Today’s Feature, January 24-25: The Bill Owens Five

January 24, 2008 at 11:19 pm (Today's Feature)

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To be living there on Foundry Street… it could be nice. Well, if the Bill Owens Five was performing at the corner bar, it would work out just fine. The Bill Owens Five, out of Hoboken, New Jersey has been setting trends in alternative rock for quite some time now, and it’s just a matter of time before their distinctive blend is topping iPod playlists everywhere.

While Bill Owens himself doesn’t actually exist in the band, the artists that do are currently busy supporting their debut album, the aptly named “Foundry Street.” The collection is a “melding of the solid roots of classic rock with improvisation that digs deep into the spirit of raunchy good times.” From songs like “Garden State,” “Bull,” and “Shot at Me,” the talented team knows how to bring a tune to life in ear grabbing fashion. Whether the heavy initiation of a drum beat or a gentle strum of guitar, each melody stands out as uniquely Bill Owens Five, “from hard rock, funk to experimental soundscapes, BO5 is always ready and willing to take chances all over the musical spectrum with the audience riding shotgun.”

Do yourself a favor and download the album. And of course, check out a show. The Bill Owens Five takes pride in providing their audiences with pure energy and a spontaneous performance; Definitely worth the price of admission. Learn more and read the answers to the XXQ’s.

XXQs: The Bill Owens Five

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How and when did you first from as a band?

Jamie: After I graduated college from the University of Connecticut in 2003 I moved back to NJ and started working. I immediately moved out of my parent’s house to Hoboken,NJ in an effort to be close to New York City. The first thing I wanted to do after I graduated was form a band. I found/met up with Steve around September of ’03 and we began playing music together. Steve worked with Adam and I believe Adam overheard Steve and I chatting about music on the phone and mentioned he played piano. Adam lived with Joe and we all met in at this studio in Jersey City where Steve and I used to rehearse at. We played “Down By the River” for like 2 hours, longer than any Neil Young version on record. Like Spinal Tap, our drummers spontaneously combust. Brian is our 19th drummer and I hope death doesn’t find him like the other unfortunate gentlemen. Actually, I do wish death on him. He’s marked by the beast.

Mike: November 5th, 1955.

Steve: I first played with Jamie in a friend’s basement and we jammed covers and worked on fragments of songs. I met Adam through a mutual job we had and he knew Joe. The original core of the band came together in a rehearsal studio in Jersey City where we jammed the song Down By The River for hours.

Brian: I found these guys on CraigsList…just like that Panamanian hooker I left decomposing in a bathtub in Alphabet City.

Joe: No grand evolution here. Just a group of guys that met through avenues outside of music. A couple of us went to college together. A couple of us worked together. A couple of us met online. I think most band’s origins are much less dramatic and historic than they’d hope them to be.

PEV: Growing up who were you listening to? Do you remember the first concert you attended?

Jamie: I always had great music playing in the house. My father is a drummer and used to be on the road with my Mom when they first got married. My Mom wasn’t in the band but boy could she play a mean set of spoons on her knee! Always had The Beatles, Billy Joel, The Band, Hendrix and other amazing artists playing in the house along with the voices of the 80s in full effect: Anita Baker, Hall and Oates, Gloria Estefan. Inspired by the slew of artists always playing in my home, I ventured out and listened to a ton of Zeppelin, AC/DC and Black Sabbath as a young teenager, rocking out and playing the shittiest versions of their material on my first guitar. Then as I made my way to high school, my friends and I would always get extremely stoned and play choice Phish shows and dance like teenage quasi-hippie idiots in my parents living room! The first concert I remember (wasn’t a concert but a show) was Masters of the Universe at Radio City Music Hall.

Mike: My mother, mostly

Adam: I listened a lot to my parents’ generation’s music – songs from the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s. My father was very into music, was, and still is, a musician himself, but really got me listening to the Beatles and the Beach Boys. My brother helped introduce me more specifically to bands like: Led Zeppelin, The Who, Cream, The Allman Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Stevie Ray Vaughn, AC/DC, and Boston.The first concert I attended was in 1987, the Rolling Stones played at Shea Stadium during their Steel Wheels Tour.

Steve: My parents were always playing classic rock growing up, specifically the Beatles and the Doors. I still love that music to this day.

Brian: Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden in October, 1993 on the River of Dreams tour. I was ten years old. I remember during the “Piano Man” encore, my parents wanted to leave early to catch a train. When they tapped me on the shoulder to go, I said, “you can go, but I’m staying.”

