From intimate house shows to gigs at The Union Bar and Grill to concert venues in Cleveland, Judge Russo always brings a fresh sound.
Nearly a year has passed since Dewy D’Amore, Marvin Dotiyal and Anthony “Twan” Stanzi met each other at a party in Athens. The respective singer, drummer and bassist decided to jam, and have since played over 15 shows together known as the band Judge Russo.
Inspired by bands such as The Velvet Underground and the Talking Heads, Judge Russo hesitantly describe its sound as somewhere between alternative, punk and folk. Unlike most bands, Judge Russo doesn’t have a genre, but to D’ Amore, a sophomore studying philosophy, that’s the main goal of the band.
“With this band, I try to...well, we try to stray away from conforming to a genre, like just playing the same set every night,” D’Amore said. “Last weekend we were punk and this weekend it’ll be soft — like you want to grab someone and dance.”
Stanzi, a sophomore studying field ecology and the bassist, feels similarly about avoiding conformity.
“I think we can all agree that part of this... the biggest part of this is that we all want to play for fun, with our friends,” Stanzi said. “That’s the reason I’m doing it. It’s because I enjoy the people we’re playing with and what we’re doing. I want to stress the importance for anybody who will hear it. The importance of playing for fun and enjoyment and not playing what people want to hear, but playing what you want to play.”
Its favorite bands to play alongside include The Wastemen and Space Gondola. At the shows, Judge Russo covers songs by Velvet Underground and The Talking Heads. What the band enjoys more, however, is writing and performing its own music. Its original approach to writing music differs from most bands.
“When I write the songs, I put meaning behind every note, every instrument,” D’Amore said. “I don’t just throw in instruments because they sound cool. I’ll put like a glockenspiel because it makes me feel innocent. It’s things like that.”
Genre isn’t the only way Judge Russo diverges from the majority. Instead of fans paying for the band’s merchandise with money, they are instead asked to supply more meaningful forms of payment, such as prized tokens from their lives.
“My buddy Dylan gave me a beer bottle cap, and it was his first beer that he ever had,” D’Amore said. “It meant a lot to him, so it was cool because I can look at those things and remember something important from it. Whereas if I have money, I’d just go to the store and get a banana. And then it’s over. I have those stories forever and I can learn from them and look back at them.”
Dotiyal, who plays the drums, agreed with his fellow bandmate.
“It’s showbizz, baby,” Dotiyal, a senior studying journalism, said. “We want your knick knacks!”
The band remained a trio for nearly a year until guitarist Anthony Joseph joined. Joseph, a junior studying music management, is also in Space Gondola. He humbly shared how easy it was to join Judge Russo and be accepted.
Chris Conway, a sophomore studying music production, greatly enjoys the variety of bands in Athens, but especially enjoys Judge Russo.
“They have a way with words,” Conway said. “They’re awesome live.”
Judge Russo plans to play many upcoming shows. Its next show is Oct. 5 at the Smiling Skull Saloon, 108 W. Union St., where the band will play alongside many additional bands. Though Judge Russo has played a multitude of shows, this is only the beginning for the band and it’s eager to see what the future brings.