What happens if you rearrange the letters in musician Jose Ayerve’s name? It’s simple. You get A Severe Joy, his latest musical endeavor. The 10-song CD of the same name is an indie, electronic pop/dance album that’s bursting with synthesizers, but also electric guitar and Ayerve’s distinct voice, which has fronted alternative band Spouse for many years. While Spouse takes a break, Ayerve’s muse has taken him in the direction of A Severe Joy. GO gets it all broken down straight from the Jose’s mouth.

Where can people purchase a copy of “A Severe Joy,” and what’s the best place for people to find you online?

You can find the CD at Bull Moose in Portland, South Portland and Brunswick, and on iTunes and Amazon. Aseverejoy.com redirects you to my bandcamp site, which has both a downloadable version and a physical CD option for purchase along with links to Facebook, SoundCloud and Twitter. The label’s site, ninemilerecords.com, has copies for sale as well.

You were in Northampton, Mass., for several years, right? When did you move back to Portland, and what’s it been like to re-immerse yourself in the local music scene?

Re-immersing myself in the Portland scene wasn’t all that easy, but it has been rewarding all the same. When I left in 2003 to move to Northampton for a second time, the Portland scene was in flux. The Skinny had just closed, and there seemed to be a really intense focus on loud guitar and drum-heavy music. Not that I didn’t appreciate that, but I was smitten with more straight-up indie rock, and I wanted to be closer to my bandmates. When I came back to Portland in 2009, the scene was incredibly diverse and alive. There was so much good music being made, and the caliber of talent had increased exponentially. I was impressed and intimidated. Now, I’m just a little overwhelmed by the diversity and very proud of my fellow musicians.

What’s your personal description of “A Severe Joy?”

I describe it as indie dance pop, but I think it reaches a little further than that. It’s my interpretation of a dance album, but whether or not listeners will agree, I’m not sure.

Do you have a favorite song?

Yes. “Without.” It speaks to my decision process with regards to putting Spouse on hiatus. It’s about giving up something that you love and gaining a new appreciation of it, but that idea is masked in the context of an addiction. The bridge refrain is the key: “I know where you want me to be.” I’ve also really enjoyed performing this song live; sometimes with the backing tracks, sometimes just with a guitar.

Why the name A Severe Joy? I mean, I know it’s an anagram of your name, but surely there’s more to it.

It’s a way for me to explore things that I’ve never tried before, performance-wise and recording-wise. A Severe Joy is the character I become when I need to dare myself to do something I normally wouldn’t.

He allows me to exaggerate those parts of myself that I’m least confident about. Dressing up in a costume and wearing a mask in public is a risk that overshadows the anxiety I might feel about revealing very personal experiences and insecurities that are the foundation of my lyrics and emotions. I’m the son of a multi-lingual psychologist/mountain climber and an engineer/seamstress; acknowledging this fact helps explain who I am as an artist.

What can we expect at the CD-release show?

I’ve been catching some grief for not having a live band perform with me at my shows. But the fact of the matter is, I am one man operating a business in an industry that is becoming exponentially harder to survive in. I can’t afford all of the expenses that come with having a band. With Spouse, we weren’t making money from record sales, we weren’t making money from shows, even when we had 100-plus people coming to see us several times a year. So with that in mind, I’ve downsized my operation. I’ve designed a show that is portable; I can travel with a suitcase and a carry-on. I can take public transportation. And in that sense, it’s how I imagine a superhero would travel, sort of under the radar.

I’m trying to do something different, unique, thought-provoking and enjoyable. My show is more performance art than rock concert, and I’m planning something special for the CD-release show. Up until now, I’ve been experimenting with lights and with movement, and occasionally I’ll incorporate some solo electric stuff into the set, but basically, I’m singing to backing tracks. My voice is my main instrument, and that’s what I’m trying to showcase in a live setting.

On the album, I performed virtually every part down the length of the track. I went for as much of a live performance as possible. I know it’s very easy in this day and age to just record a part that you loop and repeat, but that’s not what I wanted to do for this record. I didn’t use any samples. I manipulated the 808 beats to high heaven, but other than that, it’s me playing the instruments along with myself.

And in concert, it’s me singing along to myself and trying to keep it as engaging as possible with my movement.

Staff Writer Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455 or at:

[email protected]

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