Interview Joey Frevola (Edge Of Reality)

"I think Vicious Circle will appeal to fans of prog rock everywhere"

(August 2016, text by Arne van Os van den Abeelen, edited by Peter Willemsen)

In 2014 I visited the Resonance Prog Festival in London where I saw Synaestesia. On the left side of the podium stood Joey Frevola, a young guitar player playing his socks off while wearing a fez; a weird guy, but a fantastic musician. When I got the chance to talk to him, he also appeared to be a nice guy. He gave me the CD Elephant In My Pajamas by Edge Of Reality. Later on I saw him again with Synaestesia, which has now been renamed to Kyros, and he told me about the new plans. Two weeks ago I was so lucky to receive Vicious Circle, the new album of this great talent from his other band Edge Of Reality. I gave it a spin and I was just blown away. This is the future of prog music!

Joey Frevola
Could you please tell me a bit more about yourself?
“I'm a 22 year-old guitarist and composer living in Nashville, Tennessee. I play in both Edge Of Reality, which is based in Nashville, and Kyros (formerly Synaesthesia), which is based in London.”

Elephant In My Pajamas was in fact a solo album. Why did you release it as Edge Of Reality?
“Well, it wasn't a solo album on purpose. I have always intended Edge Of Reality to be a fully-fledged band, but sadly, I haven't had much luck with finding and keeping band members. I actually had a full line-up for the band right up until I was ready to record that album, but everyone quit at the last minute. So, I ended up just doing everything myself apart from the drums. That means that you could see it as a solo album by Joey Frevola since I wrote it all and did most of the playing, but it really wasn't intended to be that way. That's just how it worked out.”

How did you meet the current members of your band?
“Our current line-up is a different story. Jesse Peck was one of the first people I met when we were both beginning our time at Belmont University. We have a lot in common both musically and personally, so we hit it off right away. Then I heard his music − he was working on an album at the same time I was working on Elephant In My Pajamas − and that was it. I knew I had to get him into the band. The song Wasteland on Vicious Circle is actually part of that album Jesse was writing which will be used in its entirety over time. He's actually the first proper writing partner I've ever had and his musical personality runs all the way through Vicious Circle just as much as mine. Jesse actually wasn't super serious about music or guitar before university, despite having one of the most ridiculous ears for it I've ever seen. He has perfect pitch and as a result he's able to pick up and understand musical concepts in a way I never could.
Drummer Branndon Center I met through Belmont's Rock Ensemble, which we were both a part of. I put forth the idea of doing Dream Theater's Dance Of Eternity for the recital and he learned it without any problem whatsoever. That made him a very easy choice when reforming the band, and, as you can hear on the record, he's just fabulous. Branndon actually developed a lot of his abilities from playing in a marching band. You can hear how intricate some of the handwork is on the album. He's got a crazy amount of control with those things.”

How did you learn to play so well? I know your guitar skills, but the keyboard and bass parts are stunning as well!
“I started playing guitar when I was twelve. I was very inspired by guys who could shred their brains out. The first two years or so were pretty much just me working on chops, chops, and more chops. Over time, I started writing my own music and became obsessed with becoming a better composer, an obsession which still plagues me to this day. Most of my abilities on keyboards, bass, and drums stem from the fact that I could never find other musicians to play on the stuff I'd written. So, I just played it all myself. Unfortunately, that trend is still continuing in the bass and keys department, which is the reason why I played those instruments on the record.”

Left to right: Joey Frevola, Branndon Center and Jesse Peck

The tracks on Vicious Circle show a solid musical background of jazz, polka, metal, symphonic, Zappa-like stuff, beautiful choruses and melodies. Where does it all come from?
“I'd say it mostly just comes from our brains. It's the sound we hear in our heads due to countless hours of cramming all different kinds of music in there. It's also driven by the fact that Jesse and I are both very methodical in the way we compose. All of the songs on this album are story based, so many times the style you hear at any particular moment, is determined by what style would tell that section of the story the best. For example: Into The Shadows is mostly about a dystopian future that is overseen by a woman who claims to be a prophetess of a goddess. What better way to establish that society than by including their national anthem? And what better way to show the religious nuances of that society than making that national anthem very hymn-like? These kinds of thought processes help us create music like this.”

