I am a musician who used to do the music scene thing full time in my 20’s, but now works full time in public education and political organizing while moonlighting in music as much as time allows. This website is mostly focused on music, rather than on stuff I do as a teacher for Durham Public Schools, President of the People’s Alliance, and Treasurer of the Durham Association of Educators. (Though the front page of this site features a blog about books, records, recording technology. history, politics, dhamma practice and whatever else I feel like writing about.) So if you’re here cuz you like art-rock, trip hop, lo fi indie tapes, and sounds generally “Out” etc. – or if you’re curious about though unfamiliar with those things – read on.
Musically, I’m most known for having released a bunch of records in the ’90s under my own name and as half of a duo called the Folk Implosion that I co-founded with Lou Barlow in 1993 and left in 2000. I/we worked with both indie and major record labels, including Shrimper, Communion, London, Domino, Interscope, and BMG. Folk Implosion songs have been featured on various film soundtracks, (Kids, Adaptation,) soundtrack albums, (American Beauty,) and TV shows, (The People vs. OJ Simpson, NFL on Fox, 20/20, The Today Show.) We had a one-hit wonder Top 40 hit with Natural One off the Kids soundtrack, but were not formed or motivated by pursuing that kind of thing generally. It was just one spark that flew off the wheel of 8 years of burying ourselves in the process of creative reinvention through making records.
I did not release anything from 2000 – 2013 after FI broke up. After getting established in teaching, I came back with the album Spare Parts in October of 2013 on the Shrimper label. There is a separate page with more information about this album on this website. I’m currently working on a new 6 song LP that should get finished in mid 2019. You can check out more details about it on the Upcoming Projects page of this website. I’m currently on hiatus from performing while working on this project, but further down the road you can check for information about future performances in the Shows and Events page of the site. Plans are now complete for a 7 show European tour at the end of March, and there will be a three week tour ofNew Zealand and Australia in late June and early to mid July.
I released a new album called El Pulpo on October 20th of 2017 that I made with producer Scott Solter and a constantly morphing backing band called The Cicadas. The album received 9/10 stars in the December issue of Magnet Magazine. The first track to debut in streaming form, Stock Up All the Prisons, came out via Brooklyn Vegan back in April. Shortly prior to release, Magnet premiered Contamination In the Grass, and The Big Takeover premiered HFCS. Bandcamp chose the record as Album of the Day in late November, calling it a “really, really catchy work of non-fiction.”
Ghettoblaster Magazine wrote: “There’s something very special about the way he creates songs, as if he’s a pop specialist, combining notes as only he can…El Pulpo is pretty jolting, an album that has John Davis & The Cicadas pushing the proverbial envelope from beginning to end. Other musicians really do need to take note.”
Popdust.com wrote: “El Pulpo” is an electrifying record, the type that lingers in your mind before it’s had a chance to sink in…It’s a multi-layered socio-political commentary on the pressing issues that matter, one that aims to make people listen.”
With A Messy Head wrote: “Like a busy crowd or a ruthless machine El Pulpo holds an infinity of sounds, movements and other swarming informations orchestrated with a bliss straight from a dehumanized commercial. But it’s beautiful. And fascinating…Tu auras raté ton année si tu n’ecoutes pas ce disque.”
You can order the album now via Bandcamp, with 10% of proceeds going to Durham For All’s 10K Strong Campaign. It is also available from Midheaven/Revolver distribution in the US, and Inouï distribution in France. The big box stores like iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play have the digital version, which I self-released on my new label Inundation Records. There is a limited edition of 125 cassette release via Shrimper Records and an initial CD batch of 500 from Arbouse Recordings. I have sold out of cassettes that were available through my Bandcamp store, but copies are still available from Revolver. Digital download versions are available via the big box online stores like iTunes, Amazon, etc. You can stream the album on Spotify.
I was born in Brattleboro, VT, grew up in Cambridge MA, and spent most of my life in Cambridge or Watertown until I moved to Durham NC in August of 2013. I have a BA in Comparative Literature from Brown University and a Masters degree in Elementary Education from Lesley University. I have practiced Vipassana or Insight meditation since 1986.
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John H. Davis