Hyperactive Closes Out Summer and 30-Year Career

By SARAH HODGSON | Sep 05, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Saturday night at the Sea Shell Resort and Beach Club in Beach Haven, the legendary Jersey Shore-based band Hyperactive bid a melodious farewell to the summer and to a 30-year career. Hanging up their hats and mics, the cover band relinquished their reign over LBI’s nightlife scene.

The group originated in 1988 under the name The Extremes. Just a year after forming, another band called Extreme rose to fame with its hit “More Than Words.” Seeing as their band names were a little too similar, The Extremes found it necessary to undergo an identity shift.

“We went with the name Hyperactive because I think it kind of captured our personality on stage at the time. We might be a little less hyperactive these days. But at the time we were pretty frenetic,” laughed Joe Bembry, lead vocalist and guitarist.

Now, three decades later, Bembry and Mark Dileo, the last remaining founding members, have decided to officially retire from the stage. Bassist Dileo mused on the evolution of Hyperactive. “The band started in 1988 and we were a cover band. And the modus operandi was we wanted to get out there and play hard. Like you see bands just kind of standing around up there and we wanted to really engage with music and we did that very successfully.”

By 1997, the group had split up when the other two founding members decided to pursue differing interests. Bembry and Dileo, however, decided to stay with it.

“Joe and I were like, ‘You know what, we just want to play again.’ So we went back out and played covers and we decided that we wanted a full horn section. We wanted sax and trumpet and we were going to do everything authentically,” said Dileo. “When we restarted it was more organic, back to the roots of the music, for fun.”

Over the course of its 30 active years, Hyperactive has released three independent CDs, held a record release party at The Stone Pony, wrote an album that received high marks from a national magazine and came close to snagging a deal with Universal.

The group even made it to round three of MTV’s “Ultimate Cover Band Battle,” a competition that pitted America’s best cover bands against one another on national television. Hyperactive performed before three celebrity judges, Eve, Mandy Moore and Steven Jenkins from Third Eye Blind. For the competition, the group played tunes from No Doubt, De La Soul and Ricky Martin, adding their own signature ska twists and performative flair.

“It was a lot of fun. It got us a ton of gigs and notoriety,” said Bembry. “In the end, we kind of won.”

Dileo modestly describes their collection of successes as the “the standard story of almost.” More than any of their tangible accomplishments, both Bembry and Dileo are proud of the opportunities they’ve had to meet and play with the industry’s best musicians.

“We’ve always been able to surround ourselves with unbelievable musicians that I never thought we would have a chance to play with. We’ve played with guys who have played on stage or in touring bands with acts like Blood, Sweat and Tears, Prince, Bon Jovi and Justin Timberlake,” said Bembry.

A saxophone player from the Billy Joel Broadway musical “Movin’ Out” had even graced their lineup for a short time.

For Hyperactive’s last show ever on Long Beach Island, it was only appropriate the band go out with a bang at the Shell – their favorite venue. “Honestly, the band could’ve ended five or six years ago if we didn’t have such a great thing going at the Shell,” said Dileo.

“The Shell is a really comfortable space. The Hughes family couldn’t be any more sweet and generous with us. They make it great. The fans are fantastic. The staff and the Hughes family are tremendous,” said Bembry.

Saturday night, within the first few songs, the band had already jumped decades and genres. A robust rhythm section and live horn lineup allowed for 1990s-esque arrangements. Fast-paced, energetic, offbeat ska punk sounds brought bar goers to the dance floor. Drinks in hand, vacationers and locals savored the season’s last Saturday night in the glow of the stage lights. The Shell felt more like a concert venue than a shore bar as Bembry filled the corners of the venue with his solid, versatile vocals. From Van Morrison to Stevie Wonder to Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bembry’s voice floated easily from tune to tune, shifting chameleon-like into various musical personas while maintaining a unique edge.

The two musicians were sure to note that their sound today came from years of evolution. “When we started out, our style was that English punk, ska-type thing. Then we kind of got into this funk thing,” said Dileo, citing Red Hot Chili Peppers amongst their early influences.

“It’s pretty radically different now. The music we played when we were in our early 20s was very aggressive,” said Bembry.

“I would describe it more as gross,” laughed Dileo. “We can play all that stuff we used to play. But we can do a lot more now authentically.”

“I think the biggest difference is, is that we’re not quite the angry young men that we were when we were 20 years old,” said Bembry.

Bembry and Dileo talk back and forth like brothers, occasionally interrupting one another with near-identical thoughts, finishing one another’s sentences and adding humorous commentary here and there. The band’s longevity and good fortune is due in part to this display of mutual respect and admiration between them.

“I’m the band leader, right until the moment we step on the stage, in which case Joe is in charge,” Dileo laughed. “That delineation of duties is one of the reasons that we survived.”

“That division of labor can’t be underscored enough because oftentimes with bands their dynamics are their power struggles and that breaks up most bands,” said Bembry. “Having that division of labor allowed us to be successful and stay great friends for 30-plus years.”

All these years, Dileo and Bembry managed to maintain jobs and families outside of the music scene. Dileo is captain of the Surf City Beach Patrol and former school teacher while Bembry is a co-owner of a retail wine company in Bernardsville, which entails traveling the world and assessing wine. Though both have fulfilling lives and careers outside of music, they’ll miss certain aspects of performing.

“I’m going to miss the guys. Not that we’re not going to see each other socially but that camaraderie, the coming together for some kind of greater, musical thing is big. That I’m definitely going to miss,” said Bembry.

“It’s been a great ride, but the late nights, and the loss of family time – you know it’s tough. We wanted to go out on our terms,” said Dileo. “We don’t want to be one of those bands that just kind of fades away. We’re going to have a hard stop on our terms and not just kind of peter out. We’re going to go out where we feel is at the top of our game.”

 

Set List Snippet:

  • “Island in the Sun,” Weezer
  • “Just Like Heaven,” The Cure
  • “Billionaire,” Travie McCoy
  • “Santeria,” Sublime
  • “The Middle,” Jimmy Eat World
  • “Give It Away,” Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • “Sir Duke,” Stevie Wonder
  • “Domino,” Van Morrison
  • “Forgot About Dre,” Dr. Dre, Eminem

 

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