How did you find singer Ruben Vasquez Amos? He's amazing! And will he become a member of Edge Of Reality?
“I actually found him by posting some 'singer wanted for progressive metal album' type flyers around London. He then sent me an e-mail and he just happened to be exactly what we were looking for; the album was already written by this point. We needed someone who could pull off all the different styles and sounds we wanted, and he just nailed all of it. I would love for him to move to the US and join the band, but unfortunately, it's not very likely. I really hope to work with him again down the line, but for now we're on the hunt for a full time singer who could carry on his legacy.”

There are a lot of contributions on the album. Did you arrange it all?
“Yeah, we did. Most of them are friends we've made at Belmont, with a couple being friends of mine from high school. It was all just a case of trying to achieve the best album we could, so if we knew that none of us had the tools to make something work, like in the case of the trumpet playing on Khanfusion, we'd just outsourced it. Luckily for us, we know a lot of talented and helpful people.”

The album sounds fantastic. How did you do this?
“I'm very glad you think so! I did all the production and mixing work myself, and honestly, it was probably the most difficult and anxiety-filled part of making the album for me. I spent about six months just mixing the album,
Edge Of Reality
reading all I could on the subject and trying to get my skills to a level I was happy with. I even wound up re-recording all the guitars on the album because the first drafts just weren't cutting it. Shout outs to Jesse and Branndon for putting up with me during that period, because I was going pretty mad.”

In the press release you mentioned that parallel albums are planned for the next time. Can you tell me something about these plans?
“We actually made a very silly video on our YouTube channel that more or less explains what these plans are. Imagine we took the first track from Scenes From A Memory (Dream Theater), The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (Genesis), and Mercy Falls (Seventh Wonder) and put those all on one album. Then for the next album, you take track two from these albums and so on until all three albums are complete. This way you'd have three concept albums being released in parallel over many albums. That's essentially what we're doing.”

Do you intend to play live shows or to embark on a tour?
“We're playing shows around the Nashville area to work on our performing abilities and get our name out there. We obviously want to tour a lot soon, but we first want to complete the band's line-up since we're still in need of a bassist, a keyboardist and a singer. We're working hard to make this happen, so be on the lookout for us soon!”

How does this phenomenal group affect your work with Kyros? I like Kyros, but Edge Of Reality is one level or maybe three levels higher? Will you ever combine these two groups?
“Ha, ha, no it's unlikely that we're going to combine both bands into a super band or anything like that. Neither band really influences the other apart from me having to be in different parts of the world for each. I got used to working over the internet when I'm not there in person. What I'd certainly love to do is have a Kyros and an Edge Of Reality tour. That'd be a dream come true for me: playing a double set every night. Also, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the next Kyros album when you hear it.”

According to my information you're currently writing an opera. Could you please lift a corner of the veil?
“Yes, that's actually what I'm working on currently. It's a rock opera called Gone that will be told in either two or three albums, I haven't decided yet. The writing is already finished for the first one, so current struggle is the typical Joey struggle of finding the necessary musicians. In this case the vocalists to play the characters. I've got one of the two leads, but the other one has yet to be cast. For both the story and the line-up, you'll just have to wait a bit longer. The sound quite differs from Edge Of Reality or Kyros. Sometimes I think it's my best writing to date. Well, maybe; it's hard to say. I'll keep working on it.”

Do you currently have any other plans?
“We're playing a release show in Nashville on the 25th of August. Apart from that, we're just working on promoting Vicious Circle and trying to get it heard by as many people as possible. We're very proud of it, and we think it will appeal to fans of progressive music everywhere.”

Thanks Joey for answering my questions.
“Thank you very much for your support, Arne. It means so much to me.”

More info about Edge Of Reality on the Internet:
       review album 'Vicious Circle'

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