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a roaring pagan sun

i am now on a bus from ostia to Firenze (florence) italy. i have had many adventures and taken many pictures in rome. just when i was starting to get comfortable there i have to leave. i will go back. i have always loved being in big cities, especially big cities with subways. rome is probably the most beautiful city i have ever seen. it is like new york or chicago in its business and touristiness, but i think the locals walk slower and seem to enjoy life a little more. it would be hard not to when you are surrounded by such beauty and history. it is inescapable. you cannot walk more than a few blocks without stumbling upon something extraordinary.

i visited the Pantheon (pan- many, theos- god) the other day. i have been looking at pictures and drawing this building since i was fifteen but nothing can compare to the experience of being inside it. the scale is enormous! the building’s power transcends architecture and religion. it is almost geological in its force. i stood near the center and watched rain fall through the oculus in the dome, a secret portal to heaven. i caught raindrops with my eyes and my mouth.

for the first time i could really sympathize with the religion of the ancient Romans. to feel what it must have felt like to enter that space and be overcome or at the very least humbled. you don’t need to understand the details and intricacies of the roman myths or gods to feel the importance of the temple. it is simply a human ego check, a reminder that we are small, insignificant, and connected to something or someone (or a group of someone’s) that may be governing the heavens and the earth and having an effect on our fate. unfortunately, much of the original decor of the pantheon has been replaced with christian symbols and statues. the christian stuff seems incredibly out of place and in a way neutered by the intensity and sublimity of the “pagan” space.

although, as a bonus Raphael’s tomb is in the pantheon. why didn’t i know that? the other day i also accidentally found a castle. my best recent accidental find back in ohio was a styrofoam head at the Trenton Garage Sale Extravaganza.

i saw most of the major sights in Rome including the colosseum, which i sketched while i imagined gladiators fighting, real miniature sea battles, and early christians being savagely ripped apart and eaten by lions under a roaring pagan sun while dreaming of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and the certainty of heaven. i saw the ruins of Ostia Antica, the original sea port of ancient rome. i explored miles of archeological excavations of the town, wandering freely in and out of the remains of old store fronts, apartments, and temples. i saw the capuchin crypts–piles of human bones laid out in intricate designs by monks. back in Ostia (the modern city, a suburb of Rome), i made friends with Lorenzo, an imposing but gentle guy about my age with a deep voice, an intense gaze, and a black stubbly square chin who works at a gellato shop a few blocks from the hostel. the last few nights i have walked along the beach to get gellato and hang out with Lorenzo on a bench just outside the store.

i also have assisted my compatriots with two sand sculptures on the beach, one of a hydra and one of a sphynx. we are all artists and it is natural to make art where we go. italian children gathered around and their parents took photographs. i met a very thin italian kid who proudly spoke some english. he told me his name was Eduardo, that he was eleven, and that our sculpture was “beeeeauuutiful!” as he gestured dramatically with his hands in a sincere Italian way.

i am hoping to carve out a few days this week to finish up a mix of a song from my new solo album. i have chosen a title and am close to finishing the cover art. i need to find a venue to do the album release in. i want to have a concert in the round and i want it to have elements of art installation and video. i don’t know how that is all possible but i am thinking about it a lot.

we are pulling into Florence now. i have just seen a sign with a black rooster, the symbol for the chianti wine region.
sadly, there is no internet at the hotel. i will find a cafe somewhere and be in touch.

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quattrocento

there is a group of about fifteen buzzing flies hovering in tight circles between the open hotel door and the check-in counter as if they were placed in the air one by one and given specific instructions by a movie director. the scene is typical: green plants with broad leaves, stucco walls and thick italian accents floating on the muggy air blowing in from the Mediterranean. i am on one of several bright red couches surrounded by very poor reproductions of french artworks. kandinsky, mondrian…
I am in Ostia, just outside of Rome, Italy.

i am here studying drawing and michelangelo for a month. in my few days so far I have read about galileo and the invention of astronomical telescopes while sitting on the beach, bought a great deal of pizza and gellato, enjoyed the worst possible service in restaurants, discovered new fruits, and have begun drawing a few sketches a day.

