Photo courtesy of Michael Lee Allen
By Steve Sears
For Michael Lee Allen especially, it’s been a long wait.
“This band was in the making for the last two years,” he says of RELLIK, a five-member, New Jersey-based rock, hard rock, and heavy metal musical group that plays songs from the 1970’s to the present, while also branching out with new material. “Covid and 2020 brought things to a halt,” Allen adds, “and then I had to make a lineup change. Some band members were no longer available. But the lineup that’s in place now is incredibly solid and reliable, and I’m moving forward with the project.”
Allen, who lives in West Orange, is the band’s drummer and percussionist. He is joined on stage by lead vocalist, Sarkis Sarkisian; lead and rhythm guitarist, Jim Ramundo; bass guitarist, Vic Pais; and keyboard and synthesizer player, Moises Modesto. The latter three and Allen all provide backing vocals. “Everyone is an educated, schooled, and formally trained musician,” Allen says.
RELLIK’s beginning stems from a prior band called Kidd Comet. Allen explains. “That’s an original band, a national act that I was in, and my keyboard player – our lead vocalist – had just passed away. So, Kidd Comet is no longer. So, this stems off of that, and that’s how it came about.”
According to Allen, RELLIK does not just focus on playing hits, but also focuses on B-side songs and album cuts. “It corresponds to the theme of this band, you know? RELLIK: “killer” (RELLIK is “killer” spelled backwards) music from a time ago,” he says. “We are covering, going into the ‘70’s, Deep Purple, Quiet Riot, Judas Priest. And then creeping into the 80’s, we go to the pop side of things which would be The Cult – which would be considered New Wave – ZZ Top, and we’re doing Stevie Ray Vaughn. We’re also tapping into blues rock with one number that I really like that comes out very well with us, a song called ‘Tough Enough’ by the Fabulous Thunderbirds. That was a great suggestion by our lead vocalist. With the ‘80’s and ‘90’s we’re doing Stone Temple Pilots, Creed, Blink 182, and, venturing off a little bit, some more obscure bands from that time like Velvet Revolver. Then it goes on from there into the 2000s with more modern stuff.”
Allen himself has quite a resume. Thirty years ago, he performed with an original trio called Divine Judgement, and there he initially developed his reputation as a hard rock drummer while the band toured and headlined excessively. It also ballooned his workload, not that he minded. “I did several projects at once – I crossed over,” he says with a laugh. “I was somehow in high demand from my past reputation. I was in three original acts at once. I was able to do it, making albums on these Indie labels, and touring extensively throughout Europe, Japan, South America, the US, and Canadian dates as well.” In 2012, he joined a female-fronted hard rock band called SYKA. “Besides that, back in 2006, I became the Praise & Worship drummer for the Presbyterian Church of Upper Montclair,” Allen says. “I started a Praise & Worship band called Cornerstone. It’s the very first contemporary type of service that was done there in the history of the church, and I was the first drummer in the history of the church. So, some groundbreaking things for the community there.”
As previously mentioned, RELLIK also is focused on original compositions. “Original material is being done as we speak,” Allen confirms. “We have a lot of ideas just in the, I want to say, lyrical but not so much musical stage yet. But lyrically, I’ve written stuff already, and I know what I would want it to sound like, but I want to present it to the band. We make a band decision on things like this. It’s not just mine. Anyone could pull from whatever resource they want and submit anything, so everything’s welcome and we’ll compile it; kind of mix it up and pull it out of a hat and see what we’ve got. I like those kinds of surprises; it creates equality in the band, and everyone has a say.”
Allen has high energy and hopes for RELLIK, who performed at the Greenhouse Bar & Grill in Wayne on January 14. “I am adrenalized for this band,” Allen says. “This excitement is something I’ve had in the past when, once I feel it, I’m like, ‘Alright, the energy is there. The spirit for it is there. And the demand for it is there.’”
For more information, visit RELLIK’s Facebook page.