Hebdo Explores New Territory On “Double Tambo”

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Although Joey Hebdo moved to Columbus several years ago, he's maintained a musical presence in his old stomping grounds of Athens, Ohio.

In fact, between regular shows at uptown venues (either solo performances or with his Beatles cover band, The Lennon Orchestra) and recording albums at 3 Elliott Studio, one could be forgiven for thinking Hebdo is still a local resident.

While he's still a respected figure in the Athens music scene, Hebdo is becoming an even bigger deal in Columbus. His new single, "Where Else," has been the most-requested song on CD 102.5 FM for the past month and is still receiving heavy airplay.

His latest EP, Double Tambo, is a real treat, featuring a blend of percussive, horn-infused bravado and acoustic introspection, with gorgeous harmonies often juxtaposed against distorted drums and guitars.

Fans can sample the new material this Friday during an EP release party at Columbus' Rumba Café, where Hebdo will be backed up by a full band.

WOUB recently caught up with the busy multi-instrumentalist to talk about his past, present and future musical endeavors.

WOUB: Let's talk a bit about your background. When did you catch the music bug?

Hebdo: Well I didn't catch the intense emotion of learning the guitar until I was 17, but I have sung from the moment I could speak. My father and grandfather both sing phenomenally and they were constantly singing around me. It became subconscious. I started performing almost immediately after I picked up the guitar. I also spent hours learning chords/tablature to a million songs and strengthened my hands that way. Many people start singing secondary; I was the opposite, so I could fake it all for a while.  

Joey Hebdo at the 2011 SXSW Music Festival (photo: Jacqueline Charak)

WOUB: Were you writing songs back then?

Hebdo: I didn't write for a few years but learned a lot of Smashing Pumpkins and Bob Marley early on. I grew up on Motown and very old male vocal music, so I had to explore guitar rock on my own.

WOUB: You still have a strong connection to the Athens music scene. How did you get your start here?

Hebdo: I went to college in Athens and early on, I was forced to attend an open mic, where I played quickly and ran away, but soon went back and officially met a whole host of local musicians. Then I returned weekly for three years straight and learned to listen and hone my skills. You might remember the Blue Gator; that was the place where I cut my teeth. Local musical court jesters John "Catfish" Juliano and Eric "Junebug" Leighton have always challenged me and continued to support and inspire me while on this musical journey. They quickly became brothers and mentors over time. The friends and family I have made in Athens are extremely important and special to me, and like anyone, I have a hard time not seeing them all.

WOUB: You’ve been playing with Catfish and Junebug in the Lennon Orchestra for a while now. Many musicians have been influenced by The Beatles, but how does playing their music on a regular basis influence your own writing?

Hebdo: Learning a large portion of any artist's catalog is going to rub off on you in subconscious ways. With The Beatles, it's been a master class in the art of high-level song structure, metaphor, humor and orchestration, as well as studio-related understandings of instrument sounds (sonically) and where certain sounds and personalities sit in the mixes. These insights and perspectives are constantly reiterated in almost every musical thing I do. But luckily, it all must be run through myself as a filter, so it comes out sounding original, hopefully. And not having a British accent helps.

Joey Hebdo at the 2013 Athens Community Music Festival (photo: Bryan Gibson/WOUB)

WOUB: I understand you took a new approach when putting together this EP. How was the writing and recording different from your past efforts?

Hebdo: Well, the writing and recording wasn't too different from the Prosciutto release a few years prior. I recorded it at the same location in Athens (3 Elliott Studio) with the same engineer (Josh Antonuccio) and I did most of the instrumentation myself, except the horns and strings. I used specific tempos more this time around, which allows me to create a more accurate illusion at times. Most of my performances on the current two EPs are live performances, but feel like they have been lassoed. I grew a lot in-between the recordings. I cut the last 12 songs I did at 3 Elliott into two EPs, and the second, titled Double Tambo, is about to be released. It explores a different dimension of my personality and creative process. The result is a bit more intense and troubling in comparison to last year's A Thousand Steeples EP, which had a very fun one-man Americana band vibe. I did this two-EP split so that I could create more focused musical worlds for the listener. They each, individually, represent a different part of me.

WOUB: Where can people find the EP?

Hebdo: It's available at www.hebdo.bandcamp.com or on any major outlet, such as iTunes and Spotify.

WOUB: What else do you have planned for 2014? Any big shows on the horizon?

Hebdo: Yes, the EP release show is July 11 in Columbus at Rumba Café, and I'll have a full band. There's also a big show coming up at Natalie's Coal Fired Pizza in Columbus on Aug. 3, plus I'll be playing a huge fest with the Womacks in Norwalk, Ohio, on July 5 and the Ohio Paw Paw Festival in Albany on Sept. 13.

The Double Tambo EP release show gets underway at 6 p.m. this Friday at Rumba Café. For more information about Hebdo, visit his website, Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.

photo: facebook.com/hebdomusic