Every year for the last 38 years or so, the Verona school system has produced a talented group of musicians. Kids who know their way around a horn and a keyboard. Kids who pull down the top awards at music festivals up and down the East Coast. Kids who have held their own at jazz festivals as far away as Montreux, Switzerland.
After graduation from Verona High School, these kids go on to successful careers as doctors, lawyers, corporate executives and the like, playing music at home or in their off hours. But a determined few decide to swim against the tide and try to make it as professional musicians. Rob LaFalce is one of that group.
A 2002 graduate of VHS, LaFalce formed a band called Philth Harmonic with Stephanie White, who had come up through a demanding vocal music program at James Caldwell High School. Sometimes, the band is just the two of them, as it was two weeks ago when they played Fitzgerald’s 1928 in Glen Ridge. Sometimes, the band swells to 9 including Rob’s brother Nick Lafalce, and Chris Staranka, also products of Verona’s music machine. “Some people prefer a big sound,” says Rob LaFalce. “Some like it stripped.”
You can hear aspects of both–and more–on the CD that the band released last year, “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” . (The download version is available on iTunes). The disk has covers of well-known songs like “King Of Wishful Thinking” (remember the movie Pretty Woman?) as well as original compositions such as “Cheat On My BFFL”, which you can listen to below.
Stephanie White & The Philth Harmonic has fans in high places. “I’ve known Robbie since I started cutting hair and I love his music,” says Anthony Lombardi, owner of the Anthony Robert Salon on Bloomfield Avenue and one of the stars of the hot Style Network reality show “Jerseylicious.” “It is really great.”
Like musicians the world over, White, Rob LaFalce and the rest of the band all have day jobs. White, who has an undergraduate degree in communications from Montclair State University and a masters from Berklee College of Music, works as a corporate compliance officer, while Rob LaFalce, who went from Verona to the equally demanding music program at William Patterson University, teaches music privately. “But our goal,” says White, “is to sustain ourselves by making the music that we love.” And in one of those odd twists of fate, Rob LaFalce recently applied for the job of his former music teacher, David Tintle, who is retiring from H.B. Whitehorne Middle School this June.
As has been the case for many businesses, the year started off slowly for Philth Harmonic. But LaFalce is excited that the band will be playing at several summer festivals and making two appearances in New York City next week: the Best Buy store on Union Square in Manhattan on Thursday, May 27, and the Bitter End on Friday, May 28. “We love that place,” LaFalce says of rock club. “All these amazing musicians played there–Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, even Lady Gaga.” Philth Harmonic also has a crack at being in the soundtrack of the new Michael Cera movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
Photo courtesy Jason Weston at GorgeousNewYork.com.