By DJ Dave Hoffenberg
This weekend is the return of new sensation and my favorite cover band, Good Noise, to the Pickle Barrel Nightclub, both Friday and Saturday night. You get an extra treat on Saturday because it’s also the annual Pimp ‘n’ Ho Ho Ho Party. Good Noise knows how to rock a Pickle party because they debuted there last April for the annual Mini Skirt Party. I had the pleasure of speaking with co-lead singer and sax player John Tanzi who told me the band is super stoked to return to Killington.
This band is like no other that you have seen, be it at the Pickle Barrel or anywhere else. There is not a genre that they don’t cover. If you can’t find a song you like in their set, you don’t like music.
Tanzi is joined in the band by his brother Andrew Tanzi (guitar, keys, and vocals), Steve Flannery (lead guitar and vocals), Tom O’Donohue (bass), Matt Savage (drums and vocals) and Melissa Taibi (fellow co-lead singer). By day John Tanzi, Savage and Flannery are all teachers; Andrew is a firefighter; Taibi is a physician’s assistant; and O’Donohue is a comptroller. They range in age from 24 to 27.
John Tanzi describes the band: “We’re a non-stop, high energy night out. You hear more songs from our band in a night than any other band. It’s almost like a live deejay. We are adamant about always adding new songs. If you come out one week to the next, you will always hear something new. We always try and keep it fresh because we have a lot of people who follow us around where we live so we want to keep it interesting for them.”
One major thing that he wanted to mention is the band never tracks music. John said, “We never have and we never will. Everything we play is being done live right in front of you. If we can’t do a song justice by making it our own, we just won’t do it. We don’t believe in tracking music.” That’s a big plus to me. So many bands track music, some even track their vocals.
Good Noise will be celebrating five years together this January. They put a lot of time and effort into this. They practiced for almost a full year before starting to book gigs. What’s amazing to me is this band is the same six people as when they started. Many bands change a player here and there, but not Good Noise. That is key to how great this band sounds. The band started from John and Andrew bar hopping and seeing other bands. John said, “We would be out drinking, watching a band and I would tell Andrew that we have to play this song. He would look at me and say, ‘How can we play this, we don’t have a band?’ I said back, ‘Maybe it’s time to form a band.’ That’s kind of how we got it going.”
Andrew came up with the name. They were shooting around ideas for a few weeks. John said to his brother, “We need a name that is music-related. What does music mean to you?” Andrew shrugged and said, “I don’t know, it’s like good noise.” The light bulb went off in John’s head and they had a name.
The band is unique because their set is a constant medley of songs. You may hear just a snippet or line from one song, a chorus from another or the whole thing. They have to figure out what works best, but I can tell you, it all works great. You will not be disappointed.
“We’re playing to the iPod/iPhone generation who listen to music on the go. They want the first chorus from a song and then go onto the next. That’s what we try and bring to our live performances. With us you never know what’s going to come next. We mix in the 40s with the 2000s and back to the 60s and then to hip hop from today. We want to keep people on their toes and part of what makes our set list intriguing to people is the shock value of what we do,” John said.
Another favorite band of mine is Man Down, and Brian Leonard, the leader of that band, is a major influence on this one. Man Down has been doing this medley thing for over 10 years and Brian figured out the formula that works. He taught John on what part of the song they should cut or keep. John said, “It’s called transitioning, and we have to figure out where the song should go. Sometimes we’ll play a great song that goes over well but when we go to the next verse, the crowd is not into it anymore. So we know right there to only play the first bit of that one. It’s very much paying attention to what the crowd is doing.”
Picking the right song is only part of the process. Figuring out where to place it in the set, is the other. John said, “Knowing how it’s going to fit into what you’re already playing is tough. You can have a good song but it’s not going to go over because it’s in a bad spot. Before we scrap a song completely, we move it to a different spot and try it there. It’s very much trial and error as that goes.”
