Joe Price & The Cost

Riding a Plastic Helliphant, Joe Price is Way Off The Horse
by Mike Huberty
August 2019

Joe Price & the Cost on the cover of Maximum Ink for August 2019

Joe Price & the Cost on the cover of Maximum Ink for August 2019

I first met Joe Price by watching him play bass in great Madison 90s’ alternative band, PLASTIC, and then I got to share the stage with his bands WAY OFF THE HORSE and HELLIPHANT, which were two great riff-rock bands that kept their tongues firmly in their cheeks and were always lots of fun. He’s back with a new outfit called JOE PRICE & THE COST. It features him on vocals and harmonica, Jess Johnson on guitar, Eric Cobb on bass, and Mike Diamond behind the drumset. They’ll be at BarleyPop Live (old Frequency location) on August 16th and we talked with Joe to preview the show!

MI: Who are the artists that most influence all of you guys in the band?
JP: We generally connect on classic rock and alternative rock from the 80’s and 90’s, though there’s punk and blues mixed in there, too.  The kind of music that was background most of our youths that we never really paid a lot of attention to, but which still had a powerful influence on us.  Like Billy Squier or Golden Earring.  All those trippy radio songs that you forgot about.  I started the project by writing around 30 songs that were based on ideas I was never able to get into any of my previous bands.  I was taking blues harmonica lessons and I wanted to create backing tracks to practice to.  I really wanted to find a way to incorporate the harmonica into a more garage rock/ psychedelic rock style that I hadn’t really heard before, but which was rooted in accessible pop formats while still keeping the raw energy of rock and roll.  At the same time I was going through a lot of emotional highs and lows, so it was a great mix of writing inspirations that led to the collection of songs. I thought for a couple years about pulling together a band to play my creations and at a certain point I just started sending out messages asking musicians I liked who I thought would work well for the band and I was fortunate enough to get all of them on the first try.  Part of the decision making process of who to select included the likeliness that they would be into what I was trying to create and I was more successful than I’d really hoped.  This is the band where the ideas that got booed out of other bands found a loving home and that’s just the best feeling for me.  We all are experienced musicians with a broad range of interests as far as styles and genres go, but the eclectic radio hit that slipped into our collective subconscious while riding in the back of our parent’s car is what we’re tapping into.

MI: You’ve been playing now for three decades, what keeps you coming back to rock?
JP: A live rock and roll show is a ritual that conjures energies that are shared and amplified by the crowd and the performers.  The emotional release and the power generated by the ecstatic state of movement and sight and sound makes me laugh and cry, scream and jump from moment to moment.  I can forget myself and experience a cleansing effect whether I’m performing or spectating that is like no other.

MI: What’s your favorite song that you guys play live now?

JP: One of my favorite songs to play live is called “High Five.”  It’s the first song I wrote for this band and it’s so exciting for me to see how the band translated it to the stage.  The song is about malaise and anxiety, just wanting to be recognized for existing while feeling small in a world dominated by media figures whose existences are so pervasive yet so unattainable: politicians, sports stars, entertainment stars, influencers, etc…  It’s a slower, plodding blues song with big highs and powerful lows and lot’s of pleading pathos.  The harmonica is very fun to play and it’s very exciting embodying the character of the story.

MI: What’s the live show like?
JP: High energy and emotional power invested in every moment and a tight, groovy rock and roll sound that will carry you through a range of emotions like joy and wonder to tears and rage.  I think we manage to create a classic, familiar vibe while pushing the creative edges and revealing surprises.

MI: Where do you get inspiration from?
JP: The thing about this band is the music is very personal.  I unintentionally created a concept album about my life and my experience as a musician and a man trying to trying to find my place and my happiness in a world that feels like it’s falling apart.  It could be Joe Price & The Cost (of Rock and Roll), but that’s a bit too wordy.  Usually I’ll stumble on a riff or progression on the guitar that pleases me and I’ll just play around with it, program some drums and then record guitar and bass tracks and develop the idea piece by piece.  Words will just come out and I’ll slowly construct the song until it feels satisfying.  Only later when I look back at it will I realize the themes and how it fits in with the bigger picture of the other music I’m creating.  I find it a very rewarding way to create.

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