Joe Romeo Credit: Brett Villena

How did you get into the Carrboro music scene? 

My first idea about Carrboro, or really, Chapel Hill, was from bands from here in the ’90s that I liked: Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, Polvo, Pipe, and many more. That put it on the map for me.

How has the scene evolved over the course of your time here, since 2002?

It seemed like [back then] there were more people playing music. It felt like there were more bands because it was cheaper to live in Chapel Hill and Carrboro for musicians, and so obviously that made a good music scene. Slowly, over my time here, it’s become less and less affordable, and a lot of the people that were like me are no longer here, for whatever reason.

Do you think there has been an exodus of artists, or are artists no longer pulled to the area?

I would assume so based on my personal experience. People, artists, people who live off art generally go to where the least interference with art will be, right, like [regarding] housing and simple things like that, the cost of living. I’ve certainly known a few people who’ve been priced out. 

Where do you think the music community in the Triangle is headed? Artistically, in the sound, and communally, in the people? 

My last real exposure was when I was at [the Durham music school] Wall of Sound, back before COVID. Judging from the people that came from there,  the creativity and the art is as healthy as its ever been. I don’t know how many outlets there are for people to be “making it,” but I know there are the old places as there always were. I don’t know what the new things are. I tried to provide a space while I was the co-owner of Wall of Sound for shows and for people to have a space to do stuff and some people took advantage of it—mostly the metal community. In my experience, they seemed like the most motivated group that I met not solely as a musician. 

What’s the most memorable gig that you either played or heard while living here? 

Opening for Guided by Voices at the Cat’s Cradle [in 2003]. They were one of my favorite bands when I was a teenager Also maybe Cat Power at the Cradle as well, I was a huge fan of hers and it was cool to open for her as well. So many people are great that it’s hard to pick. When I first moved here I played with Jennyanykind [in 2002] who were from Chapel Hill and I really liked them beforehand. And then I got here and I got to know them, play with them. Fake Swedish, my first band here was opening for them, and they seemed like such pros to us. It was just great. But there’ve been a million. 

What advice would you have to newcomer artists that are moving here, now? 

Try to keep your life balanced with your art. If I could go back in time I think I’d have worked less and played more music. If that’s what you want to do, you find a way to stick with it and you don’t go too far in and you don’t go too far away from it. You find that balance and you keep working your craft. 

Do you think you’ve found that balance? 

Absolutely. My personal music is secondary to me now, but that in itself is the balance. I don’t put any pressure on myself to make original music anymore, so when I do get into my new space I’ll be sorting through that all to release it [the album].

Tell me a little bit about your new album.

I recorded the basic tracks for this in 2016 and kind of forgot about it because I was doing other stuff—and I didn’t love how it came out in the recording. But I loved the drums, played by Clay Anderson, who played in [our band] Fake Swedish with me, and so I went back to those tracks with Logic Pro and all its abilities for mixing, and I went through those and started from those drum tracks, and built it up. I completely redid everything else, and I kept a few Eric Haugen guitar tracks in. 

How has living in North Carolina shaped your music and songwriting?

I’ll always love it here because I came here and it was so different from where I’d grown up in New Jersey, in terms of space and the way that you could live. I didn’t have to have seven roommates, for example, like if I’d moved to New York. It helped in the sense that I had a chance to relax and look at nature and just live cheaply. I lived an artistic lifestyle when I was in my twenties here ’cause it was very possible. And I took advantage of everything Carrboro had to offer, because it was and is a great town. 

What do you think you’ll miss about the Triangle music scene when you move away? 

Unlike the other places I’ve lived, people actually seem to root for you here. The other musicians, you know? The ones I really have a lot of respect for, who seem to respect me, it felt like we wanted to help one another rather than compete. It’s a little slower and friendlier here. I’ll miss how nice everyone is.

How do you think the community can help to remake an environment where artists can thrive and preserve the rich musical history here?

Any community, especially one with such a reputation for progressive thinking and artistic … fomentation … any town that wants to engender that needs to provide places for people to live, [not] make them work every free second of their lives, because they won’t be doing what it is that they’re supposed to be doing—making art—which we need! And if everything is expensive, who’s going to make it—corporations?


AI. Ugh.

Comment on this story at

Support independent local journalism

Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.