Shore-based cover band Pez Head has a new singer; Kathy, a strong-ranged, college-trained, eye-catching vocalist.
Kathy replaced the bandâ€™s former singer, Elaine Tuttle, who now sings for Sugarbelly, in early 2002.
â€śItâ€™s really easy to play with these guys because theyâ€™re so good,â€ť she said. â€śThey made me feel really comfortable, since I began playing with them.â€ť
She sat in with Pez Head at last October's â€śOne Nite of Musicâ€ť benefit, an event where bands throughout the state played the same night at clubs in north and south Jersey. Money raised went directly
to the Twin Towers Fund, which raises money for families of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. By November, she was filling in for the band on a regular basis. When Tuttle and Pez Head parted
ways in March, she was offered the full-time role as lead singer and officially took over on April 14. About fifty gigs later, she is now climbing her way to the top of the cover band scene.
Her ability starts with being able to sing and perform otherâ€™s music with her own tone and style. Her vocal coloring and live presence revives 80â€™s classics like â€śGoodbye to Youâ€ť and â€śCome On Eileenâ€ť
from their pop graves to bar-buzzed anthems.
Her phrasing and physical expression on songs like â€śI Will Surviveâ€ť give her personal statement to anotherâ€™s song. She has also managed to keep Tuttle's fun, bouncy appeal, a key ingredient to Pez Head's
Her stage stamina is particularly impressive. Getting up in a smoke-filled bar in front of a crowd of people for two to three hours is something many canâ€™t do well. Those who can, fend off fatigue until
it affects their performance. Kathyâ€™s eyes and body movements show little sign of tiring from the time she gets on stage to the last notes of the show, even after dancing, shaking and jumping around the
stage, and the equipment, for much of the night. Her energy is like a battery, charging not only the crowd, but her band as well.
Her vocals are smooth, even and well-timed. Her aptitude for vocal breathing methods keeps sour or dry notes from reaching the microphone.
Kathy majored in voice at Seton Hall University, where the curriculum included voice, choir and madrigal lessons and music theory and history.
â€śItâ€™s kind of where it all started,â€ť she said. â€śItâ€™s kind of the foundation for everything else.â€ť
She began singing about when she was old enough for kindergarten or first grade, she said.
â€śI listened to the music that my mom listened to, Melissa Manchester and Linda Ronstadt,â€ť she said. â€śI used to stand in my living room with my motherâ€™s albums and pretended I was them.â€ť
Her taste has gotten more well-rounded since.
â€ś[I listen to] everything from classical music to System of a Down, [cabaret singer] Audra MacDonald and No Doubt,â€ť she said.
Before Pez Head, she sang for another cover band, Emma Peel, which started in July 1999.
Kathyâ€™s favorite stops are Morristownâ€™s Palm Grill and Keyportâ€™s Bulkhead, which she mentioned is her top choice. â€śItâ€™s really stagy with all the lights,â€ť she said. â€śI like the atmosphere. There are
always people there and theyâ€™re always interested.â€ť
With a front person whose attitude and professionalism was commended by Doug Losche, the band's guitar player and keyboardist and Frank Mount, Pez Head's bassist, the skyâ€™s the limit for the band.
â€śWeâ€™re recording our demo,â€ť Kathy said. â€śWeâ€™re going to try and network a little to do a few more rooms.â€ť
The band is also upgrading its website, www.pezheadmusic.com, and looking to play places like Scranton, PA, she said.
Pez Headâ€™s style takes advantage of harmonies. The group has two other quality singers who can assume lead vocals, Losche and Jay Jack, who both kick ass on their primary instruments as well.
The bandâ€™s vocal enhancements clearly produce a direct crowd response. A chorus of harmony on stage is a good way to get the audience singing along.
Pez Headâ€™s unrelenting effort to their crowd generates a positive reaction. The locked-tight groove of Mount and drummer Gino Gambino produces a response from the audienceâ€™s feet, just as that catchy
singing does their vocal chords.
Chorus and Verse has put the spotlight on Kathy to get her insight on singing, performing and interacting with Pez Head.
Do you have any methods for getting ready for a show? Do you warm up vocal-wise?
I usually try to start drinking water at least an hour before I leave for the show and I spend the entire car ride singing. I get a lot of strange looks on the highway, but it's worth it.
How important is warming up before singing?
It's very important to warm up vocally, as well as physically. In addition to singing in the car so I don't strain my voice, I usually make sure my body is ready to be jumping around for hours.
I used to wake up on Saturdays and Sundays being very sore from dancing, but my body has since gotten used to it.
How long did it take you to develop a solid vocal range and how did you do so?
The classical voice training I had in college definitely helped my range a great deal. It's important for me to attempt to hit notes I don't think I can hit at rehearsal or when singing on my own. But
I also have to know my limits so I don't overdo it.
How does singing in a cover band that covers a wide variety of music help you expand your vocal range?
It's wonderful! I get to sing songs that were originally recorded by guys, like "Roxanne" and "Hemorrhage," as well as the girlie stuff, like "I Will Survive" and "Heartbreaker.â€ť One of the many things
I love about singing with Pez Head is that we are a very vocally-driven band and we concentrate a lot on harmonies.
What is the most important thing a singer should remember when performing?
Drink a lot of water! I bring at least three big bottles with me to every show.
What do you do to keep the crowd involved?
We do a lot to keep the crowd involved. At most shows there's at least one of us jumping on a table, dancing on the bar, or running around in the crowd.
We have a lot of fun playing together and I think the audience can sense that, so they usually have a good time, too.
How do you keep your energy going and voice in shape for the three or more sets Pez Head plays?
I try to get enough sleep and eat right. That may sound clichĂ©, but it really does make a lot of difference. And I don't smoke, which is very important, too.