The Vibe

The Smooth Sounds Of R&B And Hip-Hop

Shooting their way to the top, The Vibe ignores the stipulation that every New Jersey cover band plays hard rock. This band has shown N.J. that there's more to music than just ear-splitting, head-banging sounds.

They've got crowds absorbed and urbanized with cool riffs and eclectic sounds offered by no one else. The band, which has been together for two years, covers songs by today's hottest R&B stars. Hip-Hop is rapidly taking over the airwaves with hit after hit by Ja Rule and Jennifer Lopez, and R&B has blossomed from a small musical genre to a mainstream emotion. The Vibe slickly handles it all, as well as tossing in some classic Prince and Madonna.

Grooving the night away are Kara Lynn (lead vocals/rhymes), John "LJ" Kanopka (lead vocals/rhymes/lead guitar), Matt Carl (saxophone/vocals/keyboards/percussion), John "JD" Deservio (bass/vocals/rhymes), Scott Morely (keyboards/samples) and Bob Mierzejwski (drums), a/k/a The Vibe.

Lynn vocally masters the variations of music by today's hottest female singers. Whether it's rapping or singing she lights up whatever club she's in. She grips the crowd from the very beginning with tight lyrics and a ground-breaking sound that makes everyone stop and listen. From Mary J. Blige's "Family Affair" to No Doubt's "Hey Baby," Kara's got something for everyone. Stylistically and musically she's sensational.

Kanopka's musical talent is matchless. Besides rhythmically jamming away on guitar, he also takes the lead for Sisqo's "Thong Song" and Prince's "Kiss." With enough energy to supply some third world countries with electricity, he guarantees a hopping atmosphere. Softly yet powerfully, he belts out heart-stopping lyrics song after song, swooning the audience and making them jump all at the same time. If you're not feeling the sound by the time "LJ" is done, you're probably not in the bar.

Musical multi-tasker Carl handles vocals, keys, sax and sometimes bass. His vast talent lets the band freely cover all varieties of the entire R&B spectrum. Taking the lead for "Sexual Heeling" wows the crowd over and over again. His musicianship is untouchable. Deservio, a NJ bass icon, thrills you song after song with a sound known throughout the state as simply the best there is. Perfecting Ja Rule, he provides a vocal toughness that demands respect. Morely, on the keys, adds a truly magical sound. His hands dance freely along the keys while he samples all the necessary background hints for exacting each tune. Mierzejwski, on drums, keeps everyone jumping and the band in check with immaculate timing.

The whole band harmonizes on Lauryn Hill's "Doo-Wop", a crowd-pleaser wherever they play. The Vibe hasn't only mystified N.J. with their unique set list. They've also shaken things up in Ocean City, Maryland. Seacrets, one of the hottest clubs on Maryland's shoreline, relishes every opportunity to party with The Vibe.

107 Productions deals out these cool kats to clubs like The Windansea in the Atlantic Highlands, The Marlin in LBI, and Joey Harrison's Surf Club in Ortley Beach. Get all other info from Packing the house each time they play, these guys are winning fans from all over.

Why did you want to be in a cover band? And why R&B?

Kara: Wow! Well, I love to perform for an audience. It is so much fun to watch people dance and have a good time all because of the music you are playing. It's truly a natural high. Though I have sung everything from opera to rock n' roll, my true love has always been R&B. There is so much soul and adrenaline in R&B and it brings out the best of me when performing it.

LJ: Actually, I never really desired to be in a cover band and I always looked for original projects. But it gets very tiresome playing to empty houses for no pay. I just wanted to get out there and perform, let people hear my voice, and have fun. I gave up the "I'm gonna be a rock star" dream a few years ago, and I just wanted to be in a band that satiated my urge to play and perform. Why R&B? Because it's the music I love, and it touches me inside.

How did you all get together to form The Vibe?

Kara: Hope you got two hours! Just kidding. I decided to go out one night and look at a funk original band that was looking for a female singer. I walked into this hole in the wall and there was LJ, the most amazing male voice I have ever heard. For a short time, I joined the band and realized it just wasn't right for me, but I never forgot my musical connection with LJ so I asked him to join me in developing the Vibe. Both he and I love R&B and thought it would be so cool to get it out there in the scene.

We auditioned Bob, our drummer. He was so funny cause he walked in last minute after I gave him the songs only two hours before. He nailed it! Bob is a very hard working, he is kinda like the "dad" of The Vibe. After that we found our keyboard player, Scott. He probably has to work the most musically in our band due to the demands of R&B music. He is an incredible keyboard player.

Then Matt came! Wow, what a talent this guy is. We hired him as a sax player, but soon learned that he was a singer and a keyboard player as well. What really completed us was JD. JD is in my opinion the very best bass player in New Jersey. I have never seen a bass player solo like him and you must hear him rap. It's incredible.

