From kit to keyboard: Wilkes-Barre drummer Joe Mirin makes atmospheric pop jams
Vice Grip was a hardcore band from Wilkes-Barre. Like most hardcore bands, Vice Grip had a drummer; their drummer was 24-year-old Joe Mirin. Unlike most hardcore drummers, Mirin spent his time away from his kit making music on his keyboard.
“On the side I was doing hip-hop beats and stuff on my computer,” Mirin said. “It kind of got to the point where it was hard to stay in a niche in a band; it feels like you’re trying to fit into a hole. I just kind of stopped doing that.”
Mirin admitted that his flow is inadequate; as a result, he began leaning on pop sensibilities to create ambient soundscapes for his effects-laden vocal delivery as the one man band NEVER. The end product is a combination of your favorite ’80s new wave band (you should definitely have a favorite ’80s new wave band) and the same gritty urban culture that gave birth to underground music in the United States. There’s a name for that type of thing, but Mirin didn’t forego one hole just to try to fit himself into another; he let the Internet do that for him.
“People in Europe and on the West Coast are taking my songs and putting me on radio playlists and stuff under cold wave and dark wave and synth pop,” Mirin said. “There’s a bunch of different genres, so I’m just letting them name it for me.”
The same approach is being applied to NEVER’s presence in the live music scene. Mirin said he’s ready to play live, but he’s letting things happen as they go. It isn’t because he’s worried about his peers’ approval; it’s because he’s having fun making it.
“Punk and hardcore has kind of taught me to be myself and not worry about what everyone else is doing,” Mirin said. “I’m ready to do it live, but I don’t want to be that guy that’s trying to force himself into the local music scene. If someone does ask and I feel comfortable or excited about it, I’ll play.”
Local hip-hop shows have helped Mirin conceptualize his stage presence as NEVER. When he played with Vice Grip he was used to having other musicians around him for support; the attention wasn’t squarely on him for an entire set. Studying emcees who perform without instruments or a full compliment of musicians has done the same thing for Mirin as making music that falls outside of his comfort zone: it’s created confidence.
“For me it was about confidence,” Mirin said. “When I was playing hardcore there was always this thing that you felt like you were being pinned down to, like we can’t play this song because it doesn’t have that vibe and I can’t do this because we’re not that kind of band, but I’ve always considered punk and hardcore stepping away form the status quo and not worrying about what people think.”
In April, Mirin plans to launch a project similar to NEVER with his friend Dante Nolan that’ll have a “smoother, more cryptic sound.”
In the meantime, NEVER’s “LIQUID COFFIN” and “POSITIVE FUNERAL” EPs are available now at neverwb.bandcamp.com.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts