Fake Pockets on dollar-store guitars, karaoke nights and playing beyond Asbury Park

"When I turned 21, my friends would take me to these karaoke bars, but I wouldn’t sing because I thought it was insane. One night I got drunk enough and was brave enough to sing. My friends were mad because it turned out I could sing all of this time."

While many New Jerseyans head to Asbury Park on summer weekends, Central Jersey rock band Fake Pockets made it a goal to branch out of Asbury Park this summer. 

“We want to not just play Asbury,” says Bill Lambusta (bass). “This summer we made it a goal to play other places. We played New Hope, New York, and now we’re going to play in Trenton.”

“We love Asbury and we’ll be playing Porchfest there in September, but we found ourselves playing the same two or three venues,” says vocalist and guitarist Devon Alana.

But the opportunity to play Asbury Park (and not play it, as Fake Pockets will do on Aug. 12 at the Mill Hill Basement) would never have come if not for Aldi, the humble budget grocery store chain. Now, Aldi serving as catalyst for a rock band might be surprising, but the discount grocer was where guitarist Ahren Henby got his first guitar.

“My mom got me a guitar from Aldi,” explains Henby. “She wanted to make sure I was interested in it first.”

And much like air frying the red bag chicken from Aldi, Henby thought the guitar was appealing and wanted more. He stuck with it even as he moved from Rochester to Jersey. It helped that Alana was his neighbor.

“I messaged Devon randomly on Instagram to see if she wanted to play a show with me,” says Henby. “She lived near my backyard and we played. Playing with Devon introduced me to the Jersey music scene.”

For Alana, the journey to being lead singer of a band was built by multiple visits to karaoke bars, where she discovered that she could actually sing.

“I always played guitar, but I was painfully self-conscious and didn’t do anything with it until I was an adult,” says Alana. “When I turned 21, my friends would take me to these karaoke bars, but I wouldn’t sing because I thought it was insane. One night I got drunk enough and was brave enough to sing. My friends were mad because it turned out I could sing all of this time.”

After her performances in karaoke, Alana started to play guitar again and played the ukulele. Before Fake Pockets, Alana was in a band Fun While You Wait, which featured the uke. While she still loves ukulele, she felt pigeonholed playing it.

“I still like the ukulele and still play it, but I was frustrated that people didn’t take it seriously,” explains Alana. “I was frustrated,and decided to lean more heavily on guitar. I wasn’t getting the things I wanted and decided to make a switch.

“We would get put on a lot of weird bills because people didn’t really know where to put us. Now we have a sound that people are like, ‘I know what this is.’’’

With more of a defined sound, Fake Pockets recorded their first EP, Magnolia Street, which was released in 2020. The EP is titled after a street that Alana lived on in Highland Park. 

“I had gone through a shitty breakup, and lived on Magnolia Street with a couple of my musician friends,” says Alana. “When I lived there I started to write the songs for the EP. Living there felt like a very specific mental state, and we named the EP after the street.”

Magnolia Street was recorded at Spicehouse Sound in Philly, and the band was happy, overall, with the process. 

Alana’s song process is taking one or two lines that sound good, and making a story out of it. Sometimes it’s a true story and sometimes it’s different than what she imagined, but the process works for her. 

“A lot of my songs aren’t about real life when they become the actual songs,” says Alana. “I think of one or two lines that sound good and when I’m done with the song, it’s not really a true story anymore and it’s an over-exaggerated caricature of what I was writing about.”

But there are some songs that are about real life, and one of them is “Nice Enough,” a song about Alana’s frustrations with online dating. 

“That song was written about the frustration of online dating,” Alana says. “Which is funny because I met my fiancé on Bumble. I can only talk shit on it so much though. It’s like you’re hanging out with someone and all you can say is that they are here. Like you feel that you have this closeness to someone when you are texting and you meet them in person and realize you don’t actually like them.”

Even though 2020 feels like a century ago, the band believes that the songs hold up well especially on the production side of things. 

“It’s interesting to see how we play them now versus how we recorded those songs,” says Henby. “When we play the EP live, I always look at Jake (Resnick, drums) and we have this bond especially during the song ‘Stay.’ We have our favorite parts that we can’t wait to play. I do feel like the songs have progressed in different ways.”

The band is also working on new music, and might be playing some new tunes live on Friday at the Mill Hill Basement in Trenton. 

“We had a couple songs that we wrapped and felt comfortable playing live, but then COVID hit,” says Alana. “When we got back, we improved those songs, and had to relearn them.”

Fake Pockets along with Action Rabbit and Alpha Rabbit will be playing at the Mill Hill Basement in Trenton on Aug. 12.