Wide Mouth Grin
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Wide Mouth Grin

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"Silence of the Jams"

Deaf guitar ace will crank it up at Little Bear
By Stephen Knapp
04/04/2007
There’s no question that Boulder-based Wide Mouth Grin, which takes the Little Bear stage on April 12, has all the ingredients of a first-class rock combo.

A self-described jam band, Wide Mouth Grin serves up a hot platter of original music, organic stuff with a hint of jazz and lightly seasoned with a progressive Grateful Dead/Phish sauce. Veteran drummer Pete Solveson licky style easily drives Seth Goodfellows energetic keyboard and bass player Mark Brummer’s restless foundation. Together, they set a perfect table for the crisp, expressive guitar of Steve DiCesare, the group’s composer and musical main dish.

That DiCesare plays his own music superbly is only natural. That he’s never actually heard Wide Mouth Grin perform is astounding. DiCesare, who began losing his hearing at age 10, is almost completely deaf.

A talented pianist and guitar player even then, DiCesare never seriously considered abandoning his music, despite the possibility that the clamor of rock music could aggravate his hearing loss.

"I couldn’t really stop myself — I had to keep playing and writing," he says, speaking through e-mail. "My parents were pretty freaked, and my mom was adamant about wearing hearing protection all the time. Now I’m a nut about protecting what hearing I have left, about 10 to 15 percent."

Since that declining fraction lies chiefly in the lower registers, DiCesare composes by playing through headphones and mixing the sound to emphasize the bass and drum parts. Also, an effects pedal transposes higher frequencies into lower ones, meaning he essentially writes all parts at the bass guitar level.

"I just need to imagine how things are supposed to sound up there."

Still, songs that look great on a chart and hold together under controlled studio circumstances could fray during a free-flowing live performance. DiCesare credits his ensemble for keeping Wide Mouth Grin tight on stage.

"I’ve been playing with Mark Brummer since day one — since sixth grade, I think. I’ve never played with another bass player, and with Mark on board there’s no need to. And Pete is a top-notch pro who’s helping me keep it together on stage, helping me out with my live sound and communicating really well. Also, Seth is taking control of a lot of vocal responsibilities — the stuff I’d be doing if I could. He’s really cemented this unit together."

Because Wide Mouth Grin’s often-improvisational style of music doesn’t ordinarily conform to bars and stanzas, the band has devised an ingenious shorthand adaptation of American Sign Language for use under fire.

"All the songs have sign names, and we also have signs for a bunch of technical stuff as well as musical notation, major and minor keys, the letters of the scale, and abstract stuff like ‘speed it up,’ " DiCesare explains. "There’s also a bunch of signs that the guys use to let me know if I’m out of tune, in the wrong key, or if something I’m doing just sucks. They made some of it up like picking their noses, pointing at their ass or giving me the finger, but most of the signs we use are based on ASL. It’s a quick, visual system for on-stage changes, which is cool."

It is cool, and on stage it makes for seamless rock magic. Wide Mouth Grin’s relatively brief experience together on the club circuit has greatly increased its confidence and provided an important opportunity to refine its distinctive sound.

"I think the jamming has come a long way in a short time, and I think it’s really going to soar this year," DiCesare says. "But I would also say we have a very strong progressive, kick-your-ass approach, as well."

In the near term, DiCesare hopes to book as many quality venues as possible and get Wide Mouth Grin out in front of a discerning public.

"Our goal right now is to play as many good shows as possible and try to build a Colorado fan base," he says. "We have about 50 original tunes and, personally, I’d like to record them all before I can’t. We’re going to record most of the shows over the next six months and put together a live CD."

While his hearing slowly continues to deteriorate, DiCesare’s devotion to his music still comes through loud and clear.

"I’m going to keep playing until it’s just impossible for people to play with me; then I’ll just play by myself."