Joe: I listened to a lot of Classic Rock growing up. My pop loved the harder side, like ACDC, the Stones and Zeppelin. He was a rock drummer. My mom played a lot of singer/songwriter artists, such as CSN and James Taylor. I also got my love of the blues from her. BB, Buddy, Howlin’ Wolf, that’s from my mom.

PEV: Who is Bill Owens?

Jamie: A giant mythical being living underneath the ocean whose voice is the siren song of early Metallica records…

Mike: 40th Governor of Colorado.

Adam: He is nobody and all of us at the same time; the perfect representation of our style and sound: Intriguing, undefined by standard, and always evolving into a new body.

Steve: Some guy from Boonton, NJ.

Brian: Come to a gig and find out. He shows up every time we play.

Joe: Not many know it, but he’s a homeless man from Trenton that used to hit on all the elderly woman in town. He also played a mean harmonica, and was probably the most well-adjusted dude I every met.

PEV: Tell us about the first time you stepped on stage, live, to perform.

Jamie: I believe it was in pre-school singing “This Land Is Your Land”. My youthful career highlight was performing “Grease” in 5th grade. I played Danny Zuko. No body can beat my “Tell Me More”. Not even Travolta in his prime.

Mike: What about the time I stepped on stage to not perform? A much more entertaining story, indeed.

Adam: I played Axel F (from Beverly Hills Cop) on my Yamaha keyboard for my 5th grade talent show. Nervous as hell, thought it was the coolest synthesizer song ever (until I heard Karn Evil #9), and played possibly one of the best renditions of Axel F in the history of Axel F renditions…by a 9-year old anyway. I didn’t win because I was…well, a boy…with a crappy keyboard…playing Axel F. I should’ve gone with my well-rehearsed one-man dance group idea to Ice, Ice Baby. Vanilla was on top of the world that same week. Anyway, I think the janitor and his wife applauded (not my parents, by the way), and I’m pretty sure it prevented me from getting laid until the end of high school.

Steve: Probably in college sometime at an open mic, don’t really remember.

Brian: I was at my high school talent show and my band played an 11-minute version of “Sunshine of Your Love.” I remember that I couldn’t see anything past the lead singer and it was probably the quickest 11 minutes of my

Joe: Where the F*CK did my voice go! Get me the F*CK outa here!

PEV: What is the best part about performing live on stage?

Jamie: When I know I have a guitar signal after I set up my amp and pedalboard. Once I know the gear works and nothing crapped out during transit, it’s time to melt some faces.

Mike: Modern technology makes it so much easier.

Adam: I get to play music I wrote, or helped write, and explore what I believe to be good music with other musicians I believe in, and I know that people voluntarily paid money to see us do that. It’s empowering…it makes me believe I would trade up any job in the world to be on stage playing music. Steve: Def. the 30 minute bass solos.

Brian: Hey man…free drinks.

Joe: Seeing a connection. A lot of performers say it, but it’s very true. You get a real high seeing people connecting with what you’ve created. When it’s there, it’s better than that first hit of crack in the morning. Kidding! Nothing’s better than that first hit of crack in the morning.

PEV: Was there a certain moment in your life that you knew music was going to be a career for you?

Jamie: We are not there yet but hopefully the next time we talk we will be knee deep in booze, drugs and women with a bunch of circus midgets dancing to Foghat “Slow Ride” to substantiate our rock and roll prowess.

Mike: Well, it’s not, really. So I guess I don’t “know” that yet.

Adam: Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to make it a career yet, but the first time someone asked me to play something original, and then asked me to play it for other people, I felt like this would be something I would want to do as long as I possibly could. A career in music…I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Steve: I’ll get back to you on that one.

Brian: After I lost my 45″ of The Ghostbusters Theme, I think the rest of my life has been dedicated to spiritually regaining that feeling of listening to Ray Parker, Jr. I think my entire musical life stems from that incident.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live Bill Owens Five performance?

Jamie: The Electric Slide. But you can’t see it, it’s electric.

Mike: Volume. And flatulence.

Adam: Besides 6 people, you should expect creativity, passion, and hearing original music written in the vein and tradition of classic rock with the diversity that keeps us from conforming to one style or sound.

Steve: Tommy Please (The Avenger)

Brian: The…best damn drumming in town!

Joe: A good ol’ fashioned rock show. Plain and simple. No teen angst. No glitter and mascara. No whining about the futility of life. Just sweat and balls.

PEV: Tell us about your latest release, “Foundry Street”?

