(Not Quite) Twelve Months In The Life Of

Lifespeed have achieved the star status most cover bands fight for. With a fanatical following, they continue to over-fill each club they play.

What makes this band, barely a year old, so good? A neck-snapping, abrasive, in-your-face performance that leaves audiences infected with an unquenchable kinetic energy. Members from other popular cover bands, equally enamored by Lifespeed's performance, are sometimes spotted in the audience . There is no denying that they are the elite.

Front man Henry Robinson's mammoth vocals give pinpoint accuracy to each song he sings. He flawlessly delivers favorite upon favorite from Tool's latest to a Twisted Sister classic. Today's mainstream artists vocally challenge each other to provide newer, more voracious sounds. None can match Henry's talent. There's nothing this guy can't sing. Armed with an arsenal of perfectionist musicians, Henry handles every shattering new sound artists generate, from rapping Rage to roaring System of a Down.

Rob Muller manipulates the audience with his guitar, easily shredding the 80's stuff as well as the finger-splitting chords of today. When he's not on guitar, he takes the lead for some Jimmy Eat World and Jane's Addiction. This broadens the realm of music Lifespeed can produce.

Johnny Rivera blinds everyone on rhythm guitar and also rocks the keyboard. Watching Johnny and Rob play together transports the crowd to the glam-metal madness rooted in the souls of rock fans. A former DJ, Johnny also scratches turntables for background sounds, giving an extra kick to their performance.

Jimmy Kennedy, on bass, and Tibor "T" Bodner, on drums, provide the heavy rhythm sound that gels Lifespeed together. Jimmy's thunderous bass triggers the format they'll stupefy you with next. T's drum sound is seamless. His astrophysical timing, combined with the mechanics of the rest of the guys, gives a raw, watertight performance that reels in even the faintest of rock fans from the very start. With originals on the way, NJ won't know what hit them.

The band, booked by 107 Productions, has taken the shore by storm since their debut in September of 2001.

Catch them at Bar Anticipation every other Tuesday, Seagull on Thursday's and, starting in June, at Poor Billy's every other Wednesday. On weekends, they're tearing it up anywhere from LBI to the North Jersey outskirts. Check their web site for all the info.

How did you get started in the cover band business? What other bands have you been in?

Henry: I was in a number of original bands before I got into playing cover stuff. I was in-between bands at the time and had gotten offered a position doing some weekend gigs playing bass. I had been singing since age 13, so when I got offered a better gig singing it wasn't too hard for me to cross over to strictly doing that. As far as other cover bands I've been in are concerned, Love Lies Bleeding, Love Pumps, and I even played bass for Brian Kirk a long time ago.

Johnny: I was in original bands since I was 13. One of them played in bars, which wasn't the best atmosphere for original music, so we incorporated some covers. That was the first experience I really had playing covers in a working situation.

After the breakup of that band I took some time to try and put my own original project together. I met a drummer in a band called Jacobs Ladder through a friend and I approached him about joining my project. He never really seemed too interested in my project, but he heard that I was a good player by word of mouth. So, when he needed a new guitar player for Jacobs Ladder he called me up for an audition and the rest is history.

What differentiates Lifespeed from your previous accomplishments?

Henry: Lifespeed does a wider variety of songs than the other bands that I've been in. We are also currently working on original music, too. [That's] something that I really wasn't able to do in any previous cover band. The chemistry is just there this time. This is definitely the best band I've been in to date.

Johnny: Lifespeed is the first band that I've been in that acts as both a steady working cover band and an original band. Also, I've only found a few musicians throughout my career that are on the same page as me creatively. Henry and I have a chemistry that has allowed us to create some pretty interesting music.

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

Henry: That's a hard question. I tend to favor the heavier stuff but do like a wide variety of music. Maybe "Walk" by Pantera, "In The End" by Linkin Park, any Tool stuff. "Molly" by Sponge is a really good song even though it is one of the lighter ones. As far as the crowd is concerned, other favorites might be "We're Not Gonna Take It" by Twisted Sister, "I Want You to Want Me" by Cheap Trick, or "Bodies" by Drowning Pool. And the list goes on.