LJ: Do you have an hour? Seriously, it took a very long while to get all the pieces in place. Kara and I set out to form this band after the Full Fledged Flavor experience, and found a bass player, who was eventually replaced by JD, to form the basis of this band. We held rehearsals for a drummer first and foremost, and found Bob Mierzejwski. We actually were working with a New York City sax player named Mackie Snee and although he didn't work out, he did refer us to Scott Morley, another Manhattan-ite, who became our keyboard player.

The last piece of the puzzle was Matt Carl. Matt was originally recruited as a sax player only, but we soon discovered that his talents extended far beyond the horn. His vocals were a perfect third-part compliment to the harmonies that Kara and I had already solidified, and the rest was history. JD actually joined the band in late 2001 replacing our original bass player, and he was the nitro in our engine. Just brought us to a totally different place musically.

Who is your biggest musical influence?

Kara: I would have to say Chaka Kahn and N'dea Davenport, formally of The Brand New Heavies, as vocal influences and then a nice combo of Stevie Wonder, Brand New Heavies and Jamiroquai musically.

LJ: My dad had to be the first influence. I have vivid visions of my dad playing Cat Stevens, Harry Chapin, Neil Young, all on acoustic guitar. He would sit and play while my mom made dinner and [we] sang along with him. So that was my first taste of music.

But there have been many other influences as well. Steve Perry from Journey I idolized ever since I heard Journey's "Escape" when I was seven years old. Geoff Tate from Queensryche was another influence, as well as Mike Patton from Faith No More. These guys taught me you can still sing your balls off, but be melodic and tasteful with presentation. Then came Prince, who is an utter genius, and later on D'Angelo's "Brown Sugar" which was the first R&B album to change my life. D'Angelo was the real deal. He made me smooth, and I'm white. No small feat.

With NJ having so many rock cover bands, do you think covering such a different style of music is harder to win over crowds with?

Kara: Well, yes and no. Yes because N.J. is very rock dominated. Right now, great rock cover bands like Lifespeed are soaring and literally kicking ass. But in a sense we are benefiting from that because we end up being a breath of fresh air, being the only ones around covering R&B/Hip Hop. I love watching people's faces in astonishment when I rap! What's most important is no matter where we are, people have a great time and love what we do.

LJ : Oh, hell yeah! Nobody plays what we do and, if they do, [it's] usually only one or two songs that we do, then they launch into their normal rock repertoire. I think for the first half of our first set people are, like, 'Huh?' They are waiting for us to launch into that Creed or Incubus song, but it never comes. It isn't until we get into the Ja Rule, Fat Joe, Jay-Z and Tribe Called Quest stuff that they really loosen up.

But people are starting to recognize us as a very original cover band, an oxymoron if I've ever heard one. We always get people saying that to us after the show. The quote is usually, 'I have never seen a band pull off the stuff you do.' We take pride in that. It's kinda cool to be untouchable because we play stuff that other people don't.

What is the favorite place you currently play?

Kara: I would have to say The Windansea in Atlantic Highlands. They are so awesome there. The staff treats us like gold and the crowd loves us. Always a good time!

LJ: I have to say Windansea in the Atlantic Highlands. It's a relatively new space, a beautiful spot, and the crowds are usually aching to get down and dance. But what makes that place special is their owner Dan. A total class act, the quintessential business man, who is interested in developing bands because he knows we help shape his business. We have done emergency gigs for the Windansea, and try to bend over backwards to help them out because the experience there is so positive. Windansea also has a beautiful outside deck, which we haven't seen in full-swing yet, we started playing there over the winter, and I can't wait to see the place once summer hits. I'm extremely amped to say the least.

What's the favorite song you cover? Which is the crowd favorite?

Kara: Right now? Hmm ... I would say "Let Me Blow Your Mind," by Eve and "I'm Real" by Ja Rule and J-Lo. Crowd favorite? "Scenario," by Tribe Called Quest, "Doo Wop," by Lauryn Hill and "Sexual Healing," by Marvin Gaye.

LJ: Well, I love different songs for different reasons. I like to sing "Thong Song," because it shows my vocal range, and if the ladies are into enough, they often bring the song to life, if you get my meaning. I love "Always on Time" because "JD" does a mean Ja Rule, and the keyboards are on point. I love "Let Me Blow Your Mind" because it's the first song Kara learned to rap, and she kills it. But, "Scenario" has to be my favorite, because the crowd gets whipped into a frenzy, and my boy Matty rips the mic.

Members of The Vibe are so multitalented. How is the set list determined based on the many capabilities of the band?

Kara: Well, I'll do two songs, then LJ will do two and then Matt two, and so on. Then we will put JD's songs in randomly. I love it cause I get a rest. LJ and I sing the most though, almost 50/50.

