The Defending Champions
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The Defending Champions

Montclair, NJ | Established. Jan 01, 2007

Montclair, NJ
Established on Jan, 2007
Band Rock World




"Star Ledger Album Review"

"Special commendation goes to the superb Defending Champions brass section: trumpeter Jovan Alvarez, trombonist and singer Matt Ryan and sax player Matt Schoenenbaum attack these compositions with confidence and verve." - Tris McCall

"Jim Testa from Review of "Breakfast Of...""

This is the latest review of our new album "Breakfast Of...The Defending Champions" by Jim Testa - Jim Testa

"Verona's 'Champions' look to take the next step"

Their sound is unidentifiable and that's just the way they like it.
The Defending Champions, a band founded by Verona's Matt Ryan and Dean Nevolis, has carved its niche over the past five years by not sounding quite like anyone else and having each song sound different than the last. Not quite rock and, despite their three-piece horn section, not quite ska - Ryan prefers not to be pigeon-holed and instead defines the band as "an original, eclectic mix of rock, ska, reggae and soul."

As the band has grown and refined their sound in recent years, they're now looking into a transition of venues. After performing primarily at bars and clubs over the years, Verona's Champions are looking to break into the music festival scene.

From Miasmics to Champions

Ryan and Nevolis are no strangers to working together. In high school the two, along with their Verona friends, formed "The Miasmics," which Nevolis defines as a more traditional ska band.

As the duo attended William Paterson University, their band stayed together, but the sentiment grew that the band was bound to break up.

In preparation for that inevitability, Ryan and Nevolis readied themselves for the next step in their music careers.

"We wanted to write and play whatever we wanted to," says Ryan. "We were in college and we were learning to write our own stuff at a faster pace."

In 2007, the two formed The Defending Champions with several of their favorite local musicians.

While, during the early going, there was some influx to |the band's line up, they - at present - feature Ryan as the lead vocalist and trombone player, Nevolis at lead guitar, Eric Swiontkowski at bass, saxophonist Matt Schoenebaum, trumpeter Jovan Alvarez, Shawn Fichtner at drums and percussionist Dave Deriso.

Despite the fact that each member has separate careers and, in some instances, other musical endeavors, they have maintained weekly rehearsals at Home Front Studios in Caldwell, which Ryan owns.

The song-writing duties are predominantly handled by Ryan and Nevolis, after which the rest of the band incorporates their own ideas and tweaks. The two say that the band's tendencies, or lack there of, are liberating in the writing process as they are able to be influenced by what they are interested in at any given moment.

Over the years, the band has frequented venues throughout New Jersey and New York, including Manhattan's Bowery Poetry Club and local hotspot, Tierney's in Montclair. While the band has enjoyed a long-standing mutual relationship with those venues and others, the grind and lack of income that is associated with other spots has worn on them, according to Ryan.

Now, in their next transitional phase, Ryan says the band is looking toward festivals, which tend to be more receptive to a variety of music and could potentially drive up their audience.

A Scene Change

While they have already been featured in local festivals such as Evolve and Sparks on the Ridge, Nevolis says the band is now looking for bigger opportunities.

"We've gone for just personal pleasure," says Nevolis of larger music festivals. "At festivals like that, you realize no matter what band you're playing in, you'll be playing in front of at least 500 people. It seemed like a no-brainer."

The bid process is not easy, however. The band currently submits through a service called Sonicbids, which computes a type of electronic press kit and sends applications out to various festivals and venues. Still, it's an uphill battle, says Ryan, as the larger festivals may only accept a handful of the hundreds of applications it receives.

Recently, the band gained local support in its attempt to perform at Bonnaroo, a national, four-day music festival held in Manchester, Tenn. Though they ranked No. 22 out of the 150 bands that applied, the festival accepted less than a half-dozen outside bids.

Still, The Defending Champions booked this August's Musikfest, a 10-day festival to be held in Bet - Verona/Cedar Grove Times

"Aldum Review From!"

Please check out this great review gave us, enjoy! -

"The Defending Champions Featured in new movie soundtrack"

The Defending Champions song entitled "jesus wants you to dance" is now featured in the new award-winning indie movie "Sneakers & Soul" you can check out details at - Sneakers & Soul

"Album Review: The Defending Champions"

The Defending Champions are what is needed in popular music today. The band brings intriguing depth and stylish breadth to each and every one of its songs. Their latest album called “Of The Legend Convention” is a perfect example of the coolness that is The Defending Champions. Each song is bursting at the seams with sound. “A Plague On Your House” is an ill wish that never sounded so beautiful. “Hot Fever” is another song that I think shows the bands true talent and is also a song you will be singing to yourself for the rest of the day. Matt Ryan’s voice is perfect for this band and this type of music. It’s just gritty enough and very powerful. The horns (Matt on Trombone, Shooby on Sax and Jovan Alvarez on Trumpet) perfectly push Matt’s lyrics through the speakers and provide the underlining in each song. Jenny Hoatson’s voice beautifully matches Matt’s on many of the songs and her lead vocals shine spectacularly in “Baby It’s You”. Equally impressive is how Dean Nevolis can play a mean reggae guitar on some songs and then change it up to a more funk feel on songs like “Say Goodbye To Me”. Eric “Swini’s” bass and Shawn Fichtner’s drums are also perfectly made for this band as can be heard on their intro in “Jimmy”.
The bottom line is that The Defending Champions will make your body move and you will want to hear more of them. So go and check out The Defending Champions latest album “Of The Legend Convention” available now.
Also check out The Defending Champions on October 15th and 16th at the Jacket Weather Festival at Tierney’s Tavern in Montclair, New Jersey.
Buy the CD or download the album “Of The Legend Convention” from The Defending Champions at CD Baby or iTunes.
Check out The Defending Champions Myspace page here: - Jersey Rock Review

"Album Review: The Defending Champions"

Hailing from Verona, New Jersey; The Defending Champions are a Rock/Ska/Reggae influenced band with a fresh sound. Come on, this is a band that in their album they have a 'No Thanks' section, dedicated solely to 'Guy who stole Dean's guitar in New Paltz', this band screams originality. Taking such a positive start into account, the band's debut album, ...Of the Legend Convention, doesn't disappoint.