yesterday in Vatican city for the first time i saw famous works by Michelangelo and Raphael including the sistine chapel and the school of athens, one of my favorite paintings. my catholic upbringing and catholic schooling has given me a special sentimentalism concerning these churches and artworks which remind me at once of my youth, my family, and my more recent art school education. in a carmellite church in rome, i was momentarily overcome with spiritual emotion, which is i guess what is supposed to happen with a catholic or former catholic visits the holy see. a river entered my mind filling it like a flood with god, mary holding her son, the love of my own mother and my sisters and my family, jesus’s death, my father’s death, kneeling sitting standing, the sign of the cross in latin, art music science and heaven and human potential and in all the chaos of the universe there is always peace.

i have been thinking about the roman catholic church. despite the atrocities committed by the church throughout the ages, the fine arts would not have evolved in such an extraordinary way without the church’s patronage. there is a tendency to scorn at the church for its outrageous wealth (much of which was collected during the crusades through pillaging) and its extravagant collection of art. the truth is–and this didn’t really sink in until yesterday–that to create great art it takes and great amount of money. artists have to survive while they work, and i believe that the less an artist has to worry about making money, the greater the potential of his or her art becomes. that doesn’t justify the crusades. but by providing people like raphael and michelangelo with a public space in which to show their work, and the money to live, the church is responsible for advancing the art of painting, which developed at an exponential rate during the renaissance (if you prefer the french word, or the quattrocento, as it is called here in Italy). if you are looking for reasons to forgive the church (as i am since i’m in rome), maybe you can put that on the list.

the sistine chapel is about painting. it is about spirituality or religion or god only insofar as the idea of god is wrapped up in humanism–it is about the extraordinary potential of one individual human being. we are all divine. we are instruments of the divine and the fine arts are the ultimate expression of human potential and god. Michelangelo may have been a holy man and was painting biblical scenes, but first and foremost he was an artist and these paintings were about his ability to paint. Raphael too.

Michelangelo was working on the sistine chapel in one room of the vatican, while Raphael was working on the school of athens just down the hall. each room was private and they worked in secrecy. eventually raphael saw michelangelo’s sistine chapel in progress. Raphael was so struck by it that he put a portrait of michelangelo in his own nearly completed work, the school of athens, partly as an homage and partly as a jab. while the other philosophers and artists and thinkers are interacting with each other and sharing ideas, michelangelo is painted looking down and aloof, as he was seen as quite independent, to put it nicely. however, i believe michelangelo was the superior painter and sculptor of his day, and when one is the very best at something, i think it becomes difficult to relate to others in general, especially those working in the same field.

the idea of the “renaissance man” has always appealed to me. michelangelo was a sculptor, a painter, and a poet. i have begun to relate to him personally, which is a good thing since i will be studying him for a month. i’ve heard stories of him carving with such strength and voracity, clouds of marble dust flying up into his face and hair, and to produce such serene works! i love that push and pull between violent intensity and gentleness. i like to think my own art has that quality occasionally, especially my recent paintings. i live for attacking the surface or the song. not that i claim to be a michelangelo, but i know what it means to be an artist, to be full of ideas, to be progressive, to balance pride and ambition, to be poor, to be at the mercy of patrons or an audience, and to live with all these things artists live with and have always lived with. i can relate to these characters and envy them. oh to be a renaissance man during the renaissance.

i woke up this morning and had tea out on the porch as a brazillian man with a blue guitar strummed caetanno velloso songs. it was euphoric.

i have no ticket home and i don’t know where i’m going or what i’m doing after June 29th. if you are europe and want me to come play songs for you, i will do so for somewhere to sleep and the cost of a train ticket to your country. also if you are in the medici family please get ahold of me.
i am going to go eat yet another nutella sandwich, which is how i am living to save money. i couldn’t find american style peanut butter and figured what the hell. when in rome!
carpe diem

