There’s no lack of contenders for the crown, but the oddest couple in the New York music and theater scene right now might well be Vincent D’Onofrio and Dana Lyn. You likely know D’Onofrio as a professional actor, with notable turns as lead detective Robert Goren in Law & Order: Criminal Intent and as the comic book supervillain Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk on Netflix’s Daredevil. Versatile violinist Lyn is a surprisingly ubiquitous figure in the downtown, classical, and pop music scenes who has performed with Bruce Springsteen, D’Angelo, and Taylor Mac.
Lyn and D’Onofrio first met in 2013 when both were cast in Ethan Hawke’s off-Broadway play Clive. During that time, D’Onofrio says that “part of my process for playing that role was writing a stream-of-consciousness journal on my phone whenever a phrase or a story occurred to me. During the play, I would bring those bits of writing in and cast members would recite them before the show started. Dana loved it so much that she asked me if she could put them to music, and that’s how we started.” They’ve been making indefinably unique music more or less ever since as the band–cum–performance art troupe Slim Bone Head Volt.
D’Onofrio plays the part of frenzied frontman with a declamatory oratory reminiscent equally of Tom Waits and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. He tells me, “Here’s what you’ll hear at our live show: Dana goes out first and I walk out after her. She gets at the piano and I get on the microphone, and eventually the musicians come out. I start talking and just riff on whatever’s on my mind at the moment, then we don’t stop until we’ve got everything we possibly can get.”
“What’s really great about this project is that I don’t have to explain any of my decisions to anyone,” says Lyn.
Lyn is solely responsible for the group’s multipiece band orchestration and organization. “I show up for the performance or the recording session with all of the musical decisions made,” she says. “If I feel compelled in a certain direction in the moment, I’ve worked with these musicians for years, so I can always ask the band to follow where I’m leading without explanation. What’s really great about this project is that, more than most of my work, I don’t have to explain any of my decisions to anyone. I don’t need to justify what’s underneath the hood, and that’s kind of rare and kind of nice.”
In support of their recently released sophomore album, Slim Bone Head Volt: Volume 2, D’Onofrio and Lyn will play an intimate cabaret show at Joe’s Pub; if you go, be prepared for a polished but experiential show. “Once I type the lyrics out on my phone, it’s very rare that I’ll go back to edit them in any way,” D’Onofrio tells me. “I’m dyslexic, so a lot of the punctuation isn’t correct and the grammar is very loosey-goosey. Some of the pieces get heavy, some of them are superlight, but all of them are just how my mind works. Basically our only rehearsal is a dress rehearsal. I listen to the band and they hear what I have to say. I’ll have just finished going to the bathroom or walking the dog or talking to my 10-year-old and then we’re doing this.”
“With Slim Bone Head Volt,” says Lyn, “I’m OK with people taking away whatever they want, whatever they need. It’s going be totally different for everybody.”
Slim Bone Head Volt
425 Lafayette Street (between Astor Place and East 4th Street), NoHo
Tuesday, October 2