Indie rock band The Fletchers is HP based but gaining national attention

Gary Kaplan’s professional job as an employee assistance program (EAP) counselor/trauma specialist focuses on helping others cope with major personal and professional challenges. His role as a longtime Highland Park resident, a husband to Teri Jover and father to three-year-old Greg focuses on helping his immediate family deal with a variety of life’s issues. But his avocation job as a guitarist, singer, songwriter, and front man for the rock band titled “The Fletchers” gives him the energy and the juice to fulfill his professional and personal roles with a renewed energy and commitment. It is more than  an escape – it is a vitamin.

And lucky for rock music aficionados, Gary’s vitamin not only energizes him, but also is energizing the New Jersey music scene. It is creative funky rock that no one describes as “same ol’, same ol.’”

The eight-year-old band that just released its fourth album produces music described by critics as “indie rock,” “power pop,” “melodic but edgy,” “alt rock and punk with elements ranging from ‘60s psychedelic and garage to alternative US & UK rock from the past and present.” The Fletchers’ Fourth Album “Reset the Dial” broke the national college charts (CMJ) top 150 twice last fall. This Saturday (September 26) the band’s longtime groupies and newbies are going to be able to hear The Fletchers at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick and three weeks later at Pino’s in Highland Park for the Harvest/Octoberfest on October 17.

“We are a New Brunswick/Highland Park-based band, but have garnered national exposure through CD distribution to college radio – particularly WRSU FM Rutgers and WRLV at Rutgers Livingston. We started as a band project in 2003, but really jelled with our current line up since 2008,” said Gary. The four band members (Gary Kaplan, songwriter, lead vocals and guitar; Cliff Heaton, drums and backing vocals; Dan Coffey, bass and backing vocals; Rob Freda, guitar and backing vocals) all live in the Central Jersey/Bucks County, Pa region, but Gary is the only one from Highland Park.

“We play a lot in Highland Park, because I love my community,” said Gary. And true to his loyalty to his town, The Fletchers was one of the music acts that drew rave reviews from a very large crowd at this past weekend’s Arts in the Park Festival.

The Fletchers started when in the summer of 2002, Gary, with guitar in hand, crashed an outdoor music party in Lambertville, NJ. He ended up on stage with the host, bass player Dan Coffey, and one of Dan’s friends, a drummer (not the current drummer). They rocked in front of 150 rock music enthusiasts, and soon afterwards, The Fletchers was officially born.

“I originally wanted to call the band the Jessica Fletchers, because Murder She Wrote was was Teri’s (now wife, then girlfriend) favorite television show. But I googled the name, and at the time was a small, but popular, Indie rock band in the UK with that name. So I took off the ‘Jessica’ portion of theme and just called the band “The Fletchers,’ ” said Gary.

In the ‘90s Gary lived a rock musician’s fantasy by twice getting to perform as a guitarist, vocalist and songwriter in two of the ‘90s buzz-worthy indie bands – Dandelion Fire and Rotator Cuff.

“Despite these brushes with playing professionally, my father, who always was supportive of my music performing told me to “never quit your day job! “ and I never did. I worked around our shows and east coast tour by using my vacation time. Since then I have lost the urge do it for a living, and instead I just really enjoy it for fun and creative expression. Music has always meant a lot to me and has gotten me through some very difficult times in my life. Besides I really am not a graceful waiter or bartender, so being a professional musician was out of the question,” said Gary who got his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Montclair State University in counseling and psychology.

The music he writes has references to the resiliency needed to face life head on. “Survival and overcoming adversity is all in there. It deals with the same bumps in the road we all face as humans – thus overcoming obstacles, which are much the same as the themes I deal with everyday in my professional life,” he said.

But life is more than obstacles and bumps in the road – sometimes it is sheer joy, as reflected by the joyful spirited quality of the performances. “My three- year-old Greg loves music, singing along, dancing, posing with his to guitar. He has seen me play many times and now imitates me. He makes better rock faces and poses than I do. We have fun jam sessions at home on a weekly basis – pretty much goofing around to rock and roll music.”

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