Local musician Joey Tucciarone talks about new band, musical influences and personal life

Brandon Paykamian • Sep 4, 2018 at 3:45 AM

The Press recently caught up with local resident Joey Tucciarone, a third-year clinical psychology student at East Tennessee State University who is currently working on his Ph.D.

Tucciarone, 36, said he began working on his doctorate with the aim of helping the “hard-to-reach, socioeconomically vulnerable, or otherwise underserved populations.” He’s currently working on a thesis exploring the possible relationship between childhood adversity and homelessness in Northeast Tennessee. 

But Tucciarone is also a longtime local musician who has played in a variety of bands over the years. After playing in a string of bands with eclectic influences, Tucciarone said he is looking forward to his debut with his new band, the Meanwhilers, who are set to play the Hideaway on Sept. 28.

What bands have you been involved in over the years?

“I was in several bands in Roanoke throughout my teens and twenties, the most notable being Rydalyn, Ûnévèn ─óroovë, Easy Eddy, Guerrilla Jazz Network, Respect Knuckles, Jib Jab and the Talk-a-lots and Gargamel – there is very little record on the internet of any of these bands ever existing, which may be for the best. For the last six years, I’ve primarily been playing guitar and singing in a local surf punk band with an unprintable name, from which have spawned two other short-lived side projects, Pig Beast and Guerrilla Mask. Pig Beast was a lousy, dumpster fire of a band, but Guerrilla Mask was a pretty good noise punk project.

“I’ve also played with The Growth, a very short-lived ‘jam’ project called Karmatic Regurgitation, and an ongoing electro-pop project with my wife, Jessie, called Doink! I’ve also played a lot of solo singer-songwriter gigs over the years, which I greatly miss doing. I still enjoy playing the odd solo show.” 

What first got you into playing music?

“Probably being a sad, anxious, lonely kid, if I’m being honest. Some of my earliest memories are being five and six years old listening to my Stryper tape that my mom got me from Columbia House, and then trying to make up my own songs. I’d make guitar riffs with my mouth, make up lyrics on the spot and then sing the guitar solos. Always the same structure – intro, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, interlude, verse, pre-chorus, chorus, solo, chorus, outro. Growing up, I was obsessed with music – mostly ‘80s metal – and I planned very earnestly to master every instrument, sing with the fury of a freight train and conquer the world. 

“I’ve always been socially awkward and terrible at sports. I didn’t share many interests with most of my peers, which hasn’t changed much. Playing music was a constructive way for me to express myself, process trauma, connect with others and make people laugh. That was true at age 11, and it’s true now.”

What are your biggest goals as a musician?

“My biggest goal as a musician is to keep doing it for the rest of my life. There was a time in my teens when I sincerely believed that I’d never be anything if not a successful musician, which meant becoming stupidly rich and famous. But none of that matters, and I’ve known that for a long time. I love the creative process and I love performing, but I can do that within range of home for the rest of my life and be perfectly happy just as long as I get to keep doing it.”

How do you find the time for music?

“At the expense of sounding trite, I’m a dad and husband above all other things. These days, I’m trying to practice a lot of self-care, which, for anxious types like myself, means striking a balance between the innate drive to stay busy and the need for downtime. When things get ridiculously stressful and I’m walking around in a state of panic for days at a time, it gets too easy to lose sight of that, hence the need for self-care. I’ve populated my bubble with an abundance of passions, hobbies and distractions – all of which have to be occasionally sidelined for the greater good. It’s a very delicate balancing act.” 

What kind of advice would you have for younger musicians looking to get involved in the local music scene?

“Once you start establishing a presence, don’t get a big head about it. Don’t adopt some holier-than-thou attitude just because your Instagram starts taking off. Don’t try to be the scene’s spokesperson or savior. There is something supremely off-putting about a local musician with a messiah complex. Ultimately, no matter how well your band is doing, you’re still a local band, and these other musicians are still your neighbors. A strong social media presence may be important for branding and exposure, but if you start acting like some rock star in this small of a market, people will get over you real fast.”

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