It still has a long way to go. But the Asbury Park of recent years is so different in so many ways from the one favorite son Bruce Springsteen referenced in the bleak “My City of Ruins,” a song he premiered in December 2000.
The much-needed improvements in Asbury Park, New Jersey, since then are most noticeable along the boardwalk and on some of the streets not very far from it, among them Lake Avenue. On that street you’ll find upscale dining establishments and a three-story brick structure that suits a city still best known for its music history: the Lakehouse building.
As its brochure points out, Lakehouse (which opened on Lake Avenue in early 2013) is home to a music academy, an instrument shop, recording studios, rehearsal rooms and various industry professionals. One of those music pros, artist/label manager and concert promoter Brian Nelson, played a big part in teaming up singer Regina Conroy and keyboardist Reshy P, the members of the emerging Asbury Park band Far in the Maples (the name comes from a Robert Frost poem).
The series of events leading to the Conroy-Reshy P partnership essentially began on Nov. 15, 2013. That’s when Conroy — a self-taught guitarist who for a time studied singing with Jersey Shore veteran Jody Joseph — wrote on her Facebook page: “I need a band! Any of you serious and interested musicians please contact me.” After that, Lakehouse owner Jon Leidersdorff had a conversation with Nelson about Conroy, who had been playing solo at various venues in and around Asbury Park. Conroy later spoke on the phone with Nelson, and he told her about, as she remembers it, “this guy who was looking for a singer and somebody to write with.”
That was Reshy P, who ever since his year of piano lessons while in eighth grade had been creating original pieces of music. During their first writing session, held in the basement of Reshy P’s parents’ house, they shared individual material and also came up with a song called “Make Believe.”
From that point on, according to Conroy, “We were very disciplined with meeting at least twice a week, meeting for hours at a time. We just wanted to get into the studio and start that next chapter.”
The result of their woodshedding is Skywork, the full-length studio debut from Far in the Maples, out this month on Refrost Records. The album includes “Make Believe,” although, Conroy admits, “it’s come very far from the way it started.” The same can be said of the album’s other nine tunes, which were recorded at Lakehouse and also in New York. Reshy P, who had interned for Steve Greenwell at Lakehouse, gives credit to the Skywork producer, engineer and mixer (whose studio credits also include Joss Stone) with bringing in the backing musicians, leading “the molding process” and taking the tunes “from the writing demos to what they are now.”
“[Greenwell] got us on track in terms of consistency with each song, making them sound like they’re coming from one band,” Conroy adds.
Serene and with just the right amount of studio sheen, Skywork is a poised and pleasing debut album full of pop that’s suitable for all ages. It’s not typical Asbury Park-related music — and perhaps even more surprising is that Far in the Maples has yet to play a gig in its hometown.
Nevertheless, Conroy and Reshy P both feel as though their band is part of the Asbury Park music scene.
“I live in Asbury Park, and I’ve played here [before],” says Conroy, “so I just feel like I know a lot of the bands and musicians here, and I feel like I have a part of myself in this community. And now that I have a band, it’ll be nice because I know a lot of people around here who will come to our shows and follow us.”
— By Chris M. Junior
On Aug. 14, Far in the Maples will perform a record-release show at the Asbury Park Yacht Club, 1000 Ocean Ave. in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Far in the Maples members Reshy P and Regina Conroy. Photographed June 24, 2015, at Lakehouse Music in Asbury Park by Chris M. Junior