Thursday, July 17, 2014

Square Zeros #23: Joey Farber (The Jeanies, Greasy Hearts, Joey Ghostly, Red Pop, The Enthusiasts)

The first time Jon and I met Joey Farber was a few years ago, when we were all playing in very different bands than we're in now. We'd teamed up for a show at a bar and art space in the Lower East Side called The Suffolk, which as far as I know isn't hosting music anymore.

Joey, who sings and plays guitar in The Jeanies and Greasy Hearts, was still in high school at the time, fronting a garage-blues project called The Enthusiasts, whose airtight musicianship and beyond-their-years shredding blew us away. During the show, Jon was talking to the bartender, who remarked on how talented the trio was.

"Yeah," Jon said, "and it's staggering that these guys are only 18."

At which point, the bartender, who'd been serving them High Lifes all night, froze up: "...What?"


That wasn't the only fast one Joey and his bandmates pulled on NYC bar staff. On more than one occasion, a set of fake Delaware IDs got the dudes past Jake Noodles, the former booker at Don Pedro in East Williamsburg.

"He would always be so grateful," Joey said. "Like, 'Wow, you guys come all the way out from Delaware to play here, that's so cool!' And were were just like, 'Yeah, you know, there's just, like, a tunnel that goes straight from Delaware into New York, it's no big deal.'"

Those anecdotes offer a good sketch of Joey's character as a musician — he's clever, rebellious, and ready to do anything for rock n roll. He grew up in a music-filled house in the Bronx, where he was reared on doo-wop, soul, and his dad's guitar playing (
the first song he learned was the Isleys' "Shout"). Later on, that bloomed into an affinity for power pop, Orbison-esque balladry, and a range of other stuff.

You can hear a lot of those influences in his compositions now. The Jeanies have a sweet, summery 70s pop feel that calls up some early Petty, while Greasy Hearts play an ass-shaking 12-bar garage rock with an MC5-like raucousness. Joey's knack for vocal harmonies, gnarly guitar hooks, and thoughtful verse-chorus changes come through in each.

Joey's a prolific and fearless experimenter — and that's true of even his earliest recording efforts. The first track he brought in was "Everybody's Been In Love But Me," which he describes as one of his first attempts at pop. Layers of winding vocal harmonies drive the song over a spare acoustic guitar. The changes in there are pretty intricate for a bedroom recording:

Now, lest you think Joey hasn't paid his punk dues like the rest of us, he did, and it shows on his next track, "Red Hands." In high school, Joey and some friends got inspired by the many side projects of Jay Reatard — in particular his forays into synth punk. Their response was Red Pop, a short-lived project that was so raw they got the curtain pulled on them at a guitar club recital.

And that brings us to The Enthusiasts, of Suffolk and Don Pedro infamy. At that point in his trajectory — late high school and early college — Joey was beginning to refine his guitar and vocal chops in a way that would, in retrospect, lay the groundwork for a lot of what he does in The Jeanies and Greasy Hearts now. The cut he brought us is "Shattered Conceptions," which he calls The Enthusiasts' attempt at psychedelia. Listen for the random sampling of baby cries about two-thirds of the way through. "I'm really proud of this song," he said, "but it's our psychedelic song on the album, so I thought it would be really cool to put a bunch of baby noises. It's really creepy and off-putting." We'll leave it to y'all to decide.

Thanks to Joey for coming on the show! He was kind enough to dump most of his early discography on us, which you'll be able to check out in the burgeoning Square Zeros Archive (get at us if you want to submit stuff too).

Check out The Jeanies TOMORROW, Friday July 18, at Pet Rescue in Bushwick. And peep this RAD NEW Greasy Hearts track that just dropped on King Pizza.


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