APRIL 11, 2021


he good times don't roll in an age of masks, social distancing and voter suppression. Even with a glimmer of hope offered by the roll out of vaccines, news of a rise in cases and the variants are there to remind you the nightmare ain't over yet. There hasn't been much out there in the way of escape so when a synthwave artist known as ARENA released a rather exciting cover of the 1986 VAN HALEN song DREAMS, our curiosity about this mysterious artist was piqued. ARENA is JOEY ARENA , the front man for the rock band OVTLIER, a band that caught our attention as  a publication a couple of years back with the release of their rather fine EP WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU. The angst often associated with the active rock set seems to tailor made for the chaotic times that we are living in now, but JOEY ARENA, the charismatic front man, felt something different. With the pandemic slowing what was left of the music industry, ARENA turned to the radiant sound of synthwave and nicked the new project after himself. Launching this new sound with a VAN HALEN cover is a curious move indeed but it is one that has paid off. Hell, ARENA's glorious interpretation of DREAMS has earned the highest praise possible from SAMMY HAGAR himself.

ROCKWIRED had a chance to speak with JOEY ARENA regarding ARENA and balancing his latest musical project with OVTLIER. Here is how the interview went.

You've surprised a lot of people with the release of DREAMS and equally as surprising is the rip roaring endorsement you received from SAMMY HAGAR. How are you taking it all of the excitement that the release of this single has generated?

It was something that I had been sitting on for quite some time. ARENA is a new project for me and it is something that I've been eager to do for a long time. Covering the song DREAMS was something that I wanted to keep secret and now I'm glad I was able to keep it secret up until we released the single. So far, the response has been incredible. You never know how people are going to react, especially if you're talking about a VAN HALEN song. DREAMS is this epic, legendary song and it would've been easy for people to hate my rendition of it but they haven't. I mean, I'm still trying to wrap my head around this amazing endorsement the song got from SAMMY HAGAR.

How was that you were able to get the song in front of SAMMY and have him give you what reads like the endorsement of a lifetime?

Once I had the song recorded and mixed the team around me listened to it and they were really impressed and as I listened to it, I was really happy with it. We started talking among ourselves and thought that it would pretty cool if SAMMY got a chance to listen to it and hear what he had to say. That was when my publicist and manager stepped in. She said she could get the song into SAMMY's hands so we sent it to him and I did not expect to hear back at all but we did. SAMMY loved it and he wanted to give an official endorsement of the song but he wanted my information on who I was so we filled him in on my career with the band OVTLIER and my lengthy touring history as a musician. Once I did that, SAMMY wrote the most amazing endorsement of the song and it has really helped to capture people's attention to it. The response has been both unbelievable and amazing.


And why the song DREAMS? Why did you chose to make this song ARENA's first single ever?

ARENA is a relatively new project that I have begun and the aesthetic of this project is inspired by a very strong eighties influence. As a kid I was pretty much raised on eighties music. It was what I grew up listening to which is strange considering that I was born in the year 1986. My mom loved VAN HALEN. However, DREAMS wasn't a song that I heard until 1990 and I fell in love with it but when I was nine or ten, the song became a part of my life in a big way. I was a huge fan of the MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS and the song DREAMS was used at conclusion of the POWER RANGERS movie. From that moment on I blasted that song on repeat over and over again for years and years. I drove my mom crazy. DREAMS is a song that brings me back to my childhood. It's an experience that I wouldn't change. Whenever I hear the song it makes me feel whole. When I started talking with guitarist and producer J.D. About coming up with new material for ARENA, I mentioned VAN HALEN's DREAMS and immediately he was on board and was enthusiastic to get into the studio to do something.


And describe working with JD as both a guitarist and producer.

JD is one of my best friends. We grew up together. He's an amazing musician who can play just about every instrument there is and in working with him, he has been able push me to a whole other level musically and creatively. He's a fantastic multi-instrumentalist but he's renowned throughout the industry as a guitar player and he's been featured quite a bit on GUITAR WORLD magazine. It was great having him as a producer but to have him play guitar on the track was even better.

