"Man, I was telling your singer - you know that scene in Back To The Future where Michael J. Fox is plays the guitar at the prom and everybody's jaw kind of drops? It was like that when you guys came on."
Borenstein just sort of smiles and takes in the compliment. The members of 10 Heads High are used to hearing this kind of thing, maybe not with the Hollywood parallel thrown in, but used to it all the same. For close to 3 years, 10 Heads High has been having this sort of effect on audiences throughout their home states, New York and New Jersey (drummer Brian King being the Garden State native.)
The band's beginnings can actually be traced to Long Island, where singer Marc Lombardo and guitarist Tommy Kohl were once guitarists in rival bands, and subsequently co-guitarists in the same band. Ultimately that project ran its course, but a friendship and partnership between Lombardo and Kohl rose from the ashes. They began writing songs and auditioning singers, but became frustrated with not being able to find the right voice for the songs. One day, Kohl simply turned to Lombardo, and said "You can sing this stuff, why don't you be the singer?"
To catch Lombardo on stage now, with his cocky Jagger-like swagger and his strong early-Rod-Stewart-meets-Chris-Cornell set of pipes, you'd think he was born a frontman. He straps on a Fender Strat for a couple of songs, but prefers to leave the bulk of the guitar work these days to Kohl, a Telecaster-wielding classic guitar hero, an expert of textures and stomp-box flavors, like Page to Plant, a stoic icon of cool over on stage left.
Lombardo and Kohl found their bassist and drummer through successive ads in the Village Voice, the same New York weekly through which Kiss originally got together. Having had the common experience of being the standout member in all of their previous bands, the rhythm section of Borenstein and King bonded instantly. They bring a manic energy to the stage, yet a solid musical anchor to hold the songs down.
Which brings us to the songs, the true focus of 10 Heads High. They're the real deal, a polished yet jagged set of sing-along gems, drawing influence from the arena rock of their youth, borrowing a little bit of growl from yesterday's grunge, and keeping up to date enough to draw comparisons to some of today's radio staples. There are 10 such gems on their self-released debut, From Here to Tupelo, the title in part paying homage to a little bar in Astoria, Queens called Tupelo the band frequented, and where they were first approached by the album's producers, Bart Migal and Claudius Mittendorfer. The partners brought the band in to record during off-hours at New York studios The Hit Factory and Sound On Sound, where as one-time house engineers, they built up a combined pile of credits that reads like a who's who of music (Britney Spears, Paul Simon, Sting, Jessica Simpson and Tony Bennett, to cite a few examples.)
From Here to Tupelo's leadoff track, "Evolution Queen" was in heavy rotation on Jersey station WDHA-FM last summer, rising to #2 on the station's airplay chart, and has also received spins from New York's Q-104, 93.5 The Beach in Delaware, WLUW in Chicago, and even stations as far as Portugal (Radio 100) and Yugoslavia (Radio Fedra Yu). A listen to the remaining tracks on Tupelo will reveal what many reviewers have already picked up on: 10 Heads High is no mere one-hit wonder. Ranging from the raucous ("Stepchild of a Genius") to the sublime ("Mending Wall") to the anthemic ("Celebrated") to the slow-burn creeper ("Lotus"), the songs show a depth and maturity uncommon in today's flash-in-the-pan rock bands, an understanding of dynamics and subtle harmonic intricacies, and above all a knack for the crafting of the hook that adheres to the old "Don't bore us, get to the chorus" aesthetic.
In addition to rave reviews, 10 Heads High received semi-finalist honors this year in both the Discmakers Independent World Music Series competition and the International Songwriting Competition (ISC). They also beat out the area's best performers to win WDHA-FM's Battle of the Bands, thus earning the opportunity to play for thousands at the station's "Rock the Park" concert in July of 2003 at Yogi Berra Stadium, appearing alongside Theory of a Deadman, the Exies, Quiet Riot and the legendary Cheap Trick.
Currently, 10 Heads High is nearing completion of their second full-length, which will feature surefire single "Two Of I," as well as their blistering workout of Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf," alongside current live favorites "Crime" and "Pennyglow." Early reports are that "Tupelo's" follow-up shows an even more confident 10 Heads High, expanding on the tried and true, and venturing into tougher, harder material ("Movies Ending"), but also into more atmospheric realms ("Because").
A summer tour of the East Coast is in the works to coincide with the second album's release, which currently carries the working title Checking In. The moniker is a phrase the band members often use to make sure everyone's on the right page and with the program. Checking in, indeed.
Check out the artist's website:
1. Evolution Queen
2. Arms of December
3. Stepchild of a Genius
5. Mending Wall
6. My Summertime
7. Sideways By the Ocean
8. What It Looks Like, What It Is