North Jersey rock is a gentleman’s game

The Gentlemen’s Club has had more than its share of problems. Its guitarist moved to Austin, Texas. Two of its members quit the band. John Frankosky, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, could have thrown in the towel and given up on The Gentlemen’s Club. It would seem like the rational thing to do.

Fortunately, the Blairstown, N.J., native kept pressing his luck. He and drummer Corey Billow regrouped, brought in two new guitarists and turned to Frankosky’s little sister to work the keyboards. The Gentlemen’s Club somehow survived, and today they are one of northern New Jersey’s premiere rock acts. Drawing from influences such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, TV on the Radio and Weezer, the band plays a mixture of basic modern rock and pretty indie that you can both bang your head and move your feet to.

Frankosky said he never considered scrapping the band after it lost over half of its members.

“It was tough,” he admitted, “but we were still playing music, and nobody was going to affect that.”

When The Gentlemen’s Club added John Hackett on bass and Ian Hammons on lead guitar, the band felt rejuvenated.

“I know all of these guys from Blairstown, so it’s been really convenient,” Frankosky said. “It’s hard to have somebody just walk in and click, but (Hackett and Hammons) did. They’re really talented, and musically, they just fit in well.”

The expansion of the band gives its sound a burst of energy. Hackett’s bass adds depth to each song, and Hammons’ blistering guitar solos match the emotion of the lyrics. Billow’s percussion remains consistently solid throughout each song as well. The tracks are still anchored by their vocals, however, as Frankosky wades through tales of love and regret with a careful warble reminiscent of Incubus’ Brandon Boyd.

“Most of the lyrics are about real-life experiences,” Frankosky, who prefers letting his listeners assign their own meanings to his words, said. “I love people being able to interpret for themselves. Some people could call it generalizing, but too much detail can be a bad thing too. It’s important for people to be able to identify with the music.”

The song “Plot for Destruction” is a perfect example of this type of mystery working to the band’s favor. Starting suddenly with the line, “I don’t feel anything like I used to when you first walked in my life,” the track joins a chugging guitar with a twinkling melody until building to a synth-drenched chorus.

After a second verse and refrain, a gorgeous bridge turns into a prolonged instrumental outro full of frantic guitar work. In just over four minutes, “Plot for Destruction” has plenty of twists and turns that perfectly suit the uncertainty of the lyrics.

Frankosky, who graduated last year from the County College of Morris, said The Gentlemen’s Club is busy playing a handful of shows in northern New Jersey. Unlike other local bands trying to make it big, he’s perfectly fine with that.

“The music scene in northern New Jersey is pretty much dying,” he said. “We know that we have to identify with the local people before going out on tour. The shows go over well, so it’s good.”

Frankosky described a typical The Gentlemen’s Club show as an entertaining experience, and said that he and his bandmates are constantly trying to get the crowd involved. The members will sometimes dress up or put on make-up for an added stage effect.

“We want to incorporate as much fan participation as possible,” he said. “We try to go as far as we can without going over the top. Some people may think it’s gimmicky, but it’s never overdone. People can still be involved with the music.”

The Gentlemen’s Club, which has been handing out single-song demos so far, will release an as-yet-untitled five-song EP at some point in November. Frankosky said that the band will probably just give them away for free as well and try to generate some exposure with the new disc.

After the band’s near-collapse and reincarnation, all Frankosky wants is for people to give The Gentlemen’s Club a chance to perform the music he truly loves.

“Right now it’s just a hobby,” he said, “but we’re trying to give it our all.”