Wide Mouth Grin performs at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 12, at the Little Bear Saloon in downtown Evergreen. To learn more about the band, visit www.widemouthgrin.com. - Canyon Courier


"SPIN Magazine-- August, 2008"

Wide Mouth Grin Article From SPIN Magazine-- Aug. 2008

Deaf JAM
No Hearing. No Problem!
How one guitarist learned to play by ear.

Q. What do you call a jam band with a deaf guitarist?
A. All of them!

But seriously, if you’re Boulder, Colorado-based guitarist and songwriter Steve DiCesare, you call it Wide Mouth Grin. “Audiences have no idea.” Says DiCesare, 38, who began losing his hearing at age ten and was interviewed for this story via instant message. “People think my band is joking when they say I am deaf.” But for DiCesare, who has been playing with best friend and bassist, MArk Brummer since the early ‘90s, deafness is no laughing matter-usually. “We use hand signs onstage to communicate, “ explains DiCesare. “When I mess up, I’ll look and see the guys pointing at there asses.”

Such ass-pointing is a surprisingly rare occurrence. DiCesare, who started on guitar in junior high, when he still had most of his hearing, relies on memory for playing and composing. “I know where my hands are supposed to go and how chords are supposed to sound.” He says. “And Mark is great at smoothing out any mistakes.” Live, in addition to watching for the visual clues ( which are based on American Sign Language), DICesare can keep time by feeling the vibrations of the kick drum. (He wears headphones on stage to protect what little hearing he has left.) “Sometimes Steve’s volume is not right or a pedal won’t be working, and I’ve got to help.” says Brummer. “But we get away with it.” Brummer’s got his own reasons for putting up with the unusual complications: “Steve’s compositions are really progressive and original. I wouldn’t want to play with anyone else.”

Ironically, DiCesare’s inability to listen to music is also his main source of motivation. “obviously, I don’t listen to albums, and standing around at concerts isn’t fun anymore,”he says. “So the only way I can still have music in my life is to make it.”

Local buzz has recently helped the band move up from clubs to theaters, and their debut album, Some Kind of Meat, With Some KInd of Cheese, on Some Kind of Bread, is due out in the fall. “Sure, there are times when i think about quitting,” says DiCesare. “But if one person likes what I am doing, good enough! Let’s rock!”

-David Marchese, Spin MAgazine - SPIN


"Interview with Steve DiCesare, WMG"

Q & A with Steve DiCesare of Wide Mouth Grin
e-mail to a friend | print this | link to this


Almost entirely deaf, Steve DiCesare is the lead guitarist for Boulder band Wide Mouth Grin.
Provided by: Wide Mouth Grin press photo

Contributed by: Brit Horvat/YourHub.com on 6/11/2007

I recently experienced my first Wide Mouth Grin show at Dulcinea's in Denver. Although finally seeing this band live was exciting enough, meeting Steve DiCesare, the lead guitarist, was awesome. That man has such a kind soul. I was nervous to meet him, thinking that it'd be difficult to communicate, but it was the complete opposite. He brought new meaning to the idea of communication, and every time we've exchanged words or messages, whether it be via e-mail or in person, he has taught me something new every time. (I'll be weaving some of the following into a detailed story later this week, so keep your eyes peeled! And, definitely check out www.widemouthgrin.com.)
You better get to readin' because Brit's done it again -- asked a ton of questions and received great answers. I refuse to cut anything out. Enjoy.

