Trophy Wife: Re-defining Today's Music
Author: Lindsey Hawkins
*trophy wife [trō phē wīf] noun
1. Four local musicians named Jack, Joe, John and Martin.
2. A hot, talented local alternative rock band; who works hard, plays harder and never forgets to bust a Grecian!
3. The young, often second wife of a rich middle-aged man, who likes to buy diamonds and plastic surgery.*
Martin Lesch sits, avoiding interruption, in a discombobulated, rented space behind a small fort built from a keyboard, a microphone and a computer screen. He lays down tracks in front of a dry-erase board consisting of a track-list on the right and an ode to the Grecian on the left: “A Grecian a day keeps the doctor away.”
Meanwhile, shirtless, shoeless Joe Vicars arrives in his beat-up van carrying his backpack—a companion you just won’t see him without—and politely says hello.
Jack Friel is somewhat hidden in a separate room of this studio, where an air-mattress and a couch, made up as a bed, accompany a computer where he burns CDs. “I bring my victims here…just kidding…don’t write that,” he said.
John Wilkins has yet to arrive, but there are plenty of old couches, car seats, lawn chairs, disturbing, but interesting art-work, old band posters, Asian fans, and instruments to look at while awaiting the last member in what was formally known as a place to do yoga and get a massage.
This is Trophy Wife; a band that has more fun than anything else just modifying covers, and most of the time making them sound better than the original song.
Technically considered a cover band, Trophy wife plays the songs of groups like Jane’s Addiction, Radiohead, Ween, Weezer, Grateful Dead, and the list goes on. Though these seem like impossible names to perfect on stage, their main goal is to reinvent the original and make it sound like Trophy Wife. “We’ll take a song and put four part harmonies on it that never existed,” said Lesch.
You can only imagine the sound possibilities, in addition to the fact that all four members take lead vocal, depending on the song choice.
The Trophy Wife you can see today wasn’t born overnight. The current foursome came together to jam in 2003 and have reached their peak of sound in 2007. Typically playing at Big Bamboo and Riders Lounge, they can also be seen at private functions and festivals.
“This year’s Wingfest was our best sound performance to date,” Friel said. “Our sound guy didn’t show, but the new guy was awesome, and for some reason we were the most in-synch we had ever been, probably the peak of our ability.”
“A good crowd, good sun, and the smell of chicken,” Wilkins chimed in.
Vicars, who attributes the height of talent to playing during the day, mentioned the lack of a bar tab.
Another, reason for reaching their prime could possibly be attributed to the fact that the band mates play together in other bands, performing about 10 times a week, not to mention practicing an extra three hours a week just as Trophy Wife.
Friel on percussion and Lesch on keyboard, have played together for 10 years and can also be seen and heard playing as local favorites Spare Parts and Martin Lesch Band in addition to Trophy Wife. Wilkins is a Trophy Wife by night and a lawyer by day. And Vicars plays bass in all three bands, which means on any given day you can find some form of the super talents on the island.
However, it is only when these interesting four come together that the chemistry that few bands have is apparent. “This band plays to the crowd, so we build our set list around crowd response,” said Friel.
The foursome agrees that as Trophy Wife there are no expectations. There are no cover charges and people are just out to have fun and hear their favorite songs. The fans are local, and they are thinking about us, not some national act you have to travel out of state and pay $100 to see, they explained.
Vicars, who frequently thinks about his music while kite-surfing off the local shore, describes Trophy Wife and being on stage, as a fun, barefoot, non-sobering experience.
Lesch, laughing and agreeing, said, “Just thinking of all the possibilities gets me excited about playing.”
With a ritual car-bomb ingested and a few other traditions followed, Trophy Wife is in their element, and the music that follows is played from the heart and for nothing more than a sweet bar tab and a lot of happy, partying friends.
It’s not always smiles and waves, but usually “we keep the arguing down to a certain level of maintainable quibblings,” Wilkins said.
“Generally, the only thing we argue about is time management,” Lesch said—this being an obvious “quibbling,” of course, due to the eight shows a week as different bands, kite-surfing, practicing law, and Friel’s side job as the master of boiled peanuts. (Friel prepared his boiled peanuts and sold them during Tuesday night shows until massive crowds began to kick over the pails and cause a scene. “One cup for 50 cents and two for a dollar,” Friel said, “I am going to try and bring it back.”)
