Joceifus Rifle
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Joceifus Rifle

Band Rock Acoustic


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Music worth leaving the house for December 27, 2007"

"Their sound is as big as their name with polished hooks, balmy acoustic riffs and the occasional mandolin twitter..." - Independent Weekly Raleigh, NC

"Shot at fame"

Extra efforts produce new Joceifus Rifle release

Thursday, January 18, 2007

After three years of saving and hard work, the members of Joceifus Rifle come one step closer to their dream this week with the release of their first full-length CD, "Classic City Sessions."

Band members Matty Russo, Matt Bergenn, Ellis Ramey and Jimmy Frisella hope one day to support themselves with their music and feel the 15-track CD is a big step forward.

"It's got enough different flavor to it that it will appeal to older generations, to younger generations, across the board really," said drummer Ramey.

Joceifus Rifle will promote the CD during a release party at 10 p.m. Saturday at Chico's Mexican Restaurant on Sunset Avenue.

Chico's manager, John Gall, said the band always gets a good turnout, and he is expecting no less this time.

Getting the CD recorded wasn't easy, said Russo, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist. All the band members have other jobs, and two are married and have children. Balancing these commitments with several interstate trips to a recording studio in Athens, Ga., was a challenge, but worth it, Russo said.

The new release moves away from the band's previous electric style to a lighter, more laid back acoustic-based sound, Ramey said.

Though they call themselves an acoustic rock band, the different musical influences each member contributes is what makes Joceifus Rifle's sound unique, said Bergenn, who provides back-up vocals and plays lead guitar, keyboard and mandolin.

"We have a wide variety of roots, from grass bands to jam bands to a melodic kind of sound," Bergenn said.

The members concentrate on creating good musical shows instead of being a flashy band, and they wanted to do the same on the CD, Ramey said. They decided not to add so many extra instruments to the disc that they wouldn't sound the same live.

"It's always been more focused on the music than any of the glitzy show stuff that a lot of bands do. The kind of music we're playing doesn't call for any of us to be jumping around on stage," Ramey said.

Most of the songs on the album are written from Russo's personal experiences. He said he writes positive songs with messages people can relate to and understand, such as one about his childhood home, a second about life after Sept. 11 and another about taking a Sunday drive.

"There's not much hidden behind the lyrics. We try to write simple to get the message across," Russo said.

It can be hard winning over crowds, but it gets easier when people know the band's music and can sing along, Russo said.

The band started in the summer of 2003, when Russo moved to the area from Athens and met Bergenn and Ramey through a mutual friend. They tried playing together and hit it off right away. After working with several bass guitarists who never quite fit, Frisella joined the band in late 2004 to become the final member, Russo said.

"We're all best friends now. The dynamic of the band works by our love of music," Russo said.

Russo of Wilson, Bergenn of Nashville, Ramey of Rocky Mount and Frisella of Whitakers still meet at least once a week to practice, more if they have multiple concerts scheduled. Ramey said his parents lend the band the room over their garage for the sessions.

The band chooses not to tour outside of North Carolina, focusing instead on their shows and promoting their songs online. Russo said they will continue to play the bars, festivals, clubs and even the occasional fraternity party, waiting for the big break that will make all four of their dreams come true.
- By Laura McFarland, Rocky Mount Telegram

"Odd name, good music from budding band"

January 22, 2007

I guess it's been about two or three years since I met Matty Russo.

He came into my office one afternoon, on his lunch break from his job at BB&T, to see if I would be interested in listening to his band's demo CD and maybe do a story on the group, called Joceifus Rifle.

It wasn't an unusual request. Budding artists bring in their work all the time, hoping a little publicity will jump-start their careers. I picked the CD up before leaving work that day and about halfway home, I popped it in the CD player.

I absolutely loved it. During the next several months, I played those three songs over and over again. I can still recite every word.

I called Matty and got the scoop on the band. Matty is the lead vocalist and also plays electric and acoustic guitars. Matt Bergenn is a man of many talents on backing vocals, lead guitar, keyboards, piano, organ and mandolin. Ellis Ramey plays drums and Jimmy Frisella is on bass.

I wrote a story for the paper, sort of introducing them to the community, and I've tried to keep up with the band's accomplishments since then.

They've done well since that demo CD, headlining at dozens of clubs across eastern North Carolina, producing a few other CDs and a DVD and serving as the house band for Raleigh radio station 100.7, "The River."

Then last week, came the best news yet about the local quartet.

Friday, while I was out to lunch, Matty stopped by the office again. And this weekend, just as I did a couple years ago, I popped a Joceifus Rifle CD in my player, this time listening to the 15 songs on the band's first full-length CD, titled "Classic City Sessions." They recorded it at a studio in Athens, Ga., over the fall of 2006.

They didn't disappoint me. I don't know all the words yet, and I haven't picked a favorite — you'll have to give me a few weeks — but the music is phenomenal. Matty, Matt, Ellis and Jimmy have outdone themselves.