Brit: Have you lived in Boulder your whole life?
Steve: I grew up in NY -- Greenlawn , NY-- home of the greenest lawns East of the Mississippi, home of the fabulous Heckscher Park and home town of Mariah Carey -- she actually sang a few tunes with our band on high school graduation night -- a great girl.
Brit: Where are your favorite places to go in the Boulder area?
Steve: Lately I've been sneaking out of the house and hanging out in my garage with the dusty boxes and spider webs.
Brit: You started losing your hearing at age 10. That's pretty amazing that you had your hearing when it was most needed for development. Some people never get to experience what the world around them sounds like. Are there any particular sounds that stick out clearly in your mind from when you were growing up? (I personally was obsessed with the sound of streams when I was younger -- to the point where I would go outside and record the water running through the gutter after it had rained- and then listen to it later. Kinda strange, right?)
Steve: We lived near the train tracks, so that kind of sticks out as an audio memory -- now when I'm near the tracks and a train is coming, I run! I'm really scared of loud noises -- loud sounds kinda throw me into a vertigo thing. I get all dizzy and warped. Kind of ironic of me to start a rock band I guess. I also remember hating the ringing of the phone and am grateful to not have to ever hear it again. I haven't heard the phone ring in like 15 years! Yeah!!! Maybe because I've always been uncomfortable trying to communicate on the phone with deteriorating hearing... so no hard feelings for Alexander Graham Bell.
Brit: So you've known Mark Brummer (bass player) since junior high? Do you have any funny stories from when the two of you were younger?
Steve: Oh man, we could write at least an epic trilogy of our stories together. We started hanging out in 4th grade. I was in one class and Mark in the adjacent class -- with one of those folding walls in between. Anyway, one day during math time, I hear (I could hear somewhat then) a rhythmic tapping on the wall next to my seat -- like a series of two-three-two tapping, so I throw my elbow against the wall in time with a little fingernail scratch on the off beat ... etc ... I guess that was the first "jam." We started passing notes through the slots in the wall. Then we found out that we both played guitar -- eventually we had to flip a coin to see who would play bass in our band. He won, luckily!
Brit: What was your high school stage band called?
Steve: Art Skyd was the name of our high school rock band. It was the name of a Mets baseball player ( Lenny Dykstra) spelled backwards-- our drummer at the time was a big fan.
Brit: So there's no evidence as to why you started losing your hearing?
Steve: It seems to run in the family at my generation -- my older brother has the same type and span of hearing loss.
Brit: Do you find it ironic that you're both musicians? Do you ever collaborate?
Steve: My brother focused more on classical music and non-amplified guitar. I was more into grooves and playing improv with others ... and, of course, getting girls! We play occasionally and I've actually stolen some of his ideas and used them for songs -- unknown to him I think.
Brit: I've read that your parents weren't happy with you playing constantly when you were younger -- but did they push you to keep playing? What do they think now?
Steve: My mom was really into us learning about music until problems started. Then, she became a hearing protection freak -- "Wear your plugs! Wear your plugs! Please wear your plugs ... Steeeeeeeeeeeven!" I might be the biggest individual ear plug consumer in the state -- I'm sure she curses the day that she started us in music and surely blames herself for our deteriorating hearing.
Brit: Who specifically infl - Your Hub


"Interview with Steve DiCesare, WMG"

Q & A with Steve DiCesare of Wide Mouth Grin
e-mail to a friend | print this | link to this


Almost entirely deaf, Steve DiCesare is the lead guitarist for Boulder band Wide Mouth Grin.
Provided by: Wide Mouth Grin press photo

Contributed by: Brit Horvat/YourHub.com on 6/11/2007

I recently experienced my first Wide Mouth Grin show at Dulcinea's in Denver. Although finally seeing this band live was exciting enough, meeting Steve DiCesare, the lead guitarist, was awesome. That man has such a kind soul. I was nervous to meet him, thinking that it'd be difficult to communicate, but it was the complete opposite. He brought new meaning to the idea of communication, and every time we've exchanged words or messages, whether it be via e-mail or in person, he has taught me something new every time. (I'll be weaving some of the following into a detailed story later this week, so keep your eyes peeled! And, definitely check out www.widemouthgrin.com.)
You better get to readin' because Brit's done it again -- asked a ton of questions and received great answers. I refuse to cut anything out. Enjoy.

