By Dave Hoffenberg
Lifespeed makes their long awaited return to the Pickle Barrel Nightclub this Friday and Saturday night, Jan. 23-24. They spent last season revamping the band and now they’re coming back bigger and better, as they are now a six piece band. Speaking of better, Lifespeed’s James and T (the band does not publicize member’s last names, seemingly intentionally…) are bringing their act to Jax on Thursday night, also.
Lifespeed has been rocking the Pickle Barrel since 2003. Every time they hit the stage, it is a high energy rock fest. They are one of the most popular bands in the history of the Pickle Barrel. They’ve always had a great lineup of guys and what sets them apart from others is how well they play together and the fact that everyone sings giving them six part harmonies. When they play a two night gig, they never play the same set twice. It’s really important to them to not play the same show. They always mix it up.
Their current line-up is Rob, lead guitar, keyboard, vocals; James, lead guitar, vocals; T, drums, vocals; Richie, bass, vocals and two lead singers now with Dan and Mike, although James said that technically they have six lead singers.
Lifespeed hails from New Jersey and first came onto the scene in September 2001 with Rob and T. James joined shortly thereafter in 2002. Rob said they just wanted to make some noise and that they did. They took the hard rock cover scene by storm and still play all the top clubs in New Jersey and other nearby states.
But Rob said, “No matter where were playing, could be a huge stage in Delaware or the awesome casinos we play, the one trip we all look forward to is playing in Killington, Vermont.” he said, “We like to be that good combination. It’s one thing to be good musicians but it’s another to have that reputation that you don’t know what might happen at one of our shows. We tend to indulge and explode a little bit when we get up there. We’re so excited that we’re there that we go a little crazy. It’s definitely high energy on stage but it’s high energy all weekend. We’re going to have some killer sets, play some good songs and have a hell of a time.”
James adds, “And our fans travel up here with us and join in the party.”
The locals do indeed love Lifespeed and I do too — they are one of my favorites.
Lifespeed is a rock band but adds a dance element, too.
“Music changes constantly and you have to change with it to be on top of it to be current or who wants to come see you? You’ll get lost in the dust. We like to add a little rock to the dance songs,” said Rob.
James adds, “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. We have a little bit of everything for everybody. It’s not one sided and that’s the best thing about Lifespeed. Whether it’s Bruno Mars to Bruce Springsteen, Tool to Darius Rucker and Sublime to Macklemore, it’s all there. We want to please everybody and that’s what our job is and that’s what we love to do.”
All the band members contribute to their song list. They might bring back an old hit or add a new one for a little bit. They decide which ones to fully play and which ones to make into a medley, and medleys are fun for them because they get to create their own mashups. They’ll be debuting a new funk medley this weekend. I asked if that will include the popular ‘Uptown Funk’ by Bruno Mars and they both answered at the same time, “Of course.”
James said, “A little new school, a little 80s-school, a little old school. Our medleys are sometimes 17 minutes long. For us it’s great but to see the reaction of the people is even better. They get jazzed about it.”
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.”
Rob is into a style of music called “Shoegaze,” which is alternative rock from the U.K. that came out in the late 80s, early 90s. Some of his favorite bands are Curve, Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine.
When asked what they love about playing music, James 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.”
Rob answered, “Music is in my blood. My father was a bassist for a band back in the sixties. I love playing guitar and it’s a passion. My 12-year-old son is also a musician who plays drums and is in a band now.”
Rob and James could not be more excited for this weekend. “Lifespeed is a powder keg when it comes up to Killington, and we’re ready to explode,” said Rob.
James agreed, adding, “We have something for everyone, from 21 to 51. Our street cred shows it. I like to think that Lifespeed is sort of a local band for all the time we’ve played up there, in some strange way.”
You’re going to want to start your weekend early and hit Jax Food & Games on Thursday night to see “The Best,” which is James and T’s band. These two have been playing together since high school. 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 Thursday and they’ll say, “We’re the best at messing up.” They like to have fun while playing music.
James and T met when they were fifteen years old. James was looking for a drummer and he found T. When they were seniors, they won a battle of the bands together. Obviously 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. 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 others 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 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 adds, “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.”
They both absolutely love playing with Lifespeed. If their show is half as fun as this interview was, then it’s going to be the best night for sure! It was a blast chatting with these guys because they were laughing and having so much fun throughout. They’re really good friends and it showed. I’m really looking forward to this weekend and I hope you now are, too.