LJ: Well, I've always said that the good thing about The Vibe is we come at you from all angles. I sing, rap and play guitar. Kara sings and raps. JD raps also along with his bass duties, and Matt plays sax, sings, raps, plays keys. Amazing. And Scott and Bob provide the perfect platform to display all these talents.

We mix it up so much that rarely is the same person on the mic for more than three songs in a row. I think that creates a flexibility and variance that always catches people off guard. 'Oh shit, the girl raps? Oh shit, the guy raps? Oh shit, the bass player raps? Oh shit, the sax/keyboard player raps and sings?' We love to blindside people with our versatility.

What types of music do you listen to other than what you cover?

Kara: Well, I just can't get enough of the Brand New Heavies! Other than them, I like Mary J. Blige, D'Angelo, Michael Jackson, Res, Jamiroquai, Tribe Called Quest, Olive, and too many more to say.

LJ: I listen to everything, and I mean everything, except country. Right now I am listening to Remy Shand, a great new soul artist, the new Musiq Soulchild CD "Juslisen," Incubus, Linkin Park. "Hybrid Theory" is one of the greatest hard rock records to come in years, D'Angelo, Maxwell, the Greyboy All-Stars, Soulive, Incognito and, of course, my ultimate favorite, the Brand New Heavies.

How is playing in Ocean City, Maryland different than the regular New Jersey crowds?

Kara: Wow! Seacrets is like Disney Land! Huge room about eight times the size of Tradewinds and it has cutting-edge sound, lights, cameras, special effects going on, and a huge movie screen behind the band. While you're playing, the band is on that screen so people in the back can see you. Makes you feel like a Zoolander!

LJ: Well, in Ocean City, people come there to party, and I mean par-tay. Most folks are staying in the nearby hotels and motels, so they don't have to drive, so the level of intoxication is a lot more severe sometimes than anywhere else. The floor at Seacrets is literally spring loaded, so when you jump up, the floor literally springs back at you when you land. If you are on the floor and a bumping song comes on, the floor literally bumps with you, people are jumping, and it's like the whole club is pulsating. Very cool. I'm not sure if there is a club in NJ that can touch it as far as the layout. It's colossal.

What could we expect from The Vibe by the end of the year?

Kara: Well, since we got our deal with Budweiser, my beer of choice, things are moving much faster for us. I first see a slammin' summer. We have a lot of beachy tropical outdoor gigs, which I am really excited about since I love the sun and surf. You can go chill out by the pool with a strawberry daiquiri at Tradewinds poolside or hang out in your bikini on the deck of Joey Harrison's Surf Club every Sunday. Every Tuesday Budweiser and Victoria's Secret will be with The Vibe at the Marlin!

Some lucky girl will be chosen to go shopping with a gift certificate. And the guys? Well, I got something planned for them! Just check out our schedule to come out and party with us. Since the [rise] of such artists as J-Lo, Ja Rule, Outkast, Mary J., Alicia Keys, Pink and Jay-Z, there is a great market for us now. People are realizing that hip-hop is as much fun as rock. That's where The Vibe comes in. We keep it oh-so-real and so much fun making all that good stuff all too easy.

LJ: Well, we are going to continue to play all the hottest jams that hit the radio as the year progresses. We found that people respond very well to the newest stuff, but at the same time, enjoy the nostalgia of a song like "Humpty Dance", "Scenario", or "My Prerogative". We have a rap medley consisting of jams from Jay-Z, Snoop, Old Dirty Bastard, Outkast. We are going to extend on that more as time progresses, hopefully so much so that the whole last set will be a jam-packed medley full of hot hip-hop joints.

We are also going to let everyone get their fair shake at mc-ing so we get to utilize all of our members' talents. That's our first goal. We are considering doing a huge Beastie Boys medley as well as pulling out some other classics. So let's just say you can expect evolution. We want to make our mark this summer, and show the world why there is a buzz about The Vibe. Hopefully, this will open people's eyes, and show that a NJ cover band can be more than "Copacabana" and Limp Bizkit covers.

We just want to freshen up the scene a bit, and truly hope that people enjoy what we do. Because when it all comes down to it, summer is all about unwinding, letting your hair down, shakin' that ass, and forgetting about that 9-5 for the weekend. We hope we can provide the atmosphere to make that happen.

Natasha McGrath

Natasha McGrath is a graduate of Rider University with a degree in Journalism. A web site content developer for an investment firm by day - music enthusiast and cover band connoisseur by night. "NJ being the mecca of cover acts, someone has to let Garden Staters know who's worth the charge at the door. Usually found near the stage ... I'm the one who knows all the words." In addition to writing for Chorus and Verse, Natasha is also Music Writer for