Jamie: It’s 10 tracks of our earlier material on record. It was great to record for a few days with Grammy Award Winning Engineer John Seymour (Santana-Supernatural). I cannot wait until when we have the time (and money) to really immerse ourselves in the recording process and record another album. It’s a solid debut nevertheless. Play the album in reverse after 3 hits of acid, watch some Fellini and then, and only then, will you comprehend the album.

Mike: It’s different from other albums out there today.

Adam: A proud collection of our “beginnings”. A true reflection of our evolution from early writing to expanded boundaries. A starting point to give the world an idea of what we can do, and where we’re headed.

Steve: We recorded it in several weeks with John Seymour (Santana, Dave Matthews). It’s mostly songs that we’ve been playing for several years, and it’s great to finally have them out in the world.

Brian: It’s a think piece…about a mid-level rock band struggling with our own success in the harsh face of stardom.

Joe: It’s our first full length release, and made up of songs we wrote during our first couple of years playing together. We recorded it in Hoboken, NJ with Grammy winning engineer John Seymour.

PEV: How is “Foundry Street” different from other albums out today?

Jamie: It’s Post Classic Rock

Mike: Who said that?

Steve: It will never be labeled as emo.

Adam: No song is like the next. We may or may not have our radio hit yet, but you can hear there is some really good writing on this album, both lyrically and musically. You can sense that this is a collection of musicians crafting art, and gives me faith that we are constantly building and getting closer to having that commercial hit that achieves the goals of numbers-oriented record labels and still maintains and properly exemplifies what Bill Owens Five is about musically and ideologically.

Brian: No other album out today has free matchbooks to go along with it.

Joe: Everything you hear we can reproduce on stage. There was very little production involved with making this album. I’d say that alone sets us apart from much of today’s rock bands. We’re also the first band since Bowie to make use of the word “nazz.”

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to the band’s success?

Jamie: They all have Bill Owens Five tattoos. Don’t know where on the body but I know they have all been tatted up. We have a BO5 Biker Gang and BO5 Cooking and Book Club too. They meet on the 3rd Wednesday every month if you want to join.

Mike: One time my friend came to a show!

Adam: My father has been in a band since he was in college (almost 40 years ago), and has played countless live shows at clubs and bars, and my parents have been enthusiastic supporters of our music. My wife is one of our biggest fans, and my friends regularly make it a point to come to shows, ask about new music from us, and contribute to our online network of fans. Do I think they’re persuaded by being my friend? Sure. Do I think they actually want to come hear us play? Without a doubt.

Steve: Very supportive, we have a good base of friends and family that come out to see us regularly.

Brian: They all still ask, “So who is Bill Owens?”

Joe: We get a lot of support. When you’ve got a corporate day job, like most of us do, it’s tough to look someone in the eye and tell them you’re a rock musician without drawing some long incredulous stares. But things always change once they hear us.

PEV: With all your touring and traveling, which city, International or US, do you think offers the best appreciation for music? As well which has been your favorite to perform?

Jamie: I love NYC but it’s a difficult place to break into. So many bands competing for time slots. I mean any city that has steel cage matches to the death in order to play a Saturday, 9:00 time slot at a hip club downtown? Where can you find that? My favorite place to play is Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ. Great stage, great vibe, great room.

Mike: Well so far we’ve been to New York, Hoboken and Teaneck. Oh yeah and New Brunswick. I’d say Hoboken appreciates live music the most, but that’s probably because most of our friends live there.

Adam: Our “touring” has been limited to the tri-state area, but we are playing in Burlington, VT on 1/19, and a festival in PA Memorial Day Weekend, so I’m personally excited to check out those areas. But to date, the Hoboken scene is alive, and the Village in New York City is definitely hot for original music. Maybe not as hot as we’d like, but you can always find an original band packing the house.

Steve: I think Hoboken has a great scene. People underestimate Jersey.

Brian: My favorite is Mexicali Blues in Teaneck, NJ. Although we have an upcoming gig in Bay Shore, Long Island, so you never know. Ah, the travels of a megastar rock band.

Joe: Camden. No, Newark. No, Queens. You’re looking for the best hookers, right?

PEV: Who is in your CD player right now?

Jamie: Battles-Mirrored , Dr. Dog-We All Belong, Radiohead-In Rainbows

Mike: Ummm, I usually put CDs in my CD player. Weirdo.

Adam: My cd player is broken, but the cds it has taken hostage, include: Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Wilco, Travis, and BO5 (yeah, I’m that guy).

Steve: Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Brian: The Meters

Joe: Tom Waits – Mule Variations. “House Where Nobody Lives” is one of the most meaningful songs written in the last ten years.

