that.

Spehar: I think a lot of things change for a lot of people. You ended up putting out music on your own for the first time. And I imagine there's lots of different feelings surrounding all of that for you. Was it daunting or was it more of a relief like, ‘Hey, that was cool, but now I can try something different?’

Joe P.: Yeah. It was like, you envisioned something your whole life, and then when it goes away, it was really interesting because it was the first time I ever experienced something where I was like, ‘Oh, no, like you, it can all be very different than what you planned. Things can go completely the opposite way.’

So the day it ended, I was kind of like, ‘Oh no, like, this is the only thing I had put in my brain as an idea for my life. What do I do now?’ And the answer was, ‘Just keep doing the thing you were doing already.’ Nothing changed, but everything changes. The way I kind of think of it as like everyone was gone in the band. So I would be working on a song and turn around, spin around in the chair, like, ‘What do you guys think?’ And no one's there. So it was a little more like, oh, but I was still that guy doing the same thing of spinning around in the chair and, you know, wanting that feedback.

So I was like, well, I'm still doing the thing I was doing in that band. I guess if I just keep doing that, nothing really can change. And if anything, it helped because with the band I was really obsessed with. I mean, I love bands like to The Day I Die, I love The Pixies. I will always love them more than Bruce Springsteen, just at the sheer thing of that it's so much cooler. I love that they only last like five or six years. I just think it's cool, you know? It's once in a lifetime.

But I wanted that so bad that I would sacrifice the art, I think, to just be cool. Is the bassist, like, happy and playing? I want him to record his part, even though on the demo, I played it fine. I want him to play because I want to be in this band and I wanted to include people and things. And it got to a point, though, where it was almost like they were kind of like, ‘We know you can just play the bass’ like, so it's kind of weird. It creates a weird thing when they're like, ‘Why do you want me to replay this? If you already did it on the demo, the way you hear it, and we all agree it's good.’

So it's weird when you're friends with someone and since you're a little kid and then it becomes like weird personal adult type conversations and the one thing about starting a band when you're super young and in high school, like grade school, is because you have you have memories together. So as you go into your 20s or whatever your adulthood, you meet new people and they don't know that about you. So you can be anyone you want. They respect you for who you are. Whereas if you try to do something, that guy goes, ‘I know you in fifth grade, man. Like, don't even try.’ Which is good, but also can come with a kind of bad side to where you're like, well, you gotta we gotta move. You know, grow up here.

Spehar: Yeah, it hits you in a good spot. I mean, at least you weren't the drummer. And then what do you do? You know what I'm saying? So, speaking of little kids, I have a 12 year old daughter at home, and she mentioned something recently, which I've known for a long time, but I think it's a new discovery for her is that sometimes songs that sound fun are actually kind of sad. And I think that's something that you do really well.

Joe P.: Thank you, I think.

Spehar: But how do you get to that point?

Joe P.: I think because it's true, man. Like the hardest thing to do is write a song about dancing all night in the club. As much as we all make fun of pop songs and that, you know, the Taylor Swift thing or something, it's like, I get it, though, why people love it so much. And I try to sit down and write a four chord song, Ed Sheeran-like pop song. It's really hard because you have to really find the perfect combinations of things, whereas I just find it a little easier and I like and enjoy it a little more to write a song that might have a dance groove. It might have an upbeat or uptempo thing happening. But if you look a little closer at the lyrics, you're like, ‘Oh, if you slowed that down to a folk song, that would be devastating.’

And so, I don't know, I've always just kind of I never thought about anything I've ever written. I've never sat down and said, ‘I want to write a song about this,’ which I think a lot of people do. And, you know, like the Nashville country scene, you get a lot of that, like five guys sit in a circle with guitars and they come up with song titles. I remember being a part of that one, and I was like, ‘Whoa, that's kind of strange.’ And then they're like, ‘Yeah, so here's the title. It's this.’ And then you write backwards around it and I'm like, this is a bit car commercial. It's a bit weird, I get it. And again, I respect it because it is an art in itself, but I like it a little more from a standpoint of like a folk song where it's like, ‘Man, I believe this guy — like a Springsteen thing.’

You really believe what he's saying in those songs and like Nebraska or something. And he's saying the same things in other things that aren't acoustic, and it's just now there's an electric and there's ‘Born in the USA,’ which is like the most famous example of he's saying one thing and the president thought it was a totally different thing and use it as a campaign thing, you know. So I think all you got to do is put a beat to something and you can get away with kind of anything. Yeah, it's great.

Spehar: I don't know if it's true, but I think I heard somewhere that's what Spielberg does. He starts with the poster, you know, everything else. Just fill in the blank.

Joe P.: It's cool. It works. It's a good template.

Spehar: Yeah. It's tough. It's Joe P LIve and Direct with WYEP this afternoon. Joe P and his band playing at Club Cafe tonight. We just heard a couple of songs, ‘Don't Wanna Love You’ and ‘Bertha Baby.’ Now if you are just hearing Joe P and his music for the very first time, we got this kind of like Jeff Buckley singing with Nick Drake kind of vibe going on here today, which is really cool. But your band rocks.

So, Joe, now that we've been talking a little bit, I gotta say, my man, you are a freak. And the best way I got it is I. And the reason I say that is because I watched your movie. So you got this little short film it's called ‘If We Run.’ And is this your idea or someone put you up to this?

Joe P.: This was like an idea, but it's also like a lack of wanting to put effort into making music videos, because when you play music, you just have to make music videos. You just do this thing where you all of a sudden you get three minutes, four minutes, you're lip syncing. But then it's usually your lip syncing in like a cool warehouse thing or something. And then there's like one other idea worked in with it that is cool and ridiculous or something, but the movie thing was like originally it was really going to be more like no movie, just like have scenes playing out around this live thing.

