With a name like High Maintenance for a female acoustic duo, an audience might be quick to anticipate a prissy, stuck-up style in the band members. But Melissa Alesi and Gina DiNubile share carefree, sociable attitudes that are quite the contrary.
Though High Maintenance has only been performing together since last September, the two women have always found an escape through music.
“My mom always said I was singing before I could even talk,” said DiNubile, who provides the lead vocals for the band.
Alesi provides backup vocals and also offers her guitar talent. She said that, though she has been playing for four years, she’d only been taking it “seriously” for one. Both Philadelphia natives, they later moved to southeastern Delaware.
They became close friends in middle school and stayed active with music through their time at Indian River High School. They credit much of their musical knowledge and endowment to school band and chorus director Mark Marvel.
What’s almost more surprising than their talent is that they are booking shows and juggling social lives, and neither has hit their 23rd birthday yet.
In the summertime, the girls will be joined by Woody Nasdeff, a part-time member of the band, who contributes his guitar skills when he can, sometimes filling in for Alesi. In addition to monthly performances at The Chalkboard Tavern and Grille, the two frequent the local hotspot on Thursday’s Open Mike Night to play with other area musicians, such as Mike Givans.
“It’s really great to have other musicians jump in with us,” said DiNubile. “We get a fuller sound, more than you’d get with just an acoustic guitar.”
“It’s always good experience for us,” added Alesi, “to play with people you’re not used to playing with.”
The two credit The Chalkboard for providing them with an opportunity to pursue their love of music
“If it wasn’t for Chalkboard’s Open Mike Night,” said DiNubile, “a lot of good musicians wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing now.”
Led Zeppelin and Heart have both been influential bands for the ladies of High Maintenance. Their lineup runs the gamut of several decades with a repertoire from folk to pop, though it never steers too far from rock and roll. They have several originals, including “Ode to Men,” one that everyone seems to enjoy.
“One of the coolest things,” said Alesi, “is having people sing along to an original — something we wrote.” They have several other original pieces in the works, as well.
Starting out with a new band is never an easy task, but the two women have endured plenty of stereotypes when introducing themselves as a female acoustic duo.
“A lot of people are iffy when they hear that,” said Alesi. “They think of Sarah McLaughlin, and that’s not us at all. We’re much more outgoing. A lot of people don’t initially think that we’d be as good as the guys that play.”
The duo will often add their own flavor to music, sometimes ad-libbing and making up new verses, and even singing the guitar solos. Much of their performance-related nerves went away after their first show. The two say that now they feel comfortable performing in front of a crowd.
“I think a lot of people are surprised when they hear us,” added DiNubile. “We’ve been singing together for so long, and we have chemistry. I feed off her and she feeds off of me, and it really shows when we play.”
High Maintenance has been enjoying their first season thoroughly. This summer, though, they said they plan to get out to other venues, taking in the exposure and getting their name around town.
“We’ve been doing a lot of PR stuff,” said DiNubile. “We’re getting a lot of good airtime, too.” They said they might even start playing weekly gigs, covering venues like Ponzetti’s, Duffy’s and The Big Tuna, formerly The Wharf in Ocean City.
“We’re definitely trying to establish a name for ourselves,” said Alesi.
The two musicians like to bring a charismatic presence to the show when they perform, and most of the time, they say, it gets the people moving. “We get a really good reaction,” added DiNubile, “and we draw a pretty good crowd. There are more and more people coming out each time.”
“There’s nothing better than when people are getting into it,” said Alesi. “When people are having fun and getting into the music, we enjoy it more, too.”
High Maintenance’s next performance will be on Friday at The Chalkboard Tavern and Grille at 9 p.m. For more information about the band, visit the Web site at www.myspace.com/highmaintenance8586.