Nick Coyle and Aaron Fink reunite for Lifer acoustic show in Wilkes-Barre on Aug. 24
Now about two decades removed from the era of nu metal, there’s no denying the impact the genre had on rock music, with many of those ’90s and early 2000s bands either fondly remembered or still active and touring today. As nostalgia currently rules the entertainment industry and bands revisit their seminal albums live on major anniversaries, it seems like the perfect time for Lifer to resurface.
Originally known as Strangers with Candy when they formed in 1999, the Wilkes-Barre group – vocalist Nick Coyle, guitarist Aaron Fink, bassist Mark Klepaski, drummer Chris Lightcap, and Tony Kruszka on the turntables – quickly made a name for themselves in Northeastern Pennsylvania with their popular “No Need” EP, and once they entered MTV’s “Ultimate Cover Band Contest” in 2000 and won with covers of “Guerrilla Radio,” “Jump Around,” “Take on Me,” and “Nookie,” they became famous across the country virtually overnight.
After signing to a major label, Universal Music/Republic Records, they released their self-titled album in 2001 that featured the singles “Boring,” “Not Like You,” and “Breathless.” Recorded with Alex Lifeson of Rush, this ended up being their only record, though they also contributed to the RIAA gold-certified soundtrack for “The Scorpion King” and “Take a Bite Outta Rhyme: A Rock Tribute to Rap.”
“Our lives changed overnight,” Coyle said in the band’s old bio. “Our e-mail boxes started blowing up, and people from all over the States were writing us and saying, ‘We saw you on MTV and we love you.’ It was kind of funny; a lot of young girls were in love with us for playing 45 seconds of another band’s song. We were just like, ‘What are you talking about?'”
“That was a huge stepping stone for me, like I couldn’t have predicted. Locally, we had a nice following around Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and we actually played the Jersey Shore quite a bit. And we were playing a club in New Jersey and some MTV scouts were at the show,” Fink recalled in Episode 3 of the NEPA Scene Podcast last year.
“Kids these days don’t really know the power of MTV like it used to be, and that was even at the end of it. For bands in the ’80s and ’90s, if your video was on MTV once, you could tour the country and sell out venues.”
Fink and Klepaski left Lifer to join another Wilkes-Barre band, Breaking Benjamin, that blew up soon after, becoming a multi-platinum sensation starting with the hit single “Polyamorous” in 2002. Derek Spencer and Ian Wiseman came in to replace them, and Lifer independently recorded an EP before changing their name to myDownfall and breaking up in 2003.
Coyle has since formed The Drama Club, Stardog Champion with Fink, a solo project called Electracoustica, and he currently sings in Death Valley Dreams while playing guitar in and recording with Cold. Fink moved on as a solo artist and is now on his fourth album as a singer/songwriter, playing live as the frontman of Aaron Fink & the Fury. They haven’t forgotten those early days of rap rock and bleach blonde hair, however, and neither has their hometown fans.
Last week, Coyle announced that he would play a special acoustic show with Fink, performing songs from the debut Lifer album and covers from the Strangers with Candy days on Friday, Aug. 24 at 9 p.m. The response to the Facebook event page was so overwhelming that they moved the show to a bigger venue, Bart & Urby’s (119 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre), to accommodate the crowd. General admission tickets are $12 at the door.
This isn’t the first time members of the band have reunited. In 2010, Lifer played a full-band acoustic show for a benefit in Berwick with their original lineup, though Kruszka filled in for Lightcap on drums. Could this happen again someday? It’s certainly possible considering, all these years later, the demand is still there and possibly growing as those glory days become more and more nostalgic.
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, photographer, and podcast host. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.