Wild America is a guitar driven, old school arena rock band. Their live shows kick ass! They bring their fans to their feet and keep them rocking, leaving them wanting more. I had the opportunity to interview Joe Labbadia and Billy DiNapoli recently to talk about their backgrounds, the band and what is next for them.
By Lea Fiega, Contributing Journalist, August 2020
Lea: Thank you both for taking the time to chat with me. Joe, let’s start with you. How long have you been a singer/songwriter?
Joe: “I started singing Elvis tunes with my Dad when I was 12. I also sang in a play in grade school. It was a Christmas thing. I sang "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus!" LOL. My family thought I had some musical talent from that point on.
Lea: Billy, How long have you been playing guitar?
Billy: I started playing guitar at the age of 12. I was trained by Chris Risola who was the lead player for SteelHeart during their heyday. I was also trained by Paul Nelson who was the lead player for the Johnny Winter Band. They are both accomplished professionals as well as dear friends.
Lea; Who or what are some of your musical influences?
Joe: I always loved Arena Rock. I was a big fan of bands like STYX, loved their songs and of course Dennis had an amazing voice.
Billy: For me, I grew up a huge KISS fan. Ace Frehley was the reason I picked up a guitar, but Eddie Van Halen was my biggest influence as a player. I loved the whole California movement of guitar players, Eddie, George Lynch, Warren DeMartini, guys like that.
Lea: What other bands were you in, prior to Wild America, and how did Wild America come to be?
Joe: In the late 80’s I was in a band called Misfit Toys with Andrew Kadin who went on to play keys with us and act as our studio manager in Wild America. We were based out of Staten Island but played all around the New York club scene. I was also in a band called Aftermath on Escape Records with Billy when we put out the world wide release "Natural Destruction," with help from Sony Europe. After we were released from that label we morphed into Fools Faith and recorded the album Undone on an independent label called Sick Day. The Aftermath/Fools Faith period ran from 1996-2015 and resulted in 3 albums, 1 as Aftermath and 2 as Fools Faith. Billy was actually not on the final Fools Faith album as he retired from music from 2007-2012. He was replaced by John Gallicano on guitar. John ended up being in Wild America from 2017-2019 and played bass on the Gasoline album. Billy returned to music in 2012 and we formed Wild America in 2017 after Fools Faith had run its course. Billy had known John Kivel, owner of Kivel Records from his New York area club days in the 80’s. They reconnected on social media which prompted Billy to send John some demos we were working on… and here we are today! We are currently working on our second Wild America album with Kivel Records as we speak!
Lea: Your album Gasoline is on my Favorites playlist. I love the entire album, but my absolute favorites are, "Rockstar" and "Feet to the Fire."
Billy: I love "Rockstar" and "She Will." I love them all, but these are my 2 favs.
Joe: That’s a tough one. I’d say "Long Road" and "Feet to the Fire" are my two favorites. The title track "Gasoline" is also up there with the favorites for sure.
Lea: You recently released a new single called “Stronger”. It covers the issue of the pandemic and what’s been going on in the world. How did this unfold and what was it like working with Roy Cathy from Cold Sweat, Steel City and The Fifth?
Billy: Well, Joey and Andrew Kaden wrote it. I helped a little but it was mostly Joey and Andy.
Joe: Andy and I decided to write something for the people that were on the front lines of this pandemic. The doctors, nurses, the cops. We dd it to try to make the people feel a little better. We gave the song away for free. We were not looking for financial gain from it. Working with Roy Cathy is always an honor. He is one of the best singers out there. Roy, Billy and I are also good friends so it made it easy. We were all thrilled that Roy wanted to be part of it. The rest of the band did their part as well.
Lea: What has the band been doing during the pandemic with the time off?
Billy: We have been working on the new album. Obviously, the Gasoline Tour was halted after 16 shows, but we also had a layoff for 5 months while Joey recouped from vocal surgery. He is now fully recovered and good as new! We had Arnie Cuozzo join the band in time for the Rock N Skull dates this past November in Illinois. Unfortunately, John Gallicano retired from the touring life at the end of 2019 and was replaced by bassist Steve Wovkanech. To be part of the current band you are obligated to tour and travel and that takes a sacrafice. It has been the reason for the lineup changes between the last album and this one. Life on the road at our age is not for everyone. We are excited about the new lineup and we are ready to go!
Lea: It was disappointing to see that The 3rd New England RockFest was postponed due to COVID 19.
Billy: Yes, NERF 3 was postponed. It was very unfortunate. We are scheduled to pay Waterbury CT with LYNCH MOB on November 5th and in Golden, Colorado with Winger on November 13th. We will be rebooking all other postponements as well as some tour dates with Chaz West and Westbound.
Lea: When do you expect the next Wild America album to be released?
Billy: The tentative release date is November 2020. We are on schedule to make that happen and it could possibly be a little earlier. We also recently signed with Brad Lee Entertainment so if they have some shows for us in October. We’d like to have the album out by then. We’ve got to see how this whole COVID thing plays out as well.
Lea: Do you guys think that the music scene will bounce back from this?
Joe: I think in time things will get back to normal.
Billy: I agree with Joe. I think the world and our nation have survived worse. The "new normal," as they now call it, will eventually vanish. At some point, I believe that things will be back to the old normal and this will all be just a bad memory.
Lea: Billy, you were recently asked to take part in the New England Guitar Summit with some of the areas greatest players. What are your thoughts on that?
Billy: Well, it is an honor, simply put. Any time you are asked to share the stage with guys like Jimi Bell, Gregg Livesay, Joe, Dean, all those guys, it's an honor and a pleasure. It has been postponed as of now, but I am sure that it will be rescheduled at some point. Great job by Todd Pfiefer for putting that together. Scott Weaver secured the venue for us and that will be a memorable evening when it happens.
Be sure to reach out to Kivel Records to get your copy of "Gasoline" today. You can find Wild America on Facebook and on YouTube. Like their page to keep updated on the release of their next album and for upcoming tour dates.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBG1kkAshkw - Link To Stronger Video