The band always writes a set list but because they’re constantly watching the crowd, and it changes a lot. They have 200 songs in their repertoire, so they have the ability to adapt to what the crowd wants. If they’re playing too much rock, they can go to pop or punk. A favorite song of John’s that they’re playing now is Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” The drummer’s favorite is Fat Joe and Ashanti’s “What’s Luv.” John’s favorite artist is someone they only played once and it bombed. He said, “Oddly enough, my favorite musician is John Mayer. Back at one of the first gigs we ever played, we tried ‘No Such Thing’ and it did not go over well at all. So we don’t currently have any John Mayer in our set list [laughing]. That was a one time deal — one gig and that was it.” He grew up listening to classic rock like U2, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen and Rush. Listening to their set, you would think he was into the pop rock scene.
John went to high school with everyone but the drummer. They were all involved in music and school productions. They all know each other from Staten Island and live in the same area. His brother Andrew found the drummer while checking out another band. John recalled, “He’s a rapping drummer, so it was a no-brainer.”
Having his brother in the band was a must, but it didn’t start out that way. John explained. “My brother is very talented and is a drummer by trade, but he always played every instrument. He went to Berkeley School of Music for drums, but came home after a semester. When we started Good Noise, he was the original bass player. He wouldn’t show up to practice and that made me mad. He’s so talented that he can play anything on the spot. I didn’t feel he was putting in the same time as everyone else so I kicked him out of the band. He really wanted back in, so I told him the only way is if he learns to play keyboard. So now he wears the guitar, plays the keyboard and has bongos in front of him.”
John started out on the viola, but knew he had to play the sax. He took some lessons on the side and when he got to high school, he was in band, including the jazz band. He grew up in a musical family. His father, Anthony, currently a CPA, moonlights as a drummer in wedding bands. He almost became the drummer for an internationally known band, The Bee Gees. Back in the day, the manager of the group was in the the family’s living room and wanted Anthony to go on tour. But John’s grandfather, straight off the boat from Italy, said, “Only if they could have him home in his bed every night.” The manager said, “that’s impossible since they want to take him to Europe,” so John’s grandfather said, “Then he’s not going.” John said, “My dad is a sick drummer.”
The only one not musical in the family is his mother. His other brother Matt and sister both have the music gene. They would practice in his basement. John said, “When we were forming the band, my brother said I can’t just play the sax — I had to sing. I agreed, and I sucked. My mother told my father that he had to break it to me, to tell me that I had to stop and that I wasn’t good. My father had confidence that I would get better. I don’t sing with proper technique. I’m not a trained singer and I don’t breathe right when I sing. I’m able to get the notes out and that’s it. I’m not anything like Melissa. I think she is the best singer on the circuit right now. She’s a beast. When we formed the band I knew we had to have her. She wasn’t singing, but came to practice, liked it and has been with us ever since. Hats off to her.” John doesn’t consider himself a singer even though he is co-lead singer. When people ask what he does in the band, he tells them he plays sax and he sings. Singing is second for him.
The band tries to practice at least once a week. John sends out songs to the group two weeks prior and the expectation is for everyone to learn it. He said, “We then practice it and incorporate it into the set list. Everyone contributes songs. It’s a very democratic process. I don’t necessarily enjoy every song that we play, but if it goes over well, that’s good. If it gets a reaction, we have to play it.” The band likes to try out songs at their local clubs to prepare for big clubs like the Pickle and the Jersey Shore in the summer. They are very excited and prepared for this weekend, so don’t miss out.
John ended by saying, “I love my band’s ability to relate to the people. We’re very much aware that we are playing cover songs. None of us put ourselves on a pedestal, we don’t think we’re rock stars or above anyone else that is at the bar drinking and enjoying listening to us play. We call ourselves ‘the people’s band.’ We’re drinking and singing right along with you. The only difference is we’re on the stage holding an instrument and you’re on the floor, hopefully holding two beers, enjoying us.”
Photo Courtesy of Dave Hoffenberg