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wetlands

When we left the hotel we stopped at a music store. we borrowed (rented) a bass guitar from them in september (i think) of last year. we were short a bass guitar and needed something for a show. we were supposed to bring it back much sooner but we forgot the last time we were in town. they weren’t very pleased when we walked in with it today. here’s dan (who usually plays drums, but can also play guitar and bass and keys) rocking out with it one more time, just outside the store.


having our name on the marquee is so cool. it makes arriving at 2:00pm and sitting on my butt all day a little more bearable. “hey, at least people may be reading our name as they drive to and fro” fro. do i really think things like fro? maybe i do. i think tarnation. “where in tarnation is my phone? where in tarnation did i leave my orange juice?” drew will testify. i am always turning to him to ask where i’ve placed something. generally he knows.

across the street from the club are some cool old buildings. here is trav in front of one of them. those are doric columns, as opposed to corinthian or ionic, if i remember anything from latin class.


t’s hair has really come a long way in recent months. are those curls natural?


t working on a bass guitar.

a strobotuner, a vital part of any guitar tech’s arsenal. if only because they look official and complicated.


the late cesar diaz, a legendary guitar tech who worked with us on Swim, used to tell us that there was something to coil cords. he swore that hendrix only used coil cords because it gave him a special sound. “straight cords were being made at the time, but every photo you see of him is with a coil cord”. cesar was puerto rican and came to america with dreams of playing guitar with hendrix. he ended up playing with bob dylan instead. we miss him greatly. the last time we played crocodile rock was a couple years ago. he tech’ed for us that night.


i love this photo. even though it’s blurry. she is mopping the floor. the floor is so lonely all day.

at 8 or so people showed up. i thought we played a good show. debuted a new song we don’t have a name for. something about eyes that are blue, but all the good blue eyes titles are taken.
your color is purple your food is chinese
you’re a sucker for buying one and getting one free
thursdays at 8:00 you watch your TV shows
CSI and friends. these things i know
but what makes your eyes so blue?
is it something inside of you?
what makes you beautiful?
i wish i knew

tonight i talked at length with a biologist about the wetlands in northeast america. and with a nurse about living and dying in bethlehem, pennsylvania. t calls natalie susan and megan and all sorts of things but her name is natalie. spoke briefly with jimmy from jimmy’s chicken shack about the injustices of the music industry. brandon and friends say bye and drive back to pittsburgh. school tomorrow. layla is named layla and goes to school with sarah. they want to hang out but their friend is sick in the bathroom (and hasn’t had a drop to drink). guy with mohawk asks me to say hi to a girlfriend of his but she leaves before i get to it. i think of mohawks for a while. someone with a “to thine own self tattoo” says our show was “beautiful” and i don’t know if she was on drugs or really moved or both. but it makes me smile.

i like talking with different people. it’s relatively easy for me to talk to someone at a show, maybe because i assume that they liked the music at least a little. i am really shy in the real world. i can’t talk to someone at a gas station. i mumble and hold up the line. i mumble at restaurants and i’m embarassed to ask for what i want or make corrections. sometimes i think that’s why i am in a band–i cannot function in the world. i really don’t even like the world that much. especially when i feel inadequate and cannot find things. being in a band is like having your own little world. it’s automatically psychotic and somewhat narcissistic to want to front a band. but it is where i belong i think. it suits me and it makes me happy and someone probably knows where i last set down my phone or my bottle of orange juice.

sorry this journal was not really that funny. tomorrow i hope to be back with some good (submitted) photos from the show.
sleep tight
joe

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move blood

Like it or not, Bob Guiney’s version of “Girlfriend” entered the Top 40 Charts.
We are going to be busier with shows the next few months.
We recently resolved what may go down as the biggest legal disaster/learning experience of our careers. Thank god.
Armed with a newfound financial, creative, and spiritual freedom, and a slew of new songs, we’ll be in the studio sometime this spring. In my mind, the new songs are as good or better than the songs on SWIM. Some of them you’ve heard, some of them you haven’t, and there just may be another by the time you read this. When the new recordings are finished, we’ll either release an indie E.P., or just put them on the site as pay or free downloads. I really want to make an online album, with graphics and everything. but we’ll see what happens. the new music will most likely accompany a new website. to tide you over, we may be getting some unreleased acoustic demos up on the site soon.

