Chicago is not the only place to see great live music. As previously mentioned, I live far away from the city. I am not ashamed of it. I just look for more local events to attend. When I heard that one of my favorite rockabilly bands had a show at Dublin Mule in Elgin, Illinois, I made sure I made the drive out there to support them.
The Belvederes is a mix of young talent. (The average age is 23 years old among the members.) John Ford is the charming lead singer and guitar player, Joe Alonzo is the fantastic drummer, Tyler Kock on the rhythm section with his stellar bass and the newest member of The Belvederes, Joe Nocchi, on lead guitar.
My first time witnessing this band was about a month prior at the infamous venue Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn, Illinois on November 7th, 2015. That night, the band was releasing their 2nd cd, Beggar’s Heart and opening up for the popular band The 24th Street Wailers. What I noticed about The Belvederes was the cool and collected attitude they have towards music.
The Belvederes got together in 2011 and was involved with more of a garage rock/grunge sound. Their 1st album Self-Titled, The Belvederes showcases what the boys were listening to at
that time: guitar heavy riffs with a gritty vocal. One could say the CD can be placed in the punk/mainstream rock category.
Now, with the 2015 release of Beggar’s Heart, The Belvederes are out and about pleasing fans all over Cook, Lake, Kane and McHenry County. There is are few elements of this band that make me love their music: First off, it is simple and pure. The songwriting is true to the heart and I can relate to it. (Especially #3 Closed Doors on Beggar’s Heart) Second, the professionalism the band possesses is just jaw dropping. I have seen my share of local shows and where musicians around the same age got shit-faced drunk. (To be honest, that is not why I come out to support a band. I want to see a performance. I don’t want to hear a rant about why you have mommy issues. Lol.) And third, one can tell The Belvederes love to play music together. There is nothing fake about this band nor the music they play. Each member plays with a huge smile on their face and it’s addictive.
I got to talk to these wonderful gents before their show at the Dublin Mule. The main agenda was to ask how the band has evolved since Joe Nocchi joined the band and what’s in store for 2016. Here is what I found out:
UnRated: My first time seeing you play was at Fitzgerald’s for your CD Release. How is everything going since the release?
John: It is going great. Everyone seems to like it a lot. We actually sent it over to Jim Peterik (ed note: Ides of March/Survivor) who wrote Eye of the Tiger and he really liked it a lot. So, we have been receiving a good response.
Joe Alonzo: It was just a labor of love. We put a lot of work into it. It is good to get that positive response back.
UnRated: My favorite song on the Cd is Closed Doors. September is the other one that speaks to me. What is that song about?
Tyler: It was an influence that came from my grandparents. The fact they both came from the military. My grandfather was in World War II. It was kind of an ode to people in the military in general.
John: Tyler and I were hanging out one day. He had mentioned he wrote a melody and wanted to write a song about his grandparents. That is what started it.
UnRated: It was originally John, Tyler and Joe Alonzo. How did Joe Nocchi come into the band?
John: He went to school with Joe and Tyler. He played in the jazz band with Elgin Community College with Joe.
Joe Alonzo: Originally, we met at Dundee Crown jazz band in Carpentersville. I was playing drums as a senior and there was a very competitive jazz program there by Mark Bettcher
(Teacher). Joe Nocchi came in as a freshman and just kind of kicked ass right away. Joe N. just kind of burned everyone on the scene. It was a very natural fit to have Joe N. in on guitar for us. It is a great complement to what we do.
UnRate: Joe N., how do you feel playing with these guys?
Joe Nocchi: It was a really easy fit. It is kind of odd how things just fell into place. Like it was supposed to happen. Joe Alonzo and I fell out of contact. I was working at a grocery store and I hated my job. Joe A. came in with his now wife and baby# 2 on the way. He came into the grocery store and basically offered me a job with the band. It kind of just fell into place from there. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
UnRated: Bart Alonzo (singer and guitar player for various bands, currently with Mandy Z and Rural Route 1), Joe Alonzo’s father, is a big influence to this band. How does he help you out?
