An Original Take On Covers

Ocean County-based Shore2Pleaze has captured one feature that many cover bands fail to convey: originality.

The band is subtle when it takes another's song and turns it into its own, but it does accomplish the feat. Lead vocalist Nicole is backed by a competent cast of Shore veteran musicians, and her approach as a vocalist sets her apart not only from the area's cover band front girls, but also from those in many original bands.

The band has continued to carefully chose its repertoire and deliver its set list to crowds mostly in Ocean County, NJ. Its recordings show a set of musicians that convey fun, while remaining serious about their music. Shore2Pleaze is clearly a band of music fans that enjoy sharing their songs with others like them.

The band tackles some challenging tracks from a number of genres with a diverse group of songs ranging from the classics to the future classics.

As New Jersey has and will remain a haven for cover bands for a long time coming, it's good to see that the music can be delivered with sincerity. It's another example that playing other's music still takes passion and dedication.

Chorus and Verse recently talked to the band - Nicole Locilento (vocals), Mike Ormond (drums), Bill Bays (bass guitar), Dennis Sarakinis (guitar) and John Sanitate (guitar) - about its approach to playing the local cover band circuit.

Where and how did you form?

Shore2Pleaze is mostly a shore-based band. Most of the venues played at are located in Ocean County. [John-guitar] and Dennis [guitar] worked together at a mutual job in Ocean County. Both were already out in the music circuit separately in other bands such as Augustus Gloop and Steel Grip.

In 2002, they joined and formed Shore2Pleaze. They soon came to discover they weren't satisfying their musical appetites. Over the years they added Nicole [lead vocals], whose previous works include "Singin' in the Rain", age three in her sprinkler, and more recent ones such as "I'm Too Sexy" with Dee Farace and Lizz Berkowitz, local karaoke bar. Soon after we found Mikey [drums]. His chops were automatically recognized and he came aboard to become yet another addition to the Shore2Pleaze crew. Before Shore2Pleaze, Mikey was found sitting on his throne in Ransomed Soul. The icing on the cake was when we found Bill. After the audition, the rest of the band buzzed about his smooth harmonies and bumping bass drive. With over 20 years under his strap and previously with the band No Clue, we grabbed Bill and he became the last ingredient to "pleazing" everyone's appetite.

Are the bands that you cover similar to the ones that influenced you to play?

The influences of this band are very diverse. There are many different ideas and angles from each member that, when connected, make for a great night of awesome live entertainment. Some of the influences of the band are: AC/CD, Aerosmith, Motley Crue, No Doubt, Pat Benatar, Blondie, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, Cheap Trick, Kiss, Queen, Kansas, Yes, Rush and [more]. Of course, the bands and songs we choose to cover are going to be something that we like, but furthermore, what our fans and guests want to hear also.

How do you make your cover songs original?

When working on a new song, we always try to put a little edge on things. Some of the songs compared to their original are a little harder, faster and sometimes we've even been known to "cover" a "cover."

From the band's point of view, we play these songs over and over; so sometimes someone in the band hears a new thing in their head and throws a "curve ball" at the other band members and it often snowballs from there. Before you know it, you have a totally new spin going on in some songs. Those are the ones that usually yield the best results for the listeners.

Mikey: No matter whom the musician, each has their own "sound" or a different style, if you will. These are taken from influences when listening to music during the learning process. Your own sound comes from how one puts their soul into the instrument. This is why when you see multiple cover bands, they're mostly playing the same notes, but in a sense have their own sound. Some bands are rigid and play note for note. Some like to improvise and add their own swagger. I think we do a little of both. I have to say the rhythm section in S2P, when we lock, is second to none. All ego aside, we swagger and strut.

What are some of the more challenging songs that you play?

We have some signature songs like "Hazy Shade of Winter," Bangles, "Zombie," Cranberries, "Crazy Train," Ozzy Osbourne, and "Already Gone," Eagles, that take on a lot of vocal work to sound good. Good partying cover tunes, by nature, are not all that difficult to play. It's what we do to them after we add little embellishments that make them more articulated and make them a tad more interesting from the band's point of view. The real challenge comes in when a specific song calls for a signature solo that, by dynamics, has to be duplicated and can't be modified.

How important is a good stage performance to a cover band?

The concept of "stage presence" is of critical importance to the delivery of a truly awesome musical performance. When we're on stage we always try to be high energy and love to amp up the crowd. No one wants to see a band just standing there singing. Nicole always tries to show the "chair dancers" that it is possible to dance to anything. People, when attending any musical performance, are experiencing it with their eyes as well as their ears. So, we keep that in mind when we're up there. Mainly we feed off the crowd's response to us as much as they feed off our response to them. That's what it really comes down to.

Mikey: We are on stage to entertain. It gives me a mental high. I've been performing on stage for 19 years now and wanted to be a rock star. I just love music so much I can't help but get into it and put my whole body and soul into the song. Yes, even if we're playing Boogie Oogie Oogie. Look at Tommy Lee who is one of the reasons why I'm a drummer. Hey, if the crowd can't feel those drums, they aren't getting up to dance. If the crowd doesn't see us enjoying what we're doing, that will shine through. I think most of the focus in Shore2Pleaze is on Nicole, our lead singer. She's a natural. She has that soul. So, yes, good stage performance is important.

How do you decide on which songs make your set list? How often do you add new tunes?

When choosing songs, again, we always try to stick with something that we like and that we all mutually agree upon. Naturally, because we are entertainers and we're doing this for others, we always take suggestions and requests at our shows and even have a suggestion box on our Web site. We keep a good eye on the songs we play in each room. Sometimes you can play a song well as a band but it just doesn't seem to go over. Those songs get moved to the bottom of the list and are replaced with new songs.

Eventually, you have a list of songs that go over everywhere you play and a list of songs to "add in for changes of pace" at different venues. It all works out quite well if you think about the type of crowd you are expecting at a particular room. Currently, our list is nearing the 100 song mark. 80 of those are heavily rotated in our sets. The rest are used as needed for specific results. As far as adding new tunes, we try to get three to four songs a month. Sometimes it's an oldie and sometimes it's on today's Billboard charts. Either way we always try to please everyone.

Mikey: Well, when I joined the band they had a 100 song set list. So that's how I decided what we would play. However, the songs we've added are songs limited to not too many crazy keyboard parts, as we have no keys. We try and pick songs, rock , disco, pop, which people are going to get up and cut a rug to. We add a few every month. We try with our busy schedules. We usually know when we can't feel the song or get the vocal harmonies correct and we're practicing over and over again and can't get. Example, "Sweet Emotion." We just were not feeling that beginning three-part harmony and it didn't sound right every time. We cut the song, and now do "Walk This Way." Communicate what you love and compromise!

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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 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.