DJP and MrT
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DJP and MrT

Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States | SELF

Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States | SELF
Band Pop EDM




"Apartment Rock: Norfolk’s DJ P & Mr. T Turn Pop on Its Head"

Apartment Rock
Norfolk’s DJ P & Mr. T turn pop on its head
By Jesi Owens

I first saw DJ P & Mr T last year at Plaza del Sol during a showcase featuring several of Norfolk’s up and comers. At the time, they had recently brought on their third member, Chuck Abadam and the spirit of the group was infectious and the crowd’s energy high. During the almost year since then, I have continued to see their name come up at a variety of venues and billed with numerous and varied artists and styles.
Genre-defying? Maybe so, for they have me stumped when trying to describe them. But that may just be their selling point in the end, as their dedication to playing good music, regardless of where it fits into a scene or description, is what keeps bringing me (and I would venture to guess a good many of their fans as well) back for more.
The band was nice enough to sit down to a virtual interview with me during the hectic days of New Year’s so those of us in the 757 looking for more from this avant-garde and talented trio could get a little taste.

You call your sound "Apartment Rock." What does that mean?

Jacki Paolella (Looper, Guitar Keys, and Lead Vocals): Well, we literally practice in our first floor apartment in Ghent and have the good fortune of some excellent neighbors, but I think there is something more to the name. To me, Apartment Rock means making the most of what you have -- some of the most groundbreaking music was made with a wonky guitar or an old Casio Tone Bank synth. It also gives listeners a glimpse into our process. Today, I feel that a lot of bands purposefully "close the door" to veil what all goes into the production of a song or album, but I think that as media production equipment is steadily becoming more accessible to the novice or hobbyist, every fan doesn't just want to come watch and listen to us, they want to participate and maybe even be inspired to make their own music or art. We would of course like to have our own space or studio in the future, but until then, I think the idea of Apartment Rock opens up an avenue for the working musician incorporate music into everyday life.

Tyler Warnalis (Sampler, Bass, and Vocals): We practice in the apartment that Jacki and I live in because we don't have a live drummer. Or is it the other way around? (That we don't have a drummer because we practice in an apartment?) We just try to make as big a sound as we can, while respecting our neighbors in the process. I think the name encompasses the ingredients that go into our music.

Charles “Chuck” Abadam (Violin and Vocals): I guess it's just a play on the origin of the sounds that we make. We practice, create, share and learn from each other in an apartment.

Where does the name DJP & MrT come from?

Jacki: I had a band in 2006 called 'DJP and the Alphabets.' Tyler suggested the name DJP and MrT before our first show and I thought that it was too good to refuse.

Tyler: I came up with DJP and MrT before our first show. I think we were pretty close to playing without a name that night. It's a play off an earlier project that Jacki was in called DJP and the Alphabets. We've had a lot of people tell us to change it since then.

There isn't actually a DJ, per se?

Jacki: That's correct, no DJ per se but we do, sometimes, drop a beat.

Tyler: I think we can get away with the DJ moniker because there is live mixing going on when we play.

How long have you been playing together and how did the act come about?

Jacki: Tyler and I have played together on and off for years, and DJ P and Mr T started in 2009. My friend Anna had a kickoff party in a warehouse for her handmade jewelry business, Lorak Fine Jewelry, and she asked me to play. I asked Tyler if he would like to accompany me, he accepted, and we played a short set that went over well. We met Will Huberdeau of Digging Up Virgins that night who invited us to another show, and from that second show, we were invited to another and so on. We added Chuck in January of 2011 and have been decidedly classier ever since.

Tyler: Jacki and I started playing music together after meeting through another talented Norfolk musician named Skye Zentz. We played in a few bands prior to this one and have always had a good group of musical friends around to jam with. Jacki approached me to play some songs she had written for a show at the opening of Lorak Fine Jewelry. We played for a few months before rounding out our sound by adding Chuck in January 2011. Prior to our initial tryout with Chuck I had never played with him.

Chuck: I've played in a couple of bands and jammed with several of my friends' bands just playing for fun. I started to get serious about playing music when I decided to focus more on my violin. I started playing in my worship band at Church Symphonic and toying with the idea of playing with a band. I wanted to play with good people who had their priorities aligned and were serious about playing music, and something unique that I could also fit into. When my friend John Upton mentioned DJP and MrT I took is seriously and approached Jacki and we talked about getting together in the new year. After the first practices in the new year of 2011 we hit it off and the rest is present.

You've built a good following playing locally in the last year. What are your thoughts on the Norfolk music scene? Could you speak a bit on the venues, the community, and the promoters? Pros/cons or strengths/weaknesses?

