Cherry Hill’s The Biker Fish reels in success

Appearing as a quote on the band’s Facebook page, “The Biker Fish: A band that’s no more abstract than a perfume commercial,” isn’t exactly a typical description of a band. Even so though, the description manages to capture the charm of The Biker Fish quite well.

The Biker Fish is a jazz group from Cherry Hill, NJ. The band was created in 2012, and includes current East student Peyton Pleninger (‘14) and former East student Michael O’Leary (‘09). In the band, Pleninger plays the saxophone while O’Leary jams out on the drums.

While the band itself is a jazz band, it is not as serious as most traditional groups in the genre. A large component of The Biker Fish and something which makes them so intriguing is the inclusion of humor in their music.

“[Our] music is meant to be taken not so seriously,” said O’Leary. “Most music is too serious.” An example of the less serious side of The Biker Fish can be seen in some of the song titles, which include “Intergalactic Hippopotamus”, “Asparagus Trapped by the Rubber Band”, and “Goats in Meadows”.  “Having a good time is what it’s all about,” said Pleninger.

In addition to the group’s use of humor, another interesting aspect of The Biker Fish is the members’ versatility and their willingness to experiment with all different types of music. Two of the more surprising artists the band has covered are Daft Punk and James Brown.

“We don’t believe in genres,” said Pleninger. “We believe in creative music. Why not use a bit of everything?”

The Biker Fish’s fascination with experimentation and trying new things can be seen by the musicians who inspire them. The list ranges from traditional Jazz artists such as Chris Potter, to people such as John Zorn and John Cage. Cage in particular is famous for his song “4’33”, which is a composition featuring no sound at all.

Pleninger and O’Leary first met at a concert in Haddonfield for a band called, Out of the Beardspace. Following the concert, there was an open jam, which is where Pleninger and O’Leary met. Over the next several weeks, the two met each other constantly, spawning a close friendship. “Beyond the music, we’re great friends,” said Pleninger.

After meeting again several times, Pleninger and O’Leary decided to create a band known as the Zach LoPresti Big Band Trio, with the third member, Mike Rath (‘12).   While the Zach LoPresti Big Band Trio played for quite a bit, they ultimately broke up as a result of Rath’s obligations to another band. In addition to this, people were showing up to this group’s shows thinking that LoPresti, the guitarist for the band Out of the Beardspace, was an actual member of the band. LoPresti himself eventually asked the group to change the name, in order to put an end to the confusion.

Pleninger and O’Leary contemplated a new name for their band. The two created different names each week they performed, with one of Pleninger’s personal favorites being The Salvador Dalai Lamas. After testing out different names each week they performed, The Biker Fish was the name the two happily agreed upon.

“The Biker Fish was the catchiest and the easiest to spell,” said Pleninger.

Since changing the name, the band has performed in a variety of locations, ranging from places such as Coffee Works and Quarter Note Cafe, to places such as Uptown Theatre and Washington Park. The band has also performed in the Make Music Philly Festival, as well as Lickety Split.

In regards to the future, both Pleninger and O’Leary plan to keep making music. Pleninger hopes to move to New York next year and O’Leary, at this point, does not know of his future plans. Regardless of where the two end up, one thing for certain is that even if The Biker Fish as a band doesn’t survive, the friendship behind the band will always exist.