With the single behind you, is there any original material in the pipeline?

We've got some original material in the works but in the meantime we really want to keep pushing DREAMS while we're working on lining things up for an original debut single. In fact, the next single that we've got coming out is called FEVER and like DREAMS it has a lot of the same elements. In steeping away from my other band OVTLIER for a little bit, I have written a lot of love songs and that is my goal with ARENA – to create music that is youthful and vibrant and can bring back memories of happier days. The music is positively charged. It's all too easy to issue music that's angry and gloomy but ARENA is providing me a whole other level of life. It is something that doesn't feel constructed or prefabricated. That is the feel that I'm trying to go for with ARENA. That is what I want to accomplish. The music is joyful and it's all about pool hopping and running from the cops and your first crush. That is what I'm going for.

I know that you are the front man for the band OVTLIER which is totally different kind of band/project from ARENA. What was the inspiration for getting a project like ARENA off of the ground?

OVTLIER is my other band and for the past two years I had written a whole bunch of songs that were all about damning this who,the two party system that has torn this country apart and how the hell we're going to rebuild as a country from all of this division and then out of nowhere COVID comes along. It was just the craziest thing ever and strangely the songs that I had written for OVTLIER had all of this relevance. It was really ahead of the curb of what happened to humanity. With society shutting down and no tours happening, I decided to take the time to build this ARENA project that I had had on my mind of a while and whole vibe with ARENA is a so different from that of OVTLIER. I feel the music of ARENA is just what the world needs now. I was just tired of all of negativity in music and all of this brewing hatred. I wanted to work on something that was more positive.

Music has been a lifelong thing for you. You've been hitting the road as a musician since you were a teenager. Did you hit the ground running with OVTLIER right out of the bat or was there a bunch of trial and error?

OVTLIER wasn't my first band ever. When I was eleven years old I got my first guitar. I was fourteen years old when I did my first show and seventeen years old when I did my first tour. After that began a series of record contracts and a whole string of bands before I formed OVTLIER.

Do you anticipate challenges in balancing both OVTLIER and ARENA going forward?

Doing live music is my life and for me there was no plan B. I have the ability to devote myself 100% to both projects. The music of ARENA is more visual and more festival geared. It just operates differently and if I were to bring it to a stage it would truly be a production. OVTLIER is more rock oriented and built for touring. The two projects are night and day.

Any plans for music videos? It sounds to me like ARENA's music lends itself well to some sort of visual interpretation.

Yes. We have a music video for DREAMS that is done and we're going to release it but we want SAMMY to review it first so we can get his thoughts . We're also filming a music video for FEVER and we're looking forward to having something done within a month and a half.

FOR MORE iNFORMATiON GO TO: Lush is a music industry professional and entrepreneur. In 2005 he launched the online music site to help promote new music artists in conjunction with the weekly radio show Rockwired Live which aired on KTSTFM.COM from 2005 - 2009. In 2010 He launched the daily podcast series Rockwired Radio Profiles which features exclusive interviews and music. He has also developed and produced the online radio shows Jazzed and Blue - Profiles in Blues and Jazz, Aboriginal Sounds - A Celebration of American Indian and First Nations Music, The Rockwired Rock N Roll Mixtape Show and The Rockwired Artist of the Month Showcase. In 2012, Brian Lush and his company Rockwired Media LLC launched the monthly digital online publication Rockwired Magazine. The magazine attracts over 75,000 readers a month and shows no signs of stopping. Rockwired Magazine also bares the distinction of being the first American Indian-owned rock magazine. Brian Lush is an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. Brian Lush's background in music journalism, radio and podcast hosting, podcast production, web design, publicity, advertising sales, social media and online marketing, strategic editorial planning and branding have all made Rockwired a name that is trusted and respected throughout the independent music industry.

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