Unhanding The World From Mainstream Radio

The Philadelphia music scene has found itself cluttered with local bands - many whose styles can be considered to be more or as unique as the next. With its progressive, heavy and, yes, sometimes-folksy sound, Blivit manages to stand out among its local counterparts.

The trio's lyrics are as meaningful as its energetic instrumentation. The sound that keyboardist / singer / songwriter Jeremy Dyen, bassist Dave Palan and drummer Jay Horvath have concocted may be tough for any critic to classify. In an age where some bands are quick to climb aboard the fastest bandwagon they can take to mainstream radio, Blivit has remained true to itself and continues to play the music that it loves.

Dyen said that radio has become a dead issue to him, but other avenues are opening up for Blivit as Internet music sites and satellite radio continue to increase in popularity. While the band's distorted keyboard style has not found its way onto a major label, the local music scene has caught on. Blivit has already received nominations for best original band, best bassist and best keyboardist for the Annual Philly Music Awards in two consecutive years.

Aside from their contributions on the band's debut full-length release, "Unhand The World," its members have accumulated an impressive list of album credits for playing with other artists.

Dyen's keyboard playing has found its way onto John Legend's latest CD, "Get Lifted" (Sony). His live credits include performances with the Brazilian band Alo Brasil and with world tabla player/percussionist Zakir Hussain. Palan has recorded with the award-winning singer-songwriter Deb Tala and Horvath continues to tour with the thrash/speed metal band Single Bullet Theory.

Chorus and Verse recently asked Dyen about Blivit's sound and how it has managed to survive in the Philly scene.

The band mixes a wide range of styles even including some hard rock and metal. How did some of the harder-edged sounds wind up in your music?

I'd say Dave and Jay are more well-versed than I in the true metal stuff, since they were really into to it when they were in middle and high schools - Metallica, Slayer, Pantera, etc. In fact, Jay plays in a Metallica tribute band with some old friends of his and he's also touring with the metal band Single Bullet Theory.

I got into the heavier stuff a little later, and never too deeply. But, as a lover of so many styles of music, the heavier music to me is another great one, with such a release of emotion and sound, and usually a great place to make geeky math rock sound bad ass.

Is their any one style that you would say is most prevalent in your music?

If there is I'd like someone to tell me. Our music is a little twisted, huh? I mean, it's rock-based, even though we like so many styles. I think we're rooted in rock because that's what we were listening to early on in our lives. But we infuse that with whatever else we're feeling. Though we're trying to avoid complete eclecticism and stay focused, we're also making each song unique in some way. That makes for a good listen at a show or on a CD - not too repetitive.

How did you form? What styles were you listening to then and how has the band grown since?

We formed Blivit after the break-up of Fathead, a progressive hip-hop band we were all in that had a good deal of success. We were going to form a group based on the three of us, plus the sax player and guitarist from Fathead, but the guitarist joined Brothers From Another, and I pushed for a trio. I had been experimenting with the distortion keys thing, and really began to develop it in Blivit, figuring this was the way we could really rock out without a guitarist. I basically became the guitarist.

I don't know what I/we were listening to at the time, but the band has certainly grown. We were really all over the map style-wise. We still do a bunch of those songs, but pretty much only at a regular local gig we do at Plush, a venue in our hometown, in order to keep it different every week. But, we've developed a sound for sure - a recognizable one. And, I'd say the songwriting and arrangements keep getting better, with much more to come.

Is there a struggle for bands today which take risks but still seek airplay? Are there many alternatives for bands nowadays with the growth of the Internet?

Yes, it's a struggle for those bands! But it's becoming a dead issue to me. Radio is dying. Even the college radio - the alternative - is super-saturated, basically because there's no room for more than, say, 50 or so artists on mainstream radio, and that's across all genres. So, then, college radio can't just play all the Indies, since they're bombarded with all the major label stuff, too. I have faith, though, that good music gets out there in time, in some form, and we're good.

The Internet is huge. This Myspace thing has become quite a trend in music promotion, and there are so many more avenues. I think satellite radio will also be host to a lot of newer "underground" music.

What areas do you play most and where have you found crowds most receptive? How important is the live show for your getting your music out to listeners?

We mostly have played locally at this point, in and around Philadelphia, Jersey and New York. Certainly Philly has been the best spot for us, but that will change in time as we branch out.

The live show is extremely important for us, since it's the most direct way we present ourselves and our music. We're striving to develop the "show" part of the live show in order to make it visually compatible with the music. But, even without a ton of crazy visual stimulations, we put on a really energetic show with the idea of taking the listener on a little journey. Like I said before, each song has uniqueness to it, so the listener isn't going to sit there and feel like we're recycling the same stuff over and over again.

Is your style common in the area you play? How do you fit in with some of the bands heard on mainstream radio?

Rock and Alternative rock is common, and lots of slightly off-kilter stuff, too. There are so many talented people in this area it's ridiculous. However, we definitely have something that no one else is doing - very unique. Certainly no one is doing the keyboard-imitating-guitar thing - there are no keyboard rock trios that rock like we do. But, beyond that, our songs and arrangements stand out, so listeners can really feel what we're doing and relate to it and latch onto it, but that we constantly hear comments about us sounding "so different."

As far as mainstream radio, I have no doubt that we have material that would fit in. The reality, like I said, is that mainstream radio is a closed door that is pretty much opened with money from major labels and heavy-hitter promoters. However, I like to think that we also have music that would really stand out on the radio amongst a lot of cookie-cutter bands currently playing.

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Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.