Local music: Folk-rocker Hebdo aims to spirit you away

Chris DeVille, Columbus Alive

Joey Hebdo didn't know he was making two EPs when he commuted to Athens to record with longtime producer Josh Antonuccio, but in a deeper sense he knew exactly what he wanted to make.

"I wanted to, for the first time ever, create little worlds, sort of like Beck does," Hebdo said. "You know how he can take you somewhere?"

Hebdo emerged from 3 Elliott Studio with not one world but two. So he split the 12 songs into two EPs, the first of which he'll release Friday with an early show at Rumba Cafe.

A Thousand Steeples, the first volume, is a folksy set geared toward storytelling. Inspired by powerful, concise bluegrass songs, Hebdo challenged himself to retreat from his usual abstraction and speak plainly.

"They're able to, in a small amount of words, really tell a story, paint a picture," Hebdo said.

As for the music, it spans psych-tinged country-folk, stomping roots rock and haunted Western balladry, and that's just the first three songs. The arrangements are spare and smart; each of the many guest stars leaves a mark.

If Steeples leans toward WCBE, the next EP is all CD102.5. Hebdo promises bigger, brassier, more distorted music. That material will be in the setlist Friday too; Hebdo is taking advantage of a rare appearance by his seven-piece band.

"Those songs are so rockin' that you can't not play them," Hebdo said.

He's going all-out to promote the EPs online. Last year, he shot eight La Blogothèque-style performance clips in Florida. This year, two official videos are in the works.

He's also been picking up fans through his side projects, including The Lennon Orchestra, a Beatles tribute, and the Columbus supergroup The Middle Rats. Maybe all the avenues of exposure played a part in the success of Hebdo's Indiegogo campaign to pay for mastering and pressing the discs.

There's still a lot of hustling ahead with these projects, but Hebdo is already getting started on two more EPs. The hope is to keep exploring new sonic terrain without compromising his distinct voice.

"I just like to try to throw myself into somewhere else and rubber band back," Hebdo said, "just dip from wherever I can."

Rumba Cafe

6 p.m. Friday, May 17

2507 Summit St., Campus