If you like rock, you've got to check it out. You can listen to the band live at their CD release party Friday night at Subs Plus, 901 Ward Blvd. The music starts at 10:30. You can reach Subs Plus at 243-4255 or

If you can't make it, visit one of the band's Web sites,, or, for CD purchasing information. - By Heather Wilkerson, Wilson Daily Times

"Joceifus Rifle"

It's one of the first dilemmas every band encounters — the name.

Choosing a band name that's memorable, has real meaning and isn't taken by 47 other bands on MySpace is darned-near impossible. Which begs the question, "What IS a "Joceifus Rifle?"

A friend of the Rocky Mount-based band suggested they call themselves Josephus Rifle, honoring a distant relative. Seaman Josephus Willis and his crew were responsible for killing the most famous whale, "The Mayflower," in 1874 off Shackleford Banks.

The whale's 50-foot skeleton hangs in the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh.

The name was not only catchy and original, but it stood for something.

"We liked the story because it was kind of inspirational," said Matty Russo, the band's lead vocalist and guitarist.

In the summer of 2003, Russo moved to Rocky Mount from Athens, Ga., where he had played in another band, named Mishap, for several years.

Fresh off seven years of touring, Russo was unsure of his future as a musician.

"I didn't know if I was going to play music again," Russo said. "But then I met Matt (Bergenn) and Ellis (Ramey)."

With Russo taking lead vocals and guitar, Bergenn on lead guitar, keyboard, mandolin and backup vocals, Ramey on drums and Jimmy Frisella playing bass, they developed their own acoustic-rock sound, traveled to Raleigh and played their first gig in Dec. 2003.

"Our sound has evolved a lot," Bergenn said. "When we first started, we were trying anything and everything."

These days, they incorporate the acoustic and electric guitar, making them popular in classic-rock fan bases around the Triangle.

Greenville is a market they have yet to fully conquer.

Their first full-length CD "Classic City Sessions" was released in January. The 16 tracks were chosen from more than 35 original songs Russo and Bergenn wrote together.

"I worked with a song-writer for a long time with my other band," Russo said. " ... it's hard to find someone you can collaborate with."

There are several Web sites to visit and buy their latest. Or you could simply drop by a show (they like to give free CDs to the crowd).

"Why hide your CD to sell two for $20 when you can get 50 more fans?" Russo said.

And giving them away has paid off. Spreading the word has landed them on the Cat's Cradle Stage at the Carrboro Music Festival, and they're Southeast semi-finalists in the Independent Music World Series.

Editors at Billboard Magazine will chose six semi-finalists to perform Sept. 20 at the Southeast Showcase in Nashville, Tenn.

Joceifus Rifle also beat out several acts to be featured in "Artists Against Cancer: Volume 1," a compilation CD with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.

"We're starting to see the benefits of (playing regionally) now," Russo said. "If we build in North Carolina, we would be happy with that."

Check out Joceifus Rifle Sept. 7 at Corner Music (formerly Red Rooster) and Sept. 15 at Ham's Restaurant & Brewhouse. You can also get a preview of their music at or

Contact Kristin Day at 329-9579 or
- The Mixer (Greenville, NC)


2004- Joceifus Rifle EP
2005- Find a Way EP
2005- Live from the Pour House
2006- Joceifus Rifle DVD
2007- Classic City Sessions



Homebase: Rocky Mount, NC

Current Status: Independent (No label)

Band Bio:

Joceifus Rifle's song-driven rock was first introduced to an eager Raleigh crowd in December 2003. From that first show, the band has continued to tour building a strong fan base in their home state of North Carolina. Fronted by former Athens, GA music veteran Matty Russo (Mishap, Zuko), the quartet mixes acoustic and electric guitars, piano, and mandolin along with a tight rhythm section to deliver meaningful, concise rock songs. The soulful vocal harmonies created by Russo and Matthew Bergenn (lead guitar,piano, mandolin) give their songs an upbeat vibe and accent melodies that you'll find yourself singing along to for days after a show. Along with an already busy tour schedule, Joceifus Rifle currently resides as the "House Band" for Raleigh Radio Station "100.7 The River."
Over the past four years the band has played hundreds of shows, released
two EP’s, a DVD, a live CD, and a full length CD. The band is entering the studio in late Fall 2008 to work on their next CD...stay tuned!

Band Name:

Back in 2003, while searching for a name, a very close friend of the band suggested “Josephus Rifle” in reference to the story of Seaman Josephus Willis, a distant relative. Josephus Willis, nicknamed Captain Seef, and his "Red Oar" crew of Shackleford Banks, NC were responsible for killing NC's most famous whale, “The Mayflower” in 1874. The whale’s skeleton hangs in the NC Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh, NC and Josephus’ whale gun has been passed down through generations of the Willis family and currently rests at the family’s house in Morehead City, NC.
The band liked the idea of the name since it portrayed a “David vs. Goliath” message and tied the band to its North Carolina roots. After a little spelling edit, Joceifus Rifle was officially born in October 2003. The band, from the small town of Rocky Mount, hopes to conquer “the beast”, or today’s music industry, the same way Josephus took down the fifty foot whale.