I had the opportunity to talk to J.P. Biondo (mandolin, guitar & vocals) for Cabinet at the Anastasia Music Festival 2017.
Tom Wickstrom: How did you come up with the Cabinet name?
J.P Biondo: There is a story to that. That’s all I can tell you. It’s a mystery.
TW: Your last CD was Celebration. Is there new music coming up?
JP: Yes. We’ve been in the studio for the last 6 months working on a new album that will be out later this year. It won’t be anything new that our fans haven’t heard before but it will be songs we haven’t recorded in the studio yet. It should be 11 or 12 tracks.
TW: I read that you & Mickey Coviello (guitar) do most of the songwriting. Is that correct?
JP: Actually, most of the songwriting is done by me & my cousin Patrick.
TW: How has your songwriting changed over the years?
JP: It’s funny. Its always different. Some musicians have a certain set way of doing it. Sometimes words will inspire me and I’ll write down a bunch of lyrics and sometimes I’ll be sitting in my living room with my guitar & something perks my ear up. I’ll go that direction and I’ll write all the music first. Sometimes they both happen at the same time. Those are the magic ones where you’re done in 10 minutes. Those don’t happen very often. It’s nice when they do though.
TW: I’ve primarily seen you play mandolin but I noticed you have a guitar on stage also. Do you play any other instruments?
JP: Yes but not a whole lot beyond the mandolin & guitar. I’m trying to play more guitar with the band because that’s how I mostly write unless it’s an instrumental.
TW: You told me you & Pappy Biondo (banjo) are “super cousins”. Did you grow up together”?
JP: I’ve known Mickey for a lot longer. We grew up in the same town & played on the same little league team together.
TW: I’m from a family of 4 boys. Growing up we didn’t always get along but if anyone picked on one of our brothers we were always there to protect each other. How has your relationship with Pappy been over the years?
JP: I have 3 sisters so I was the only boy in my family and Pappy had 7 other siblings with all sisters except for an older brother. Pappy was like a brother to me and his older brother picked on the both of us when we were younger. When the families would get together, Pappy & I would always hang out. We got along well together and got in trouble together also. Once we started playing music, all bets were off the table. We knew then what we needed to be doing all the time.
TW: What has music taught you about yourself?
JP: It taught me it was okay to be myself. Growing up as a young kid you’re always mindful of certain things. What’s going to make you cool or impress the other kids. Playing music was great. It was just a platform to really put it all out there. It feels good to do that. You can write a really emotional song and put it out. Some times you’re afraid to play it. Sometimes I’m afraid to show those songs to the band because it is very real inner stuff. Once you get it out there though, it feels great. So music has definitely taught me that. It’s healthy to do that. I’m sure it’s taught me much more, but we’ll go with that.
TW: We have a different type of Cabinet in Washington. Would you be willing to step in & replace what’s currently there & use music to heal everyone?
JP: It’s funny. We would be liars if we said we haven’t been thinking about that and other stuff. We definitely have never been a super political type of band. We’re generally a good timey family friendly type of band but now with what’s going on, it’s kind of hard to turn a blind eye to it. I have some thoughts on what I’d like to do personally but it won’t involve anything I wrote. Maybe a little statement type of deal. It’s such a delicate thing being political because I know Cabinet has a lot of fans that probably support Donald Trump and we don’t want to turn those fans off with a political view. People have different ideas about this and that. Yes, I think he’s crazy and terrible but some people think he’s got our best interests in mind. I love it that some of those people think that. It’s a weird place to be in.
TW: You covered Elvis Costello’s “Watching The Detectives” yesterday. How do you decide which cover songs to include in your sets?
JP: We all have input and bring different influences into the band. Pappy brings most of the bluegrass covers. Todd Kopec (fiddle) brought “Watching The Detectives” to us as well as many other covers. There’s really no rhyme or reason on how we come up with them.
TW: Thank you very much for your time.
This interview was conducted at the Anastasia Music Festival. Below are links to all 3 days which does include pictures of Cabinet.