The record kicks off with 'Plague on Your House', a heavily Latin-influenced track which any listener can't help but get into. The Latin/Ska influenced is a prevailing style throughout the album; but also to a point, it's pleasurable to listen to, but never overbearing. The lengthy instrumentals within most of the album's tracks showcase the band's strong musical talents; with toe-tapping guitar riffs and great drums.This catchy, hook-driven style continues on through tracks such as 'Hot Fever', 'I Can't Wait,' and 'Right Intentions.'

Once the album reaches the halfway point, 'Baby It's You' changes up the familiar style the listener has grown accustomed to. This track slows it down, not to the point of a ballad, but somewhere in the middle. (Think 'Summer Lovin' from Grease). The song draws heavy influence from the style of the 60's, with soulful voices and great lyrics. 'You Sure Know How To Talk', one of the album's most solid tracks, starts. Maybe it's just my personal opinion here, but this track takes every style that the band is going for, and just does everything well.

'Jimmy' takes on more of a 'funk' vibe, with it's soulful vocals, 'swing' tempo, and perfectly placed backup vocals. 'Jesus Wants You To Dance' takes on a slightly different style while not sacrificing any of that great style the listener has unarguably come to love. The album's closing track, 'The Reckless Legend', is a perfect closing. Like 'You Sure Know How To Talk' it collects all of the band's styles, Rock/Reggae/Latin-influences, etc.; and combines them all into a catchy, dance-inspiring, track (with a story to boot.)

Overall, ... Of the Legend Convention is an album that achieves everything that the band is going for. This unorthodox collection of styles works extremely well for this band, and they showcase it very well on this 12-track debut. -

"The Defending Champions"

Where are the good ska bands these days? I liked ska bands in college, but nowadays I'm hard pressed to hear much about any, especially in Jersey. Sure, there's Streetlight Manifesto, but they've been at it since 2002. I seek something refreshing. That's where The Defending Champions, a Verona, New Jersey 7-piece band, come in. Their album, ...Of the Legend Convention, whatever that means, is a refreshing 12-song ska, rock 'n roll punch with a soulful, smooth, yet dirty style. Lead vocals switch between trombonist Matt Ryan and Jenny Hoastson or at times the two sing together.

Some notable songs are "Plague on your house" and "The Reckless Legend." "Hot Fever" is also tight with some great guitar riffs at the end. "I Can't Wait" starts with your traditional reggae guitar hook. The lyrics are at times questionable. Like what the heck is this band talking about? Are they trying to be funny or what? Like "have you tried some of my head" on "Ode to the Working Girl" and simply the title on "Jesus Wants You to Dance." However questionable, this is no put down, the songs are great. "Say Goodbye to Me" reminds me of some '90s song I can't put my tongue on. Perhaps, The Defending Champions shining lyrical moment is on "Things To Do," where Ryan sings: "people ask me what are you doing? You're not making money playing that music. Well I got a news flash, fuck all the cash. Money comes and goes. And I don't care. Cause I got things to do." True indie, D.I.Y. attitude! What follows is some crazy good horns! My goodness. If there was a guitar shredding equivalent for horns, then what's happening at the end of this track would be just that! There's also some guitar riffage goodness in there too! This album is simply good.

The band blend reggae, ska, and rock together for a delicious, danceable sound that is undeniably groovy, funky, and jammy. The band know when to speed things up and when to slow it down. They know when to make you smile and when to make you laugh. When to sing and when to play our their instruments. I can imagine the energy the band puts out live. This is a fun album. So get your dancing shoes on and enjoy yourself some The Defending Champions.

The album features guest appearances from Nicole Scorsone of Waking Lights/ Bern & the Brights on two songs and Jason Gleason formerly of Further Seems Forever and now in Old Wives on gang vocals.
- Star Beat music


Still working on that hot first release.



The Defending Champions have been licensed worldwide for the use of their song "Raise my glass"!!!  This song is featured in the movie trailer for "Frank" (Directed by Acclaimed Irish director Lenny Abrahamson, Starring Michael Fassbender & Maggie Gyllenhaal).  Our music starts 45 seconds into the trailer:

We also have songs licensed in 2 other feature films, "Flatball" and "Well Wishes".

Composing with their ears bent to the righteous stylings of soul, ska and gypsy music, and held fast by rocknroll, The Defending Champions allow enormous room to impact all those ready to dance and be captivated. They've been enjoyed throughout the Tri-State area: performing at venues such as Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA, The Wellmont Theater (Live Nation venue), Yogi Berra Stadium, Maxwells, Asbury Lanes, Knitting Factory, Bitter End, the legendary Stanhope House, Rockwood Music Hall, Spike Hill and lots more. Announced by Jersey Rock Review as what is needed in popular music today, and, in their own words, writing music intended for the mobilization of the human, The Defending Champions are what you've wanted to hear but didn't know was sonically possible: better music for the best life.

Band Members