Johnny : Hmm, I guess it would have to be one of the songs by Disturbed or Tool for me. I like the heaviness in their music. It's not that I actually like their songs over others we play, but rather that I get to play those heavy, chunky, chords. I grew up on metal, and although my musical tastes range anywhere from R&B/hip-hop to Jeff Mills, one of my favorite techno producers, I still love to come back to my roots and bang out the heavy stuff.

NJ is one of the top three states in the country for cover bands. With the vast amount our state has, how do you manage to stay on top?

Henry: Just by being the best band that we can be and putting on the best show we can every night. Nobody wants to come see a band that is just going through the motions. They want to be entertained! I'm very lucky to be playing with all of these guys. They are all great at what they do and very easy to work with. Of course, promoting ourselves as much as possible helps tremendously, too. Also, making sure that our shows are spread out so we aren't saturated in one area helps. Who wants to come see you one night, when you're just playing down the road tomorrow night?

Johnny: I think the most important thing for us to do is stay current and exciting. When people come out to see Lifespeed, they want to have a good time. We have to make sure that we keep a 'party' atmosphere so people have fun. After all, that's why we all go out anyway. One of the other things we have to do is actually broaden our fan base to other states. That way we are not in NJ so much that it becomes tired. If we are in NJ only two times a week rather than four or five, then more people will come out when we are in town.

You play minimally four nights a week. What's the key to keeping the crowd entertained and interested nightly?

Henry: Like I said before, by putting on the best show that we possibly can every night. Staying on top of current songs while still playing the old favorites in the set. A lot of times we will do wacky stuff on a whim that is just funny at the time. We like to keep the stage show fresh and unplanned. Also, we always wind up hanging out with our audience in between sets. I think that the fact that we relate to them as much as they relate to us comes across. There's really no barrier there. Everyone is there to have a drink and have fun including us.

Johnny: The most important thing for me is to hang out with everyone and just have a good time. If we are all genuinely having a good time, it'll show through to the crowd. Being that we all love what we do, we can play four or five nights a week and still keep it interesting. We also listen to the people that come out to see us. After all without them, we wouldn't be playing anywhere.

Forming just last year, how do you have a following so great?

Henry: Before Lifespeed came out we did tons of promotions for it so everyone knew what was going on. We put posters everywhere, business and schedule cards, etc. When Rob and I switched bands almost everyone that followed our previous band knew about it and just crossed over. We also seemed to pick up more of an audience probably due to the wider variety of music.

When is your original material set to debut? And what influences helped manifest the sound?

Henry: We are planning on debuting some original material early this summer with a full length CD coming out a little later in the summer. As far as influences are concerned, Johnny and I are the main writers right now. We are both influenced by a wide variety of music from metal to R&B, to hip-hop, pop, techno, etc. The music we are writing is heavy-edged and very melodic, but with its roots in electronic music. We kind of dubbed it industrial agro-pop because it's aggravated pop music with an electro-homegrown flavor.

Johnny: I'm influenced by everything, but sounds that have crept their way into our music seem to come from heavy bands as well as synthy, pop bands. The funny thing is that Henry and I were getting together since last summer and coming up with ideas. The sound was pretty solid from the get go. About a month or two later I bought the Linkin Park album because I loved that song, "One Step Closer." I remember listening to it in my car and calling Henry saying, "You've got to buy this album, it's so close to what we are going after." On the flip side, our sound has a very industrial feel as well as a poppy undertone to it. The main thing for us is to write what we feel. We don't go after anything in particular. We don't think about what chords to use or what sounds to use until the song begins coming together.

Once you debut originally will you continue with covers or switch gears completely?

Henry: We will continue to do covers while throwing in two or three originals a night. Once we get enough songs together we will also do original shows on designated nights. Hopefully we can start showcasing for labels soon thereafter.

Johnny: Well, the main goal is to strike a deal, just like every other aspiring musician. If the originals took off, I'm outta here!

In September of 2002, Lifespeed will be together a year. What do you hope to accomplish by then? And what's in store for the future?

Henry: To have a full-length original CD out sometime this summer and to be the best band that we can be, playing in the biggest and best clubs around to the biggest and best crowds. Did I say biggest or best too much in this paragraph? As far as the long-term goal is concerned ... MTV.

Johnny: By September, I hope to have the album already recorded and in stores. I would also like to do some showcasing in NYC. As far as Lifespeed, the cover band, like I said earlier, I really want to get out of the state and work more in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Maryland.

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