Brit: Have you lived in Boulder your whole life?
Steve: I grew up in NY -- Greenlawn , NY-- home of the greenest lawns East of the Mississippi, home of the fabulous Heckscher Park and home town of Mariah Carey -- she actually sang a few tunes with our band on high school graduation night -- a great girl.
Brit: Where are your favorite places to go in the Boulder area?
Steve: Lately I've been sneaking out of the house and hanging out in my garage with the dusty boxes and spider webs.
Brit: You started losing your hearing at age 10. That's pretty amazing that you had your hearing when it was most needed for development. Some people never get to experience what the world around them sounds like. Are there any particular sounds that stick out clearly in your mind from when you were growing up? (I personally was obsessed with the sound of streams when I was younger -- to the point where I would go outside and record the water running through the gutter after it had rained- and then listen to it later. Kinda strange, right?)
Steve: We lived near the train tracks, so that kind of sticks out as an audio memory -- now when I'm near the tracks and a train is coming, I run! I'm really scared of loud noises -- loud sounds kinda throw me into a vertigo thing. I get all dizzy and warped. Kind of ironic of me to start a rock band I guess. I also remember hating the ringing of the phone and am grateful to not have to ever hear it again. I haven't heard the phone ring in like 15 years! Yeah!!! Maybe because I've always been uncomfortable trying to communicate on the phone with deteriorating hearing... so no hard feelings for Alexander Graham Bell.
Brit: So you've known Mark Brummer (bass player) since junior high? Do you have any funny stories from when the two of you were younger?
Steve: Oh man, we could write at least an epic trilogy of our stories together. We started hanging out in 4th grade. I was in one class and Mark in the adjacent class -- with one of those folding walls in between. Anyway, one day during math time, I hear (I could hear somewhat then) a rhythmic tapping on the wall next to my seat -- like a series of two-three-two tapping, so I throw my elbow against the wall in time with a little fingernail scratch on the off beat ... etc ... I guess that was the first "jam." We started passing notes through the slots in the wall. Then we found out that we both played guitar -- eventually we had to flip a coin to see who would play bass in our band. He won, luckily!
Brit: What was your high school stage band called?
Steve: Art Skyd was the name of our high school rock band. It was the name of a Mets baseball player ( Lenny Dykstra) spelled backwards-- our drummer at the time was a big fan.
Brit: So there's no evidence as to why you started losing your hearing?
Steve: It seems to run in the family at my generation -- my older brother has the same type and span of hearing loss.
Brit: Do you find it ironic that you're both musicians? Do you ever collaborate?
Steve: My brother focused more on classical music and non-amplified guitar. I was more into grooves and playing improv with others ... and, of course, getting girls! We play occasionally and I've actually stolen some of his ideas and used them for songs -- unknown to him I think.
Brit: I've read that your parents weren't happy with you playing constantly when you were younger -- but did they push you to keep playing? What do they think now?
Steve: My mom was really into us learning about music until problems started. Then, she became a hearing protection freak -- "Wear your plugs! Wear your plugs! Please wear your plugs ... Steeeeeeeeeeeven!" I might be the biggest individual ear plug consumer in the state -- I'm sure she curses the day that she started us in music and surely blames herself for our deteriorating hearing.
Brit: Who specifically infl - Your Hub


Discography

All Self produced and promoted
WMG- 2003- "Breathe" (12 songs)
WMG- 2005- "WE" (10 songs)
WMG- 2007- "The PILE" (9 songs)
WMG- Summer 2008-"Some kind of Meat" (10 songs)

Photos

Bio

Led by a Deaf Guitarist and songwriter and based out of beautiful Boulder, Colorado, Wide Mouth Grin is a song-centric progressive jam band that blends great writing, strong melodies, skilled musicianship and inspired soloing to produce an organic improvisational style , and a completely original progressive sound. Over the past couple years, this four piece band, led by a deaf guitarist/song writer, has grown a loyal fan base of Grinners. Using a combination of American Sign Language, homemade hand signals, eye movements, and facial expressions to communicate to one another while playing, these guys have a truly unique live chemistry.
“Wide Mouth Grin serves up a hot platter of original music, organic stuff with a hint of jazz, and lightly seasoned with a progressive sauce.” – Stephen Knapp, Canyon Courier
Original music in the spirit of the "Grateful-Zappa- Phish-Who-Floyd"