i hope you’re well!
peace and love and rock
joe

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yes there is

wayne dennon

CC’s rocked. most anytime you have rock music and a thousand ears in one place, you have a good time. especially if you have a good view of the stage like i did. 🙂 Kyle, Amy, and BlueKarma were wonderful, and the attendees were so polite. one of the CC’s security guards told me before we took the stage “can you have them get rowdy up front or something? we’re bored. we have nothing to do.” there were actually a few instances of crowd surfing (or as my mom likes to call it “body tossing”) during the beginning of the set, but it was all in good fun.

hometown shows can be a bit of a circus. i was running around too much before the show, and probably didn’t say hello to as many poeple as i should have. lots of familiar faces and old friends. i apologize if i didn’t get a chance to catch up with you–will next time. everything went so smoothly, thanks mostly to the planning of eric stewart, our friend and my personal creative partner in crime. eric created the normal life music video, the demo of perfect world, and has assisted in many JFK endeavors throughout the years.

here are more photos from the super-talented rock photographer Wayne Dennon. WayneDennon.com. thanks Wayne!



T is single-handedly (very single-handedly) bringing back the bouffant. go T-birds. T, i support you.




travis “the magnet” delaney.

and if these aren’t enough, i have spent the last hour or two harvesting photos from fan sites and image posts. these photos were taken by ashley, lissa, ris, and jen. click those names to see the original galleries. hold your cursor over the photo for the appropriate credit.
here are a few of my favorites:

ashley
ris
ris
risashley
ashleyris
jen

it was a fitting end to the year. thank you for making it a good one. it had it’s ups and downs, naturally. but even on my drearier days somebody’s been there to offer encouragement. i fear i have been spoiled with love. we have the most fanatical fans we’ve ever had. we have a slew of new songs we’re excited about. all in all, we’re in a good place.
thank you a million times for your support. here’s to new music and memories in 2004. happy new year!

love always
joe

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I think we missed the train to mars

There is a single moment from this trip that I will remember for the rest of my life.

I will remember that it was between nine and ten in the evening, and that Phoenixs’ weather had treated me to a mid 60’s day. I will remember that this weather in December just didn’t seem right to me, and probably never will. I will remember that there were no clouds, I will remember that I know this because I wasstaring up at the stars. I will remember that I was doing this because I was lying down, and that I was lying down on a gigantic beanbag chair. I will remember that I was in a VIP Area, acting very un-VIP-like, because I really didn’t care. I remember hoping I could keep every detail fresh in my mind forever.

But I know that I won’t….because the clearest detail is already starting to overshadow the others. It’s easily brushing those other memories from my mind, erasing them because it overpowers them.

The reason I know that I won’t clearly remember all of those things is because I know that I’ll only remember one thing about that night……..I got to see Counting Crows, and it was f’ing phenominal.

Other than that, the Phoenix trip was totally and completely, mindblowingly awesome. The people in Arizona have nice weather that is perfect for….well, reptiles. However terrible it must be there in summer, it really is great in December where someone like me can go and enjoy a day that tops out at 70 degrees…..just a few f’ing weeks before Christmas! I love it.
Another thing that’s different about Phoenix is it’s total lack of green. I happen to like grass and trees, but when you live in the middle of the desert, you don’t see much of either. They actually have grass FARMS where they have to grow it for the golfs courses, businesses and lawn-mower industry. Grass farms. Wierd.

However odd Phoenix seemed to me, it did have at least one thing in common with Cincinnati; at our show there were about a kajillion people singing along with Normal Life when we started playing it. Now, don’t get me wrong; there were definitely a few who were singing along to ALL of the songs, and definitely a few who weren’t singing to ANY of the songs. However, when we started playing Normal Life, there was a decided shift in energy among the people in attendance. A decided upward shift.

