Joe Popp, 42, often jokes about his age. The name of his band, the Hornrims — named for eyeglasses worn by '50s dads — is a riff on the members' budding middle age.
But the vagaries of time don't discourage Popp. The former Tampa resident is a rocker, writer, actor, composer, skateboarding entrepreneur and music equipment guru.
He continues to keep one foot in the local cultural scene, even while living in New York, where he relocated almost a decade ago.
Popp's return to Tampa Bay this weekend celebrates the premiere of his new band, the Hornrims, a hard-rocking power trio that performs Friday at Ybor's New World Brewery. It includes former Tampa musician Brian McCabe on bass and New York pal Tyler Durand on drums.
"We were like, 'What happened to bands like the Minutemen, the Replacements and Husker Du' — bands that just played loud rock without this sheen of production, without the slickness of the video and the young people wearing fashionable clothes?" Popp said recently.
Local music fans know Popp from his early '90s band Dogs on Ice and later in his popular self-titled act.
"When I was in Joe Popp, people thought I was really arrogant," he said. "It was like an act. I was just being funny at the time. I guess around 95 percent of the people didn't take it that way. My humor is very deadpan. I will say something that I think is obviously funny and people won't get it. So, I think I would probably pull some of that back if I could go back."
He's learned a few lessons since then, he says. The Joe Popp band included late-great powerhouse drummer and close friend Jeff Wood, who died last September of brain cancer.
"I think about Jeff's passing every day," Popp said. "That's one of the main reasons I am in a band again — because I can be. After he passed, I didn't want to take anything for granted. Jeff and I had our triumphs and differences but when we took the stage it was the greatest joy a musician could ever feel."
The same edgy, visceral energy Popp cranks out in his rock 'n' roll goes into the music he composes for original theatrical works and adaptations. Local productions he's scored include JY2K, Whirligig and Maxwell.
He lives in the Upper East Side with wife Rachelle and her daughter, Gabby, and he works at the City College of New York as a technical director of the school's Sonic Arts program.
Popp has been working on a rock 'n' roll adaptation of Shakespeare's Pericles, which will be presented in August 2009 by Jobsite Theater at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
"The greatest thing about Tampa for me is that I got a chance to develop a lot of work I wouldn't have been able to develop anywhere else," Popp said. "I mean, for instance, I did Shakespeare in the Park (Macbeth). It was this huge, amazing show. ... (In New York) I just worked with Michael Greif, director of Rent, on a show (In the Bubble) and I wouldn't have had an opportunity to do that in Florida. It's sort of a tradeoff ... but I'll take artistic control and less money over heavyweight, high-flying, highfalutin stuff any day."