By Dave Hoffenberg
If you’ve been partying in Killington for any of the past 14 years, you are familiar with the band Lifespeed. I’ve been seeing that band rock and roll into this town with a musical bang. I’ve become friends with two of the members — James and T — so I’m really excited that they are bringing their duo, The Best, to Outback Pizza on Friday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 6 at 8:30 p.m. What a great way to kick off 2018!
Lifespeed hails from New Jersey and first came onto the scene in September 2001 with T. James joined shortly thereafter in 2002. They took the hard rock cover scene by storm, and still play all the top clubs in New Jersey, and they branch out to Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and in Boston. James and T love playing in Killington and even though Lifespeed does not have a gig here this year, James said he could not blow the 14 year streak of his favorite gig. They tend to indulge and explode a little bit when they get up here. It’s high energy on stage, but also high energy all weekend long. James added, “And our fans travel up here with us and join in the party.” The locals here love them and I do, too, as they are one of my favorites. James and T both love the friends they’ve made here over the years, from Whitehall to the “K-towners.” They like that they see people who just came for the first set but end up staying till last call.
James and T met when they were 15 years old. James was looking for a drummer and he found T. When they were seniors, they won a battle of the bands together. Surely you have all heard of the 1987 Saint Mary’s High School “Battle of the Bands,” so I don’t have to tell you about it — but it was the best. And best friends they are. T said, “You know when you’ve known someone for so long that you finish each other’s sentences? We do that all the time but we can also do it musically. If there is only two of us on a stage, it’s so easy to change direction ‘cause we’re so tight. It’s fun and it’s really cool and it’s effortless for us.”
James plays bass and guitar at the same time while singing, and T plays drums and sings. But it sounds like a full band, not a duo. James doesn’t loop anything — it’s all live and on the fly. They have a 250 song list right now and it’s growing daily. You can make a request, and they’ll try it live. T said it’s a cool set up that doesn’t look like much, but will blow you away. Don’t call them a duo, because they’re not — they’re a two-man band. James said, “Close your eyes and you’ll swear there are five guys there. We get many compliments about that. Good things come in small packages. We’re two guys with a big sound and it’s something we’re really proud of.”
T added, “It’s funny too, there’s a lot of comedy to our show. I wouldn’t quite call it musical comedy, but you could. Our biggest strength is that we can bring our volume super low. We can give you a band sound in a duo environment.”
Sometimes a drum kit can be really loud, but they found a way to dampen it a bit. T was fortunate to have studied with Joe Morello who was a famous jazz drummer best known for his 12-year stint with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. He was a technique guru who taught T a lot. “He was an amazing guy to meet, let alone get to study with. I put about three years solid in with Joe. A couple hours a day, six days a week on technique. It gives me another facet of my playing. I don’t go to smaller sticks or use brushes. When you get them … at full sound but with a low volume, that’s fun too.” T said it’s a challenge, but he welcomes it. Besides Morello, T’s biggest musical influence is The Police. “I had to really fight to get my hands on music when I was a little kid because I had Hungarian war refugee parents who were into the arts and classical music and there was a lot of pop. But when I listened to The Police and those drums, I was hooked.” When the rest of New Jersey was in the “Post Jovi” stage as T called it, he was into the jazz fusion with Chick Corea, and then he went full circle back to rock.
James is a song guy and loves a good song from the 70s, 80s or 90s that he can sing to. “It doesn’t have to be a technically great song, just a good song. I like everything from Van Halen to Bruno Mars; from Steely Dan to Rush; to the Foo Fighters and Salt ‘n’ Pepa.”
You can expect a wide variety of music like that at the Outback. Lifespeed covered all kinds of genres and they do, too. James said, “Lifespeed has always been about doing a little bit of everything so you come to a Lifespeed show and you’re going to hear rock, dance, country — and there’s no genre that we don’t do. T and I want to please everybody and that’s what our job is and that’s what we love to do. We have a little bit of everything for everybody. It’s not one-sided and that’s the best thing about us. We have something for everyone, from [age] 21 to 51. Our street cred shows it. I like to think that we are sort of a local band for all the time we’ve played up there, in some strange way.”
I asked James what he loves about playing music and he said, “I do what I do because I’ve always had an attraction to playing music since I was a young kid. As long as I can remember it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I watched my grandmother, my mom, all my relatives play. They would go to family parties and play music. It was just a way of life. It comes from family and entertaining.”
They both absolutely love playing with Lifespeed, but can work more with this added in to their schedules. I hope you all will come to the Outback and see The Best. If you cannot make it this weekend, they will be returning on Super Bowl weekend, Feb. 2-3. They’re not saying that they’re the best band, it’s because they have such a good outlook on life that everything is the best to them. They could mess up a song and they’ll say, “We’re the best at messing up.” They like to have fun while playing music. If this interview is half as fun as the weekend, then it’s going to be the best weekend. It was a blast interviewing these guys because they were laughing and having so much fun during it. They’re really good friends and it showed. I’m really looking forward to this weekend and I hope you now are, too.
Photo courtesy of Dave Hoffenberg
JAMES AND T