Jacki: Absolutely. We have had great support in Norfolk, and in fact, we rarely play elsewhere. This year we hope to tour a bit more, but as much as I like to complain about our music scene, I love Norfolk and I love the people. I also love the small venues -- Taphouse, Belmont, Plaza Del Sol, and what the heck is going on with the 37th and Zen building…get it together over there, what a beautiful venue.
I don't know how deeply I want to go into this, but almost every promoter/venue situation is different and some situations are better than others. I have a lot to say about the Norfolk music scene but I'll boil it down: We never know what we will sound like on a given night at a given venue which is both exciting and terrifying. We never know if we will profit. We never know if anyone will show up, but they seem to keep showing, so keep it up!!
Selling tickets in advance is difficult. Selling out a venue feels great, even if it's small! Venues that act like they are doing a favor by "allowing you play" make me uncomfortable. In my experience, venues who treat us with respect have more success on the whole. Live music is a two-way (and sometimes three or more way...) relationship, and communication is key.

Tyler: We have seen the music scene grow a lot since we started playing. We've met a lot of different musicians that this area has to offer. It is kind of a scene without any specific genre attached to it which should be encouraging to any musicians wanting to contribute to it.

Chuck: I feel like the Norfolk music scene is definitely growing. The bands here are all very different and new bands seem to be springing up all the time so there is a good flow of music in the air. I'd like the see the "scene" become more open. Music from the seven cities should be intermingling and it doesn't feel that way. We try to play out of the Norfolk area as much as we can but finding venues in other cities is difficult and it seems as if word of mouth is the only way people hear about new venues.

Some of your recent gigs included Localpalooza and the YourMusicNet Taphouse showcase (other acts on these tickets were as diverse as Duburbia, Philip Roebuck, Sicman of VA, and The Nerdlucks---aka: all over the flippin' place!). Your sound is so unique and it seems you're fitting into interesting pockets regardless of who else is on the bill. Do you think it's better to have shows remain more genre-specific (ie: punk with punk, rap with rap, etc.) or are you more of the mixing bowl type of band when it comes to sharing the stage?

Jacki: Ah, I love fitting into interesting pockets! I want to see a mixing bowl as long as the end product is not gross -- don't put broccoli in your Cocoa Pebbles or anything, but I don't want to see the same type of acts all night. In fact, I'd like to see more than just music on the stage. How about a Plan B skit or a blindfolded knife thrower in between sets?

Tyler: Just to keep things interesting for everyone involved, I'd say it’s better to have a good mix on a bill. It's fun to go to a rock show that might have a wild card on it, or a whole bill of wild cards for that matter. We're like to keep playing with a diverse array of talent.

Chuck: I can't say what is better for other bands and music because I love listening to a variety of music. I think as a band we love playing with bands that we like regardless of the type of music it is. We tend to play with more rock centric bands but we aren't against playing a show with a rap artist for example.

Who are a couple of your favorite local acts to share a bill with?

Jacki: Oh man...we love ‘em all! How could we pick?!

Tyler: I've enjoyed sharing the bill with Carousel and The Mirrors especially. I've enjoyed the two art shows we played with Nichole Ashikis. I hope to meet new favorites too.

Chuck: The Mirrors!

Full length is coming soon? Tell me a bit about your recordings thus far and where you hope to go in 2012.

Jacki: Yes, full length to be released in Spring 2012. We just had our first official release, the Tee EP, which comes with a rad calculator t-shirt designed by Norfolk artist Nichole Ashikis. We record everything ourselves at my studio, TAPTAP. I am still learning, but I have some great mentors and some great gear that I have pieced together over the years.

Tyler: We've recorded all of out music so far at our apartment. Jacki is our producer and has recently opened up her studio (TAPTAP) to other bands. Recording is easy to me when it's in my house and the clock is not running. We recently finished recording our Tee EP, which we are selling as a digital download with a t-shirt (hence the name). I'd like to get more music out to our fans in some recorded fashion as soon as possible.

Beyond recording, what else do you have in mind for 2012? More gigging? Touring? Web presence? Give us a sense of what we're gonna experience with DJP & MrT this year.

Jacki: All of that! And more, if people want to see it. How about a video?

Tyler: I'd like to have as many new experiences as possible in the new year. We live in a time where there are so many avenues of expression for an artist. Touring would be a lot of fun.

Chuck: We'd like to go on some mini tours on the East coast.

Your sound is so unique. It's rare I find myself not being able to compare a sound. Who are your influences?

Jacki: I am with you on that. A close friend's mom compared us to "Devo meets Regina Spektor." I can't say whether or not that is true. You are the music writer, you figure it out! :)

Tyler: The bands that I hear when I listen to the music that we make are Devo, Talking heads, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Andrew Bird.

Chuck: Nicolo Paganini, Andrew Bird, Joanna Newsom...Andrew Bird's ability to play violin and sing at the same time are something I have been working on and I'd like to ad that to the band. Joanna Newsom uses her harp as a percussion instrument in her songs frequently and I can relate to using my violin in the same way in DJ P and Mr T.

(Note: Since I’m the music writer, I will say this in response to Jacki: I hear the fun and quirkiness of bands like The Cars or Blondie and my mind conjures up a neo-CBGB's where Tiny Tim and Patti Smith nod along to their weird, un-pop while the pretty ones come and go...)

