In Session: Kevin Wayne & The Retrobilleze

SCHENECTADY – For Kevin Wayne & The Retrobilleze, it’s all about transporting their audiences to a different time – the 1950s! Performing live as a duo or trio, the group has a focus on bringing themes from hotrods to bomb shelters back to people’s minds in a tongue-in-cheek way.

I had a chance to sit down with Kevin and Jo Agopovich this past week. What follows is our conversation.

Lucas Garrett: Hello, Kevin and Jo, and thank you for sitting down tonight.

Kevin Wayne: Thank you!

LG: How’re you doing?

KW: We’re doing good.

Jo Agopovich: I’m great!

LG: I met Jo a while ago from her other band Va Va Voodoos. What you’re doing with Kevin, Jo, is a lot different than what I’d expect.

JA: Right now, with my two bands, I’m covering all of my favorite eras of music: the 1950s all the way to the early 1970s. it’s a lot of fun!

LG: How’d you two get to know each other?

KW: Up until 2022 – from 2019 to 2022 – I ran the Local Legends Series at Eden Café. I was the host and did the booking for the bands… did you hear of that?

LG: Yeah!

KW: It was me and Joe Ventura, the owner. We put up this idea to honor all kinds of founders of different genres; rock and roll, roots music, and everything else in our area. I’d book the bands. We’d do online interviews that were put on Eden Café’s social media. I had different people in the Retrobilleze; it was a revolving door. I’d put together a band to be the opening act. I was always a big fan of the Va Va Voodoos.

I saw them in front of the River Street Beat Shop with Jim Barrett. I was always a fan of that band; I really like that garage rock kind of thing…

JA: Thank you!

KW: I said that we had to get the Va Va Voodoos as a local legend. So, I contacted JoAnn, and that’s how we met. It was probably two years ago.

JA: Going on two years. It’s funny; I’d seen Kevin early on in the Retrobilleze career and thought, “Oh, this is neat.” Then, I didn’t really see him again until he contacted us for Local Legends. As it so happened, we were both going to the Ohana event in Lake George. Then, I hung out with Kevin and his wife and Tim, my boyfriend. It was after that you needed a bass player to fill in?

KW: Yeah! I was playing at the Moon and River. I had other ladies that would come up, sing back up, and do tambourines, but I didn’t have any other musicians to play with me. I asked Jo if she wanted to sit in, and she said yeah.

What we do with the Retrobilleze is that there are so many fantastic rockabilly and roots music bands in the area – they’re all fantastic – but they don’t do original music. We do our best with covers, but our forte is original songs that pay homage to 1950s subject matter.

JA: The thing that got me listening to Kevin’s originals is that it was like a bit of Daniel Johnston with a rockabilly flair. I like covers, but I’m more of an original musician. I thought it’d be a one-off thing, but thought, “No, I want to keep doing this!” it’s been a lot of fun.

KW: Jo pushes me musically…

JA: Crack the whip!

KW: I really needed it. And it’s fun to have a loyal bandmate; I’d had a revolving door for so long. I’d get other people that weren’t necessarily musicians singing with me. All you really need to keep something going are two people that are instrumentalists. Jo’s also a vocalist. We’re reworking songs to make them more polished and professional.

LG: Do you have any plans to make an album?

KW: We’ve had a couple out from earlier versions of the Retrobilleze. We have plans to do another album with nine original songs that haven’t been recorded yet.

JA: I think it’ll be sometime this summer when we record.

KW: We work with a guy out of Colonie. It’s called Sand Creek Studios. Pat, the engineer, has been recording since the 1960s, and he’s very tech-savvy. It’s really fun working with him, and we’re looking forward to getting back in the studio.

LG: So, you have songs that you want to record and a loyal bandmate now! Where can we see you perform?

KW: We just played Frostbite Friday in Saratoga a couple of weeks ago. That was on Beekman Street, the Beekman Street art district. The Sunday after that, we were at the Winter Farmer’s Market in Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady.

JA: We’re going to be at the No Fun open mic on March 8th – the Retrobilleze and the Va Va Voodoos – so I’m going to be doing double duty that night.

KW: There are several farmer’s markets that are getting back to us right now. Also, there are a couple of places out in the Cobleskill area that are getting ahold of us. It’s getting to that time of year when it’s time to book, so I’m putting out the feelers like crazy.

JA: Kevin’s working it!

Photo by Debora Bump

LG: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?

KW: Adding Fred Bulmer and Tony King on lead guitar has been great for us. We’re now able to do duo and trio shows!

I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 35. Over the years, I ran the Northeast Country Music Association’s songwriter’s group. I was the organizer of that at one time and did it for a few years.

We won the Dorn Space award for the best rockabilly band in 2022. The best thing was the Eden Café Local Legends. We did it for three years, and people really seemed to enjoy that. That worked out really well.

We want people to realize that we’re a themed band. We’re doing a look back with the style and comical lyrics.

JA: We’re storytellers. Be sure to check out our YouTube page.

KW: We’re going to be a lot of different content on there. There are a lot of performance videos on there…

JA: We’ll keep putting more up.

KW: You can also check out our Facebook page.

JA: Just to plug the Va Va Voodoos, we’re doing a show at El Dorado on March 28th. The Red on Red Records showcase; it’s going to be a lot of fun!

KW: The songs of Kevin Wayne & The Retrobilleze are about roller derby, hotrods, bomb shelters… “Bomb Shelter Boogie.” All kinds of stuff to forget about your troubles. That’s what we’re all about. We relate those songs to what’s going on now.

JA: It’s a kitschy mid-century modern thing. There’s a bit of a Smothers Brothers thing going on.

KW: We really appreciate it when people listen to us.

JA: There’s a lot of talent in this town!

KW: You ain’t kidding.

LG: Thank you, guys, again, for taking some time tonight!

JA: Thank you, Lucas!

KW: We really appreciate it!


    Hey great article, thank you! Going to add that the black and white photo of me and Kevin was taken by our friend Debbie Bump.

  2. Dee Meese says

    Nice interview …Enjoy ..

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