An Interview with Best Cover Band Award-Winner Lifetime Rocker
If you’ve ever been to a winery or restaurant that features great live bands, chances are you’ve experienced the music of Lifetime Rocker; four local guys who are constantly in demand and never wanting for a gig. Consisting of Geoff Ryle (vocals, keyboards), Kelly Cowan (vocals, guitar), Joe Schiavone (vocals, bass), and Ray Ortega (vocals, drums) the members of Lifetime Rocker truly live up to their name in talent and experience.
As the newly-crowned Best Cover Band at the Temecula Valley Music Awards, the community favorite recently shared with What’s Up? Temecula exactly what a Lifetime Rocker show is all about.
WUT: How did the band get together?
Geoff: I met Kelly back in 2011, through our mutual friend Skip Noel, whose Temecula Wine Company was a venue where we both frequently gigged.
Kelly: Ray had been covering drum and vocal duties in a couple of my former groups (The Bash & Abacus) from time to time, when he was available. We had talked several times about forming something together and we had similar ideas of what that band would generally consist of.
Ray: I shared with Kelly that I was more interested in forming a group with a certain criteria. It would have to include a keyboard player. It would have to be all local musicians to provide a convenient rehearsal schedule and everyone must sing.
Kelly: Yeah, we both agreed that vocals would be a major focus of this new group and that all members would contribute. After about a year, we were talking again about it and I mentioned that I may know the right guy to cover keys. Ray said he had recently made contact with bassist Chris Buck and that we should throw everyone together in Ray’s studio to see what happens. That was in June of 2012.
Ray: That jam pretty much got the ball rolling right away.
Geoff: I was flattered to be given the opportunity. The first rehearsal at Ray’s studio went exceedingly well. You can’t believe how exciting it is to hear four full rich male vocals blending together in four part harmony! From that point, we rehearsed regularly learning parts and harmonies, working out special arrangements and really honing our sound for months before we started booking gigs. By the time we began playing shows in the fall of 2012, we had really polished up our act and the audiences could tell how much time we had put in; that was, and remains, very gratifying. We still rehearse regularly and we are always adding new and more challenging songs to the catalog.
Kelly: To this day, Lifetime Rocker is still kicking ideas around between the four of us when it comes to the evolution and focus of our band. The addition of bassist/vocalist Joe Schiavone has definitely brought more blues influence to the band and that’s been a great thing.
WUT: What is the significance of the band name?
Ray: About 10 years ago, my son in law gave me a lithograph for my studio door that reads “Lifetime Rocker, please speak loudly” it sort of became one of my nicknames within my family, but I always thought it was a perfect name for a band that’s members were of a certain age. My previous band name was Midlife Crisis but, at 54, I think I am beyond that. As far as significance, we have all been rocking our instruments since we were kids. I plan to keep it up till I’m dead.
WUT: What kind of music do you play?
Kelly: For the most part, we play music that we love. I have always believed that a band that performs music that they actually like will play with more passion and moxie. The two compliments that this band receives on a regular basis are that they love our set list and the band is tight with great vocal harmonies.
Geoff: We pretty much do it all, with a song catalog that ranges from classic rock to prog to yacht pop to country to Motown to funk to blues to dance and even a bit of a cappella. We take on the pieces that most bands just don’t have enough singers or instruments to do justice to and usually stay clear of. Not that we don’t have plenty of mainstream material, we just love to take on more challenging songs. Of course they’re fun to play, but the real payoff is when the crowd responds with “Wow! I’ve never heard anyone play that live before!”
Ray: Actually, we like a variety of music, but we try to stay off the beaten path of typical classic rock cover band material. We do like the challenge of vocal harmonies.
WUT: What can our readers expect from one of your shows?
Ray: They will see and hear four gentlemen who take pride in their craft as musicians. They will also see a band that brings it all to the gig. By that I mean some 50k in equipment. From multi-keyboards to Marshall amps, a full rock drum kit on a riser, lights, smoke, lasers and a crystal clear sound system. Again, we bring it all out of pride in our overall sound.
Kelly: A tight, well rehearsed band with great vocal harmonies playing an eclectic and iconic mix of multi-genre, multi-decade music.
Geoff: A full refund of what they paid to get in! Seriously though, you can also count on an enormous amount of musicianship, technical precision, beautifully blended harmonies, and a great respect for the artists whose songs we painstakingly recreate or uniquely make our own.
WUT: When someone leaves your show, what would you want them to tell their friends?
Ray: Only their honest opinion of what they think of Lifetime Rocker.
Kelly: And hopefully, that they should come see the band, too!
Geoff: Actually, many people who see our shows are already posting to Facebook and Twitter exactly what we would have hoped they would tell their friends. They share pictures and videos, and many promote our future shows and organize meet-ups, particularly when we’re playing any of the many local wineries. The best part is when they post something like “I can’t believe they did a mash up of the Eagle’s ‘Life In The Fast Lane’, Zeppelin’s ‘Trampled Under Foot’ and Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’; I wouldn’t have thought it was possible.”
WUT: You recently won Best Cover Band at the Temecula Valley Music Awards. What was that like?
Ray: We did? Well how cool is that? Actually, it wasn’t about winning a contest. We were honored that Mr. Tim Moyer asked us to participate to help raise money for our local schools’ music programs. It was about the kids.
Geoff: That was a tremendous honor, really, and we want to thank the great local singer-songwriter Tim Moyer for producing the event. Tim deserves an award himself just for the Herculean effort of putting all that on. Again, we’re humbled to be among such fine talented musicians in the area, many of whom took part in the competition. I think the best part of all that was the attention it brought to our area, and, of course, the money it raised for local schools’ music programs. We hope this is just the start of a long tradition of honoring our local talent.
Kelly: Yep, honored. We would also like to thank Ben Cole and the other sponsors of this event for their incredible ongoing support of this music community.
WUT: Can you say something inviting our readers to come see you?
Kelly: Yeah, please come out to one of our shows!! We would love to meet you personally. We love what we do and we love that we have formed lasting friendships with many of our fans. You can also find our live performance schedule, keep up with what’s new with us, and links to live videos, on our website and Facebook band page:
Geoff: To our many loyal supporters: we look forward to seeing you at our future shows! You are the reason we do what we do.
And to our potential new fans out there, with so many venues to choose from and so much entertainment in the area, you might not have had a chance to see us yet. But you’ve probably heard about us and our reputation. Why not see for yourself? A Lifetime Rocker show is unique among other live band performances. It’s not just a gig, it’s more like a concert.
Ray: Let’s Party!