PEV: Is there an up and coming artist you think we should all be looking into today?

Jamie: Us and this little thrash metal bluegrass band called Odoyle Rules.

Mike: Watch your mouth!

Steve: This great band from Hoboken… I think they’re called Ben Folds Five or something.

Brian: Savu Sea; ambient, rocking, just plain weird soundscapes based out of Hoboken.

Joe: I like James Morrison. He’s kind of a pop artist, but has a very addictive voice.

PEV: Living in Hoboken, New Jersey, right outside of New York City, what is your take on the New York City music scene?

Jamie: Lots of clubs, lots of bands. Unfortunately every where you play the focus is on how many people you can bring, not the quality of the music. The one thing that stinks about NYC is there are not enough SOLID Kosher delis. There used to be a ton of them but all the good ones are no longer around and it’s a struggle to get a good pastrami on rye with mustard, a Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry Soda and potato kinish.

Steve: New York is huge. We love playing there. It’s hard not to get the adrenaline going in the big city.

Brian: Living on Long Island, right outside of New York City, I think the NYC music scene is there, but you have to spend some time looking for it. It’s not front and center, like, say, the Hot Springs, Arkansas music scene.

PEV: How has life on the road been for you? Best and worst parts?

Jamie: I have developed a serious addiction to calling Adam, Dad. He isn’t related to me by any means but I call him Dad. Weird. The worst part though is the fact that we aren’t on the road full time. If we were on the road full time, it would be swell. Especially if we actually made money doing it.

Steve: Best: USS Chowderpot II. Worst: McDonalds.

Brian: Best part? Waking up late. Worst part? Joe’s scent; he uses a lot of hair gel, but doesn’t change his underwear.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the guys in The Bill Owens Five?

Jamie: Brian is one helluva shot. He used to bulls eye womp rats in his T-16 back home; they’re not much bigger than two meters.

Adam: Uhm, that there are actually six of us? None of us knew each other prior to getting into this band.

Steve: Jamie has a secret wife and kid living on a beach in Ecuador.

Joe: We pray before every show. We find it loosens us up on stage. Nothing like getting a few prayers in us before hitting the stage. Wait, shit! I meant we drink before every show. That’s almost the same, right?

PEV: When you are not traveling or performing, what can we find you doing in your down time?

Jamie: Watching too many 80’s horror movies. Can you blame me? Have you seen Return of the Living Dead 1 and 2? Those are two of the many gems made during that decade of genius B- rated horror films. Fright Night is on right now! Sick.

Mike: I like to travel and play music in my down time.

Adam: Working, going on vacations, playing XBox, staring into the abyss.

Steve: Watching a Yanks game.

Brian: Painting little, metal, Roman warrior figurines.

Joe: I try to transcend my generation and get outside more often. I’m making light of it, but I think there’s a huge difference between how my peers pass their leisure time and how past generations spent theirs. We’re the video game generation, expecting to be entertained rather than finding our own entertainment. I’m trying to reverse that in myself. I’ll do small things, like eat breakfast outside, or go for a walk after dinner rather than planting myself in front of the television.

PEV: In one word, describe The Bill Owens Five.

Jamie: Scrumtulescent

Mike: CrazySexyTofu

Adam: Unexpected

Steve: Porkroll

Brian: Quan

Joe: Oooomph!

PEV: So far, what has been the most memorable part of your career?

Jamie: Brian couldn’t make one of our shows because he is a teacher and had a Parent/Teacher conference, so my father played a show with us. It is a highlight in my music career and in my life. Aside from the fact playing music with your father is an incredible and emotional experience on many levels, he kicked ass and brought the rock.

Mike: Joan Rivers opened for me once. But that was another band… and they wouldn’t let us watch unless we paid the cover. So we decided not to let Joan in unless she paid. But she ended up having to leave, or something?

Adam: Finishing the first album, and hosting a huge party to celebrate its release with our closest friends and family and about another 150 people too.

Steve: Our record release party. We held it at Fontana’s in NYC. We sold it out, but there was so much close family and friends that came together it was just an amazing experience.

Brian: One time, at this bachelor party…nah, forget it.

PEV: What is next for The Bill Owens Five?

Jamie: An album complete of rap battles

Mike: Dinner

Adam: Get ourselves spread out further around the country, let our music be heard, keep writing in the studio, and who knows, maybe a second album.

Steve: The Superbowl

Brian: Lunch

Joe: More writing. More touring. More balls out rock’n’roll. Gotta feed the beast!

For more information on The Bill Owens Five, check out www.BillOwensFive.com

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