And it was good.

That’s really all the rambling I’ve got. We’ll see everyone in Memphis, and then in the big Cincinnati show. Anyone who comes to the Cincinnati show should probably bring protective headgear, because that night is going to be so awesome that I’m liable to flip out and headbutt you just because I’m having such a good time. You have been warned.

Magnetically Yours,
S

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bowing out (amos)

finally I get to write a journal page. which is not without a sense of dramatic irony, because I am saying hello to say goodbye.

with a minimum of pomp and/or circumstance, the show this past weekend at the Scarlet & Grey in Columbus was my last show with July for Kings. I did not mean to be dishonest with those of you who asked me directly (actually, at the time I wasn’t sure officially) whether it was, and I apologize. I really didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.

to put to bed any rumors, allegations, accusations, etc.: i am NOT leaving because T wouldn’t put out. quite the opposite. I have been playing with other artists since I began with JFK back in July, and it has become difficult to the point of impossible to keep all of these commitments. in a decision the difficulty of which I wish I could express, I decided to step down from playing with July for Kings. if I could have the cake and eat it, too, I would. I like cake.

I wish the guys nothing but the best in the future, and hope to be around for the shows (probably with Sam & Aaron in the “ex-members of JFK” section, giving the new bass guy the “musician’s stare-down”).

Lastly, it has been a wonderful ride and a great experience to make this music with these excellent human beings. And also Dan. I have enjoyed meeting all of you, signing your various paraphenalia, singing with you from stage, crashing on your floors, sweating on you during post-show hugs. Thank you for letting me play for you.

cheers.
-amos

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Fortunate Son – The Last Hurrah

Hey guys.I guess that’s it for me. I appreciate everyone who came out to the Mad Frog. I had a really great night, and I hope you guys did too.When I was packing up my drums at the end of the night, I kept singing “One is the loneliest number”. As I got a ride to the afterparty that night, the song came on the radio. Funny stuff.If you weren’t there, the night was insanity. It was one of our bigger crowds at the Mad Frog. It was also extremely hot. Joe and T played Meteor Flower and sweat was dripping of their faces. That’s one thing that I’ll remember for a long time ; in the last year we’ve almost always had that acoustic break in the middle of a set. It’s a time when Trav, our bass player and I can always sit around and talk about how we’re playing. It’s just been something that I’ve always looked forward to in the set, but not tonight. I couldn’t sit still, I just wanted to get out and play some more, not sit on the sidelines. It will probably be hard for me to watch shows from the front of the stage from now on. I’ll always want to walk up to the kit and scream “MOVE!” like that obnoxious SNL character.I actually can’t wait until I get to see a show like that. It’s always interesting to think of watching a JFK show from the front instead of the other way around. People who get to come backstage at a big show always say “It’s the best seat in the house!” I think that’s horseshit. The best seat is always right in the middle of the crowd, rocking back and forth with the drums, sweating your ass off like everyone else. That’s what rock and roll is all about; feeling sweaty and dirty in the middle of the floor. Dirt…..it’s an essential part of the rock and roll experience. So is sweat. So is blood. Sometimes, so are tears.Funny enough, there were no tears last night. At least, none from me. I almost broke out in the middle of The Distance, when I realized that it was the last song I’d play on drums, onstage, in front of people for the rest of my life. I got through it fine. Joe choked up a bit on the mic, but I don’t think most people noticed. Some people were crying when they left, but everyone will be fine. It was a good cry, you know?I want to sit here and write for hours. I want to write 90,000 words on what being a musician means to me. However, I’m sure I can sum it up in much, much fewer words.Being a musician to me has always meant hanging out with my best friends in the world. I never wanted to be good at drums because drums are a noble or glorious enterprise; I wanted to be good at the drums because it would allow me to keep being a kid with the greatest friends a guy could ever have.The guys made me a scrapbook. It has a bunch of pictures, ticket stubs, flyers, and other assorted junk in it. It’s so good, it really is. I’m looking at it right now, and it keeps blurring up. Everything keeps blurring up.There’s too much to say, so the best thing to do is say nothing at all. Joe was right when he said that. He usually is when it comes to stuff like that. I’ll see everyone at the next show. Look for me standing next to Aaron Thomas in the “Ex-Band Member” section. It’s a pretty exclusive section.Love always,Sam-Bo-Jackson-Five-Star-Binder
Diener Lover
Samboner
Samuel Charles Dobrozsi, A Human Being
S