It was all about the live music in the center of this, like house, and then like a scene would play out after each song. It kind of was like that, but it turned into more of this, it's kind of funny, but it's kind of like a musical. Like if you really think about it, it's just a musical because it, you know, we incorporated the songs into the movie more so than the other way around of incorporating the scenes into the music. So it was like the girl runs into the house in the opening scene, and I'm playing on like a Tonight Show that's playing on the TV. But in order to do that, we had to go like, shoot that, just to play it on a little tiny TV. It's like it was a lot of work for like a funny, tiny little asset to throw in on a TV. We just wanted to have fun.

Spehar: I mean, I'm a guy who grew up without cable, so I have no connection to music videos, and I'm like, I turned 40 recently, so I've lived through the heyday of it. Yeah, but they don't mean anything to me.

Joe P.: Wow. What was the first music video you saw?

Spehar: Probably the first I can remember is like, Weird Al's Nirvana parody video. Honestly.

Joe P.: That's cool. You were seeing a parody of a video. Oh my God, yeah.

Spehar: So like this, this film concept I really appreciated. I think it's a really interesting way to visualize the music now, if without giving too much away. I will say that this movie is scary, like it is a slasher film with music. Have you always been like a horror movie guy?

Joe P.: I despise horror movies. I'm terrified. I don't want to watch any horror movies. I am afraid of all that stuff. I don't know why. It's like people are always growing up. That was, you know, when you're in like middle school, high school. I'd be like, I don't want to date. I'm more afraid than anyone here, you know, and I and it sticks with me. Like if I see something, I'm not the kind of person who's like, ‘Well, that was just a movie.’ It's like, ‘I'm not going to sleep for a week now.’ I'm super sensitive to that stuff. So this is a way of almost facing the fear because like, now I know kind of how they do certain things. I'm like, ‘Oh, that was like, when the thing goes through the thing, it's like, oh, that was a cantaloupe.’

Like we went out, bought a cantaloupe and put a bald cap on it. And that's how you do that, you know? So it was fun to almost do that as, like a conquering the fear thing. But also there's no other genre that lends itself to, like, rock ‘n’ roll. That's the other thing you can't do, like a Sci-Fi thing. It gets a little too weird.

Spehar: Yeah, unless you're the Flaming Lips, right?

Joe P.: Then it's cool. But there's something about the horror thing that I was like, it's the easiest of, like things to shoot also like to achieve, like a cinematic thing, you know what I mean? You don't need, like, a whole scene and a buildup of like, well, what was the backstory of that girl? It's like, it doesn't really matter. She's running in the woods and that she's gone. So I think it's a little easier to get quick and done, like, you know, move on to the next thing.

Spehar: And you got a little star power in there because I was watching, I was like, ‘Who is this guy? I've seen him before.’ Yeah. I hadn't seen him before, but I know his dad's work very well. We're talking about Michael Gandolfini.

Joe P.: Yeah. My friend, he was a fan of the music during the pandemic. He messaged me and and then we just kind of, you know, striked up a friendship. And from that, I just was like, I didn't ask him to be in a video and that'd be cool, I guess. You know, it's cool. They have a music video where there's a real actor in it.

You know, I love seeing those, rather than just the lead singer doing it. It's usually not that good, but it's cool because it's the singer. But I was like, ‘I'd rather not act and have someone else do it.’ He's good at acting. So I was like, ‘Let's do it.’ But like I was saying earlier, before we did this, nothing was long enough. Nothing was long enough to make it worth it. Like a three minute video of me lip syncing and then him doing something. It's like, I don't want to make him come out here to do that. So let's make it 30 minutes.

And it ended up being like we told him we only needed him for, like, ‘We're going to need you for a few hours one day, and you're going to be the first to get killed off so you can leave.’ He's like, ‘All right.’ He looked at the script, he looked like the plan. And he called us like me and Tony, and he was like, ‘I think it's going to take longer.’ And we're like, ‘All right.’ He's like, is that cool? I'm like, if you're cool with that, you know? And he ended up staying for like three days and came back for the reshoot days just to like, hold lights and help out with stuff that he doesn't need to be doing at all. So he just was having so much fun. He's like, ‘This is more fun than doing like a big movie because you get to do whatever you want. You're not like being told what to do every second, you know?’

Spehar: So it was fun. And he probably thought it was so cool hanging out with you guys.

Joe P.: Yeah, it was so cool. It's so cool.

Spehar: So obviously your songs are in that movie, but also you scored the rest of it gold. All the sounds we're hearing come from Joe. Is that something you've done before or something you want to continue to do?

Joe P.: I like doing it. It was so much fun, but it was just out of necessity of like, I don't want to pay anyone to do this. And I have the resources to like, figure out that this is a scary part. I have a synthesizer. Let's see what I can do. It's no different than kind of like a song in a weird way. The problem was that we were on tour, so it would be like, right now we just started this tour. The movie got done like two weeks before, let's say, and it's like, now we're in the van. And I was doing all this in the van. We were doing all the mix revisions in the van. So we're watching a thing on a phone that we shot on like a gazillion dollar camera and all this stuff. I'm like me and Tony, the director who came up with the whole thing. I'm like, we signed off on stuff, sitting in like a Ford Sprinter van being like, sounds good enough, man. Like there's nothing we can do. We're kind of we're in the middle of, you know, Utah.

Spehar: Work from home is still work.

Joe P.: That's it.

Spehar: Yeah, yeah. So check that out when you get a chance. Carve out a half an hour, watch the movie, enjoy the songs. It was really, really something else. My coworkers are tired of hearing me talk about that today. But playing live with his band at Club Cafe tonight. You want to send us off with one more song? Let's do it.