Jacki: I think it would have to be the second verse of the song Bone Folder, which we are currently recording a cleaner version of. The song was actually inspired by another local musician, Sarah Carter, who moved from Norfolk to Nashville. The song is about leaving what you have behind in an attempt to find something better and fulfill your potential. I think we all struggle with that, especially in Norfolk where I see so many talented people jumping off to bigger cities. I want to do that too sometimes, but I just love it so much here right now.

Tyler: I think the chorus for "The Wheel" resonates the most strongly with me.

What's your writing process? Who does what? How are the layers stacked, so to speak?

Jacki: Some of our songs are my old songs made new. For our newer stuff, we usually start with some grooves or a beat. Often I feel like I have more to say instrumentally than with lyrics, so I usually end up fitting lyrics in afterward. Everyone generally writes their own parts, but we do guide each other. Tyler is starting to write more and I am excited to see what he is coming up with. Tyler is definitely more into the sampling, beats and digital synths side of things, and he can make some crazy stuff in Ableton. When he is "finished" (ie when he gets stuck because he can't possibly cram anything else into that groove...), I'll take it from him and hammer it into a "pop" song. This is how we came up with Runner. Chuck and I will sometimes make grooves together, but usually he just takes what he have and adds the air of sophistication that only a bowed stringed instrument can add. But we do have plans to get him on some other instruments in 2012, which he seems pretty excited about.

Tyler: Every song has been written pretty differently. I don't think there is a defined process yet. It involves computers, jamming together and separately, and staying open to changes.
Chuck: I think I find my way into our songs. I try to find sounds that I can highlight and create melodies that blend and at times stand out from our grooves. We are pretty attuned to the sound we want to create and work together to help the songs sound their best. - VEER Magazine

"DJP and MrT"

I saw this norfolkian band a year-ish ago at my friend’s cd release show and immediately loved it and saw them a few other times. Since then they’ve written new songs and added a third member. Their music is also but a different type of fun than Surburban Living’s style. DJP and MrT’s music really makes you want to dance. Especially their song “Round Up”, for some reason it makes me picture the band members in cowboy outfits doing an elctronic-y version of a cowboy/cowgirl dance with lassos. Other songs aren’t as upbeat but are still very danceable and the keyboard and synthy feel doesn’t leave your ears
- BUILD IT TOGETHER- Area code 757 (local music scene blog)

"My New Favorite Bullshit"

People have been telling me for a minute how awesome DJP and MrT are, silly name be damned. I felt foolish for my willful ignorance when I finally caught up to them at Kerouac Cafe. Not only are they a classy bunch of elegant pop alchemists, but they wrap it up in a veneer of playfulness and whimsey and synth, keytar, electronic devices, beats, guitar, bass and violin accompaniment. More embarrassingly to me, they are actually people I have met and have been totally gracious and nice to me whose music I have enjoyed before in other projects and impromptu jams. Why was I sleeping on this? Probably my stubborn tunnel vision and a name that conveys their fun but not their staggering quality. I've seen each of the three performers there tonight be good, but not yet great like this in such a giddy way that appeared carefree but looks and sounds like there's a lot of work behind it.

Something funny to me: the night before I saw DJP and MrT, I wound up at a rock show that had strange overtones all around it and multiple problems. There was a general atmosphere of dickish, overcompensating, rude male behavior. A lot of whining disguised as threats and yelling and possible fights. DJP and MrT encountered a few comparable snags. Both shows encountered sound issues at some point and a desire by the performers for the audience to stand up and get closer and give more back.

For sound issues, the rock frontman bitched and went back and forth with the arrangement without being helpful while petulantly slagging the sound guy who may or may not have shown up drunk. The pop trio engaged the audience with good humor as they fixed their own sound and made adjustments on the fly when they reached an impasse (the keytar had to be abandoned, its parts played on the electric bass instead). Yes, the pop act did their own shit, while the rock band let somebody else take care of them and then cried when it wasn't to their liking.

For the crowd engagement issue, the rock side kept insulting the crowd for its standing ten feet back instead of five, and then six feet instead of three, and it kept on like this.* We were collectively called motherfuckers or some equivalent catchall insult repeatedly. The pop side made a few polite observations that there was open space that we, the audience, were welcome to stand up and fill and dance if we wanted. This didn't happen but they still entertained and appreciated the seated applause love. Essentially, seeing two bands for the first time on two different nights, the pop band at the coffee shop was such a better show than the rock band at the bar. This from a guy who likes to drink.

DJP and MrT are the truth. Expect me to get obnoxious about them in the coming weeks.

- the lab, again (local culture/scene blog)


Tee EP - 2011
Otolith-Coming January 25, 2013!



Hailing from Norfolk, Virginia, DJP and MrT is an innovative trio with a propensity for catchy synth-pop melodies, thoughtful lyrics, and booty shakin’ beats.

Referred to as “a classy bunch of elegant pop alchemists”, the band has proven to be a standout in the local music scene and guarantees to get you off of your barstool and onto the dance floor.

DJP and MrT has been featured on local radio and television, played for venues of up to 1000 capacity, been live streamed on several internet channels, and was featured on the cover of the February 2012 music issue of local magazine VEER with a four page spread inside.