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era

(there are two posts today–one from me and one from sam. please read his post below as well)

well that is that. what a day.
we had our street team picnic in eden park in cincinnati. it was a great time. we’ll try and get some photos on the JFKArmy.com site. unfortunately, it was rainy, so we spent most of the time in a very large gazeebo. i have much to say about the awesomeness of our fans. i will save that for another post.

then headed over to mad frog. we played one of our longest sets ever–most of the stuff from SWIM, some older stuff, and some newer stuff. it was grand.


this was one of our largest crowds at the frog ever.

in celebration of sam’s contributions to the band over the years, we played “Fortunate Son”, and he sung. i played bass, amos played guitar, t played drums, and travis played… my guitar. it was awesome.

and that was that. sam is no longer with the band. it is weird for me. yes, sam and i will stay best friends, but we won’t see each other nearly as much as we have for the last eleven years. and that is going to take some getting used to. sam was the first person to really talk to me when i transferred to a new school in the sixth grade. soon after, he introduced me to travis. they were my friends before i could grow sideburns, before i was six foot four, and long before i could play guitar. without sam i would not be who i am, and we would not have done all of this. now, i suppose things are different, as “the band” has become such a large chunk of my identity, that i don’t think i could see myself ever not making music. but i wouldn’t have set foot in a dream this big without my best friends at my side. thanks sam for everything. you know i love you. good luck out there in the real world. let me know what it’s like.

joe

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eve

tonight we went to UC to be on bearcast internet radio. we were late getting on, due to not being able to find the place, and some technical difficulties. these difficulties persisted during the show, but that’s kind of what happens at college radio stations. no offense to UC’s, of course.


us with michelle.


sam with lots of non-working headphones.

so that was fun. we talked about the show tomorrow, sex and transportation, and cleveland. and we played some songs.

after the show, we went to york street in newport for a little while. chasing zen and chase lounge performed. both very talented bands.

i haven’t been posting on here much the last few weeks. here’s some reading material to make up for it. when we started playing with new bassists, we realized that we were in need of a definitive guide to the unspoken regulations concerning one’s personal involvement with July For Kings. recently, we’ve been trading e-mails, writing the first installment of the JFK rulebook. this is basically a large collection of inside jokes. we said “hey, what are we going to do with a bunch of jokes that no one else will get…i know–post them on the internet for everyone to see!” and that’s what i’m doing, even though it’s stupid. as i say from time to time, this is our website, and we do whatever the hell we want here.

i went through and took out everything that may get us in trouble with people we know (or people we don’t), and some of the more vulgar stuff. it’s starting to look like a U.S. government document about Saudia Arabia. we are a rock band, and perhaps we are slightly more sensitive than say, the San Fransisco 49’ers, but we’re still just a bunch of guys. and guys will be guys. if you you’re under 18, or under some delusion that we’re always well behaved and friendly, save your misconceptions and don’t read this:

JFK Rulebook.  (password vice77)

the eve of sam’s last show. (it’s late–i’m still up–it’s “eve” to me). i will try and save the sentimental sappy stuff for tomorrow; i don’t really want to think too much. i want to do a show just like we always do. i don’t want to be all crying and silly.

i hope to see lots of people at the picnic tomorrow (friday). www.JFKarmy.com for info. we don’t have anything special planned. mainly your usual picnic stuff. so i hope no one is expecting a surprise show with pyrotechnics. it ain’t happenin. just hot dogs and frisbees. i can’t wait to throw a frisbee. we are some mean frisbee throwers. as mean as one can get while throwing a frisbee.

and then of course, the big show.
talk to you soon.

joe

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