In the world of music and especially in Montreal, there is always a risk concerning the discovery of local talent. Sometimes you’re faced with bands that you are hoping will stay unheard of, but other times, such as in the case of the one man acoustic band, The Oxford Curse, it’s definitely a band that you want to get out into the open. Having already opened up for a number of bands; he is doing it once more on October 13th at Piranha bar, in Montreal for Rob Moir.
Twenty six year old Joseph Stella is the single component to The Oxford Curse, in which he plays acoustic guitar. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him in my own home. Before we even had time to get to the questions; he and I hit it off immediately as we talked about tv shows and comic books. A laid back and casual young man, interviewing Stella felt more relaxing than I thought it would. In between questions we told each other stories about our lives and talked about everything possible, whether related to music or not.
“We could write a book about all the things we said off record.” he joked. He definitely wasn’t lying; we both kept pointing out that much of what we said would have to be taken out as it had little to do with music. That of course, only made me happier to know him. There is nothing more satisfying in the world than a down to earth musician. The ability to sit and be comfortable with someone who has all this talent was what I wanted, and he made that very easy.
Stella is influenced by so many different styles of music; “I listen to everything, some dubstep and old school rap, blues to a little bit of pop; but mostly things like Radiohead and Manchester Orchestra. My favorite band was Brand New, Death Cab for Cutie, Mumford and Sons–I like that country, southern rock.”
When we sat down to really get into the interview, he curled up on the couch, playing with his phone. It was being tapped continuously on his hand, while he tucked his legs under him, a wide smile stretched across his face. Having seen him perform only moments before, I couldn’t help but feel just as excited. I had gotten chills watching him play; the man had entranced me with his music. I was intrigued to learn as much as I could. The whole interview was such a joy; interrupted constantly by distractions and stories, I enjoyed myself immensely.
IX: So why did you name your band The Oxford Curse?
JS: I knew that question was going to come up, holy shit. I don’t know it’s a street that I always used to pass. My dad used to live on Harvard, so we used to pass on the old street and it was just right over, so I just really always liked the name.”
So it’s a nostalgic thing?
JS: I guess, but at the same time it’s just a name.
IX: How long have you been playing music ? Has it been since you were a child ?
JS: No, my parents bought me an acoustic when I was 13. I learned a few songs from Blink 182 but I wasn’t really into it. I wanted to be a drummer first, but my dad said it was too wild so I couldn’t get it but I kept with music anyway. In college I started to listen to rock and I always wanted to do something with music so I taught myself and learned from others. I really started playing at 18, I had a few bands with friends but it never really worked out. But I always persisted; if one person left I always looked for someone else to keep me afloat.
JS: Yeah, I went to try and find people but I got tired of relying on others so I decided to do it myself.
IX: Are you more content just being a one man band?
JS: It’s fulfilling in the way that I love to do it, even if it’s just in my boxers at home. So to play in front of people who actually enjoy it is the coolest thing. I’m not really concentrating on making it big in terms of money or fame, because those things come and go but it’s the experience. I played a few shows alone starting in June and every time someone new came up to me and told me that I was amazing I didn’t really have anything for them to listen to at the time since I had just started.
IX: It’s a surreal experience.
JS: Yeah, someone compared me to Dallas Green, and I was like do not even go there, I love him. I wish I had something similar to his voice, but I got that and I didn’t think it would happen since it was such a small show.
IX: Would you like to take those small shows and maybe go do something such as a small Canadian tour?
JS: Are you crazy, I would love to do anything, even if it’s just going to Sherbrooke.
IX: Is something like that in the works then?
JS: No, you know, right now it’s just about putting myself out there and hoping someone hears it. I’m working full time now so…
IX: That’s completely understandable. What’s the song writing process like?
JS: I get random sentences and write it down. I could be in traffic and I’ll jot it down and don’t look at it for months and then I’ll need to write something so I take my guitar and screw around. If I can make the feel match I just play with it; I record myself on my phone to see what I could change or not change until I’m finally happy which takes forever.
IX: I get that. I’m a writer, so the waves of happiness with the product come and go. Do you ever wake up in the morning sometimes and say to yourself, okay now I have to sit down and write today?
JS: I get writer’s block when I do that.
IX: Oh really?
JS: It’s so hard, it never works.
IX: Sure, writing isn’t easy. You’re a more spontaneous writer.
JS: Yeah, exactly; it’s really not easy. No matter what I want to say, it’s been said before, so trying to find the right way to put it down is what can get hard.
IX: Do you have any pre-show warm ups?
JS: I do, I have a ritual but I can’t say what it is.
IX: All right, well who doesn’t love a little mystery? Besides music, is there anything else you like to do? What are your hobbies?
JS: I got into a bunch of things; karate, hockey. I have a certificate in massage therapy; personal training, nutrition. It’s so cool, I love learning. I mean, my job pays the bulls but I’d love to write a screenplay too, or a book. Not right now, maybe when I’m in my thirties I’ll write a memoire.
IX: Do you like to read then?
JS: Yes, but I don’t have the time; plus my mind moves so fast that it’s hard for me to sometimes really focus on what I’m reading. I end up thinking about a thousand other things. A word will remind me of something I have to do tomorrow.
IX: Do you have a favorite book?
IX: Back to the music; is an album in the works? Would you like to record soon?
JS: I do but I don’t have the money or the resources. I don’t think I have the chance to do it now, I would love to, I got approached by someone who wanted to start up a label but nothing is really happening at the moment but it’s something I want to pursue. By the winter, I would like to. I need to put the word out there. I mean it’s not the Gospel, but I need to do something. I need a fan base.
IX: Well that shouldn’t be too hard to achieve, you’re amazing.
JS: Thank you, I appreciate that.
IX: Would you want your first record to be with people or a testament really just to you?
JS: If it comes down to me I would do it alone, which would kind of suck, but I don’t want false chemistry with other people either. I’d put my heart into it either way.
IX: As for the shows you have done, how did you land them?
JS: A friend of mine from another band are getting promoted by Mainstage Entertainment, so they hooked me up and gave me the number so I’ve played about five shows now.
IX: Do you get to meet the artists?
JS: Yeah, I opened up for Lions Lions and I hung out with them; super nice guys. I like to support the artists I open up for, I buy the albums.
IX: Do you like playing for these small venues?
JS: I rather do that. I mean it would be cool to sell out the bell centre, but that will never happen.
IX: Hey, never say never! If Justin Bieber taught us anything it is to never say never!
JS: Make sure that goes on record! Yeah, but if I got to open up for someone in an arena I’d love it but I love small shows, I get to talk to fans. If people come up to me and ask for pictures and stuff, I love that. I might seem like an ass because I’m always in a rush because the other band has to go on and I’m trying to move around, but people come up to the stage and tell me I’m really good and I really appreciate it. I might seem like a doochebag but I’m just shy and I love it.
IX: Well of course, I mean, they’re acknowledging your hard work. It’s an amazing thing; you never know, in a year you could be driving across Canada.
JS: That’s my dream, to just have shows lined up for me.
IX: Well that works, I want to be a roadie for a band.
JS: Dude if I become famous-
IX: You don’t even need to become famous; I’ll follow you around anyway.