John: I credit him with everything that I know as a musician. From the time I was about 12 or 13 years old, he really took me under his wing. He mentored me not just about music. He completely took me as another kid. I’ve been playing with Bart and Joe A. Since I was 13 years old.
Joe A: I think we have a level of maturity that some 22-23 year old musicians don’t have as far as our approach. As a drummer, and really the only drummer in my family, I gained so much experience with my dad’s influence. By having someone like Bart booking so many gigs and someone who needed a drummer. I was 9 years old, he taught me how to do this kind of work. At one point, I knew about my craft and my instrument more than he did. There was no shortage of great musicians that he took me around and to this day we are all still learning from one another. Bart always stressed you can always learn something from someone.
John: As far as early on, we were always working. One starts playing an instrument at the age of 10 years old and then you practice/play in your garage. It takes a lot of time to get out and work. From the time we were ready, Bart always had that work ethic for us.
UnRated: The first record is different than your current one. Describe the differences between the two.
John: Our first album is more of a straight rock record. Beggar’s Heart has a lot more roots. Americana, R&B, and Blues. The first record straight floor on the floor rock. It has some punk influence.
UnRated: What made you change the sound?
Joe A: Some of the first album were written as far back as 2007.
John: I was 16 years old with those songs. From a writing stand point, I kind of wore my influences on my sleeve. Now, I hear and think that could be an Otis Reeding influence.
Joe A: Just cutting a record in general, I feel like the more you play together the better you get. We cut the first record in 2011. The recent record we demoed it for a long time. There is probably 45 tracks recorded. They are not all original. There is probably a 3 year span of gigging every single weekend for the 1st and 2nd record. From an arrangement and chemistry stand point, that does a lot for a band.
John: You learn what the crowd responds to. Like Closed Doors.that was one I was writing and I was thinking what was going to fill the dance floor.
Joe A: I still get excited playing that song. My favorite song to play on drums is definitely Closed Doors.
UnRated: How did you get the funding to release both of these albums?
John: It was mainly out of our pockets.
Joe A: On this last record, we recorded with a Chicago Legend, Jay O’Rourke. And his best friend, his go to engineer Teddy Thornhill. We recorded in Jay’s Garage (ed note: a renowned studio in Lincoln Park).
John: If you know your stuff and the Chicago music scene, Jay was in a band called The Insiders. But, he worked as a producer and sound engineer. He worked for everyone from Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and James Brown. It’s literally; you name someone and Jay has worked with them.
Joe A: We were really at the right place at the right time. As long as we are naming those iconic influences for us, Mark, our teacher at Dundee Crown, was the trombone player for The Phil Collins Big Band, The Temptations and James Taylor. In music, you put yourself in enough opportunities, you meet the right people and you try to be humble about it. We have gotten lucky so far. Its great meeting these people we idolize.
UnRated: I was at the show with the 24th Street Wailers. What a great night. How was that show?
John: Yeah, that was great. The female lead singer is great. She kind of has a Little Richard sound to her. She is super sweet and the entire band could not have been nicer people.
UnRated: What is 2016 bringing to The Belvederes?
Joe A: Well, my 2nd baby.
John: I would love to start recording as soon as possible. I’ve been writing. And Joe Nocchi is a really great song writer.
Tyler: I would like to make another record very soon.
Joe A: I would like to make a record tomorrow.
John: I just want to play shows and play. I want new material. We are going to shop this record to local labels to get picked up. So, we are not paying for this one. We are going to try to get on WGN Morning News. I know someone who knows someone that knows someone.
Joe A: For 2016, we want to get more involved with record labels. Whatever it might be. We want to take it to the next level. We are never going to stop doing it. It’s to find that outlook that makes it more accessible.
Well, I can say is this young group of men are hungry and want to take their music to the next level. It was such a pleasure getting to know these guys more and really seeing how passionate they are. If you haven’t already, you need to check these guys out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Basically, all the social media outlets. Their website http://thebelvederes.com/ is filled with a ton of information. So, make sure you are in the know and may I suggest you purchase/download their newest cd “Beggar’s Heart?”