Though there are rumors that some of Trophy Wife’s fabulous foursome will be moving on to other dreams, “Trophy Wife will never die,” they agreed. “We will just have to recruit new musicians.”
More than just a cool band, fantastically unique personalities make it all work. It is impossible not to be a fan of Trophy Wife; and when you meet them before or after a show, it is impossible not to want to be their friend.
Meet Joe Vicars:
30-something bassist extraordinaire, originally from South Carolina, single, and wanting to travel the world.
It all started for me: at age eight in church with the tambourine.
In 10 years: I will be on a sailboat with somebody traveling around the world and playing music.
If stranded on an island: “I would need mobility, imagination and a solar powered ice machine.
In fantasy: If I had to trade in my musical talent, I would make movies, and if I didn’t, I would play bass for Radiohead live at Red Rocks, while endorsing Mary Jane and drinking blueberry beer.
The last thing I read was: a part of the warrior series called the Journey of Socrates.
I always look forward to playing: Voodoo Lady, by Ween.
I live on a boat because: I can move my house wherever.
When I wake up in the morning: I tend to decipher my dreams…avoid bad sound…and remember that Joseph Cambell said “Follow your bliss.”
Meet Jack Friel:
30-something percussionist extraordinaire, originally from upstate New York, single, and wanting to move to Los Angeles.
It all started for me: at age six with some pots and pans.
In ten years: I will see the world from behind my drums while traveling and developing a career in L.A.
If stranded on an island: I would need my dog and Fleischmann’s Vodka.
In fantasy: If I had to trade in my musical talent, I would be a traveling, sailboat captain; and if I didn’t, I would play drums for the Grateful Dead live at Bonnaroo, while endorsing Fleischmann’s vodka and drinking Fleischmann’s Vodka and Red Bull.
The last thing I read was: “I’m Gonna Bust This,” in Relix magazine.
I look forward to playing: Jitterbug, by Wham. That’s the truth right there; I can’t even stay on my stool.
I live on a boat because: of the view.
When I wake up in the morning: I bust a Starbuck’s…avoid thinking about the closing of Moneypenny’s…and remember to bust a Grecian.”
Meet John Wilkins:
30-something guitarist extraordinaire, originally from South Carolina, not single, and wanting to always play music.
It all started for me: when I was born, because I grew up in a musical family and was drawn to rock stars.
In ten years: I will be married, still playing music and traveling to see my friends in all these exotic locations.
If stranded on an island: I would need a guitar and my girlfriend or a luxury cruise ship.
In fantasy: If I had to trade in my musical talent, I would be a successful actor, but not because I actually thought about it; it just seems like a neat life. This is such a tough and unfair question, but if I didn’t have to trade it in, I would play guitar for Led Zeppelin live at Fox Theatre in Atlanta, while endorsing Red Bull and drinking flavored vodka with some mixer.
The last thing I read was: a reread called, A Confederacy of Dunces.
I look forward to playing: One Big Holiday, by My Morning Jacket.
When I wake up in the morning: I enjoy shaving cream facial art…avoid excessive tour ants…and remember there is no try, only do or do not.
Meet Martin Lesch:
30-something keyboardist extraordinaire, originally from New York City, happily married, and looking forward to playing and producing for the rest of his life.
It all started for me: at age six; I played piano and wrote everyone songs, except they were like suicidal.
In ten years: I will be involved in artist management: scoring movies, producing for other artists, recording my music and not catering to any record label standards
If stranded on an island: I would need a companion and beer.
In fantasy: If I had to trade in my musical talent, I would make movies; If I didn’t have to trade it in, I would play keyboards for the Beatles live at Beacon Theatre in New York, while endorsing Budweiser and drinking Anchor Steam.
The last thing I read was: The Language of God, by Francis Collins.
I look forward to playing: Of Thee I Sing, by Leon Russell.
When I wake up in the morning: I read the news…avoid bad sound…and remember “There is nothing to fear but fear itself”—and Mike Tyson.