Kathy from Pez Head

Chorus and Verse Spotlight

Shore-based cover band Pez Head has a new singer; Kathy, a strong-ranged, college-trained, eye-catching vocalist.

Kathy replaced the band's former singer, Elaine Tuttle, who now sings for Sugarbelly, in early 2002.

"It's really easy to play with these guys because they're so good," she said. "They made me feel really comfortable, since I began playing with them."

She sat in with Pez Head at last October's "One Nite of Music" 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 other's music with her own tone and style. Her vocal coloring and live presence revives 80's classics like "Goodbye to You" and "Come On Eileen" from their pop graves to bar-buzzed anthems.

Her phrasing and physical expression on songs like "I Will Survive" give her personal statement to another's song. She has also managed to keep Tuttle's fun, bouncy appeal, a key ingredient to Pez Head's popularity.

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 can't do well. Those who can, fend off fatigue until it affects their performance. Kathy'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.

"It's kind of where it all started," she said. "It's kind of the foundation for everything else."

She began singing about when she was old enough for kindergarten or first grade, she said.

"I listened to the music that my mom listened to, Melissa Manchester and Linda Ronstadt," she said. "I used to stand in my living room with my mother's albums and pretended I was them."

Her taste has gotten more well-rounded since.

"[I listen to] everything from classical music to System of a Down, [cabaret singer] Audra MacDonald and No Doubt," she said.

Before Pez Head, she sang for another cover band, Emma Peel, which started in July 1999.

Kathy's favorite stops are Morristown's Palm Grill and Keyport's Bulkhead, which she mentioned is her top choice. "It's really stagy with all the lights," she said. "I like the atmosphere. There are always people there and they're always interested."

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 sky's the limit for the band.

"We're recording our demo," Kathy said. "We're going to try and network a little to do a few more rooms."

The band is also upgrading its website, www.pezheadmusic.com, and looking to play places like Scranton, PA, she said.

Pez Head'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 band'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 Head'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 audience'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." 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 clichè, but it really does make a lot of difference. And I don't smoke, which is very important, too.

Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.