Week of May 22nd, 2023 – May 28th, 2023
by Joey Spehar
DiLisio is a project from Pittsburgh musician and schoolteacher Mark Jeffries. His new record Slither is a concept album inspired by the sinuous and circuitous Eastern Coral Snake. The album’s “red-touching-yellow” swagger feels dangerous at times, yet, like the famous snake from the Garden of Eden, it draws you right in. The song “Honey Butter” has a funky, classic rock vibe inspired weekend breakfasts at the Jeffries house.
photo by Pat Bruener
This conversation may be lightly edited for content, clarity, or length.
What’s your musical history up to this point?
I’ve been an active musician in the local scene since 2017, starting with my old band Single Jo. In a two-and-a-half year span we released a full-length LP and a separate EP and gained some good buzz around town. But life circumstances got in the way with our band, as they do with many. So in 2019 I decided I need a music outlet of my own, and from that need came my solo project DiLisio! In the past 4 years, I’ve stayed busy with 3 full-length albums, an EP, a live-show presence in both Pittsburgh and NYC, and lots more on the way I hope.
How do you describe your sound?
I’m a versatile singer/songwriter with a wide range of influences, all tied together with a deep love for electric blues and throwback hip-hop. My producer/engineer Matt Very likes to joke with me about what he calls “The DiLisio Sound”: fuzzed guitars, soulful organ, catchy grooves, and powering vocals with several DiLisio’s harmonizing with each other (haha). To be frank I’m not entirely sure what genre I fit into. Am I blues-rock? Indie? Alt-rock? R&B? A combination? I’ve never been into labels, so I guess that’s only fitting.
Tell us more about the song “Honey Butter.” What inspired you to write it and what does it mean to you?
Honey Butter was actually the final song I wrote for the album. Last summer I was listening to a ton of Futurebirds, a killer alt-country band from Athens, GA. My wife and I got to see them live while living in NYC last June, and they blew our minds. I was so inspired by their sincere, fun-loving energy that I wanted to convey that feeling in my own way musically. Honey Butter is a love song with a 70s funk vibe and lyrics steeped in Americana: A solo train ride home from Brooklyn back to Pittsburgh to be with my better half, in our home once again, where we find contentment and joy. And the song’s title? My wife literally combines honey with butter for my weekend morning breakfasts, and it’s perfect. What can I say? She digs me!
Your new album has a very interesting title. What can you tell us about it?
I’ve been WAITING for someone to ask me this! This is a two-parter. One, Slither is a concept album, with the imagery and color scheme inspired by an Eastern Coral Snake. The snake has a red-yellow-black color pattern, and wildlife experts would tell you that if you encounter a potentially-poisonous snake that looks like an Eastern Coral then you should follow the old rhyme: “Red touching black, safe for Jack; red touching yellow, gonna kill a fella.” I see this snake as a symbol of several things: falling out with my deeply religious upbringing, letting go of people-pleasing tendencies, and embracing a red-touching-yellow swagger as a person and as an artist. And two, my pal Antonio (who plays bass on “Unicorn”) told me in the studio that “Unicorn” has such a unique groove and feeling to it, that it almost…”slithers”. And I was like, “whoaaaaa… Slither it shall be!”
What was the first album that really changed your life?
Magic Potionby The Black Keys. I was a 19-year-old sophomore at Grove City College circa 2007 when my one buddy asked me if I’d ever heard of said band from his hometown of Akron, OH. I of course didn’t, but in my defense neither did most of my classmates, as TBK was only known by northeast Ohions at the time. After my deep-dive on Napster however, my life was forever changed. As a kid growing up on classic rock bands like Zeppelin and Bad Company, I never imagined a modern rock band could make blues music so fresh, so original, so new, so FUCKING cool. Magic Potion isn’t TBK’s best or biggest album by any means, but it’ll always be my favorite because it was released at the same time I first discovered them. Its raw, unbridled, simple guitar-and-drums recipe still gets me out of bed in the morning to this day.
Who are some other Pittsburgh artists you think more people should listen to?
My Favorite Liar (pop punk band featuring my drummer Leo Rogers), The HR Department (a jazz-fusion band featuring my live keys player Antonio Pagano)
Any other super interesting things we should know about you?
I’m a schoolteacher by day! Which is how I paid to make Slither. Ha! Also, hot off the press…my wife and I are having a baby! Coming in Jan ’24 🙂
photo by Pat Breuner
Learn more about DiLisio:
Check out previous Pittsburgh Artists of the Week here.