The Replicants Replicate Decades of Funky Grooves at The Sea Shell
They might as well be from a distant time in the future – as their “Blade Runner”-referencing name would imply. The Replicants are doing well to bring something ahead of their time to the Jersey Shore cover band scene, as it did once again for the Saturday night crowd at The Sea Shell in Beach Haven last weekend. At the same time the group plays and appreciates music often from a distant time in the past. In short, they put the “Can” in “Replicants.”
The Replicants have been together just over a year and have gone from playing four shows last summer to four shows a week currently. The name stuck after winning the Starz Productions Cover Band Search last July. It was there the band met their current agent, Rob Monte of Monte Entertainment, who gets the band gigs like the regular one it’s been playing at most of The Sea Shell’s Saturday nights this summer. Gigs since then have included the Giants/Jets game on Christmas Eve at MetLife Stadium as well the VIP after party at the EXXXOTICA NJ expo in Secaucus.
The challenges for the impressive eight-person lineup (with occasional additions) begin with finding enough room for everyone to play. “You have no idea,” said golden-haired singer Alexandra Arndt, one of five people or so in the band whose duties include vocals.
“As the stage gets smaller and smaller, we all get closer and closer to each other, and dancing becomes more hazardous to our health,” said bassist and bandleader D’Arcey Ciccone. “We’ve got mike stands and guitars flying at us. We’ve had singers and horn players on the floor because there’s no place to put them, which I think is kind of cool because it adds a level of interaction with the audience.”
Most of the group knew one another from high school or Montclair State University and are schooled musicians. Ciccone’s father, Don, was one of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, playing bass primarily during their most successful years.
“We all play music because we love it, not because it was a job for us,” said D’Arcey. “Some of us are fulltime musicians. My favorite part of this band is that it’s all really passionate between us, and you can really tell. It’s not the mechanical, get up on stage and play thing. We all really love the product that we’re giving the audience. We all have the same emotion and passion and heart for it.”
Darcy soon discovered Therese Marie – the group’s official purveyor of “flow,” which allows them to do hip-hop numbers. Much more than that, she is the life of the band onstage in both energy and image. Elmer’s Glue is needed to hold up the spikes of her foot-long Mohawk haircut. Her stage movements and facial expressions always seem to be locked into the message of the song’s lyrics, whether she’s singing them or not.
Most of the band hails from somewhere in New Jersey, the most local being the group’s trumpet player, Bill Jarvis of Toms River, who the band pointed out gives “the most facial expressions of any Asian ever” onstage, adding they are jealous he has to shave only once a week.
“We have to have fun with each other, too,” said Jarvis. “If we don’t have fun with each other, we’re going to put on a terrible show.” Jarvis has played LBI for several years in other bands and admits to having found himself crawling out of bars in the area on several occasions following shows. “It’s been awesome. Everybody’s been so receptive, nice and fun, and everyone’s just down to have a good time. The first gig ever here was on Memorial Day, and during the second set we had pulled people up on stage, and there were probably 25 people on the stage jumping around.”
Vocalist and saxophonist Frank Scillieri describes the group as “a radio band.” “What you hear on the radio is what we’re playing,” said Scillieri. “We play danceable music – the 1970s,’80s, ’90s and today, from club, to hip-hop, to soul, to rap, to anything.”
“The party can’t stop – that’s what we’re here for,” said D’Arcey. “The band isn’t the most important thing of the evening; it’s everyone’s experience, including our own. So we’re here to share the night with everyone rather than be the spotlight.”
What sets the group apart includes a “five-person frontline” of vocalists, horn players and the bassist who often choreograph swaying or other dance moves in the tradition of jazz and funk bands.
It is funk where the band finds common ground in terms of musical influences, from Earth Wind and Fire and Parliament Funkadelic, to Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, to Jay-Z and Kanye West. “It’s about the groove. Just good American funk,” said Scillieri.
Part of The Replicants show incorporates their fan base by having avid fans, who refuse to accept money from the band, come onstage dressed as the lead singer from LMFAO and their mascot, Shufflebot. The two proceed to hype up the band and toss merchandise into the crowd while it works its way through a medley of “Party Rock” and “Sexy And I Know It.”
Things got crazy and a collective gasp could be heard when Mike Bell, an award-winning Michael J. Fox celebrity look-alike, joined them all onstage in full “Back to the Future II” gear while holding a hoverboard. Several “helpers” from the crowd were hauled onstage. Let’s just say it’s remarkable that the musicians were able to continue playing.
The crowd clapped along with the band during “Rolling in the Deep,” in which singer Arndt shone and the horns cutting through the mix were spine-chilling. Scillieri broke out the “big boy voice” on soulful tunes such as C Lo Green’s “Crazy.”
The band plays some medleys but mostly full versions of songs with tight transitions into each subsequent tune. One medley that stood out was Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop 'til You Get Enough” into “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” and finishing with amazing versions of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and “ABC.”
The highlight of the first set was clearly “Play That Funky Music,” which the group went above and beyond making its own. “I think we need a remix!” shouted Scillieri before Marie busted out an original verse ending in a “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” mashup. A passionate guitar solo from Henry continued on throughout what was a mind-blowing jam.
“We just have a rip-roaring good time,” said guitarist Henry, the band’s newest member. “This band is literally a case for keeping live music alive.”
The Replicants play The Sea Shell almost every Saturday afternoon outside by the pool, and return the night of Aug. 11. For more information, log onto thereplicantsband.com.
— Michael Molinaro
Set List Snippet
“DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love” – Usher
“Let’s Get It Started” – Pink
“California Girls” – Katy Perry
“Rolling in the Deep” – Adele
“Got To Be Real” – Cheryl Lynn
“Hot in Herre” – Nelly
“Gold Digger” – Kanye West
“Pump It” – Black Eyed Peas
“California Love” – 2Pac
“Good Feeling” - Flo Rida
“Party Rock” – LMFAO