Get Wooed By Sweet Talkers Monday Nights at Nardi’s

By Sandra Weyant | Jul 24, 2019
Photo by: Sandra Weyant

Haven Beach, NJ — What a way to start the week! The Sweet Talkers, a pop-rock-inspired cover band, charmed the crowd this past (and every) Monday night at Nardi’s Tavern and Grill in Haven Beach. The five-piece ensemble consists of lead singer Vicki Pritchard, guitarist and vocalist Chris Salerno, bassist and vocalist Nick Salerno, guitarist and vocalist Mike Zdeb, and drummer Joe Salerno.

The Salerno brothers formed the band with the help of their dedicated father as the manager. Nick, the youngest of the boys, recruited his two brothers and came up with the idea to start a cover band because he was determined to make a career out of doing something he loved. They filled the rest of the positions by enlisting the help of their friends, and performed their first official show in June 2008.

Even though Nick jumpstarted the band, he gives credit where it’s due.

“My dad has an amazing business sense and has worked so hard to get us where we are today. He is the glue that holds the whole operation together,” he said.

Originally known as Under Pressure for the first nine years of the band’s existence, the group is relieved to no longer give off the impression that it is a Queen tribute band. The initial name was born of a stressful situation when the band had to come up with its identity fast before the first gig. However, even when they decided to switch to a different booking agency and rebrand themselves, choosing the proper name still proved to be an arduous task.

“There was so much more at stake since we were already established and knew where we wanted to be as a band,” Joe said. “We needed something catchy that was easily relatable, but also something tangible. This way, it would be easy to come up with a look, a logo and stage props. We actually designed the logo at the same time we chose the name. The name itself came from a list of words and ideas that we all contributed to, then decided on. We had to be mindful of the industry and what our goals were, and the decision had to be unanimous.”

“I feel like – whether they will admit it or not – everyone loves a sweet talker,” Nick added. “Popular ones like Fonzie, Joey Tribbiani and Uncle Jesse are timeless, and their shows are still widely popular. We’d like to be timeless, too.”

Pritchard, the newest member of the band, signed on three years ago, after the original singer exited to pursue a singing career on Broadway. When Pritchard was younger, she enrolled in numerous music programs to hone her craft and train her voice, and Zdeb was actually one of her instructors.

“When they needed a singer, he contacted me and I was available. I was just graduating college, and I have been in the band ever since. So it all started with that connection of meeting Mike when I was in seventh grade,” Pritchard said.

Guests and employees at Nardi’s were captivated by Pritchard’s enchanting voice. The harmonizing from Chris was magical and the intricate mash-ups kept everyone entertained and wanting more. Songs like Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” segued into “You Spin Me Round.” The Sweet Talkers typically play classic rock songs and pop-punk jams with some country hits sprinkled into the set list, depending on the venue and what the crowd is feeling.

“I love playing at the local places,” Pritchard said. “I am from Manasquan, and those places up there are nice because a lot of my family members and friends can come. It’s the best of both worlds. I get to spend time with my favorite people and do what I love to do.”

Pritchard and Nick Salerno really know how to grab the audience’s attention. They jumped off the stage, mingled with guests and danced their hearts out. In fact, stage presence is extremely important to Pritchard. She is inspired by the deep, powerful voice of musical icon and Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks, but she also gravitates toward such artists as Katy Perry and Taylor Swift for their ability to stimulate a large crowd.

Speaking of large crowds, the Sweet Talkers can hold their own and love to perform in huge venues. One of their biggest gigs was performing at Prudential Center in front of 15,000 people for the Stanley Cup playoff game between the New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers.

“The players entered the championship plaza in front of us,” Joe said. “They had military guys scaling down the side of the building; people were screaming and having a good time. It was pretty great. Every day is a new experience.”

Joe started banging on pots and pans when he was a kid and got his first drum set from Toys R Us. Around age 9, he became more serious about playing music and also picked up the guitar, bass and piano. Before the Sweet Talkers formed, Joe was a member of several bands in high school and loved to create original music. At first he was completely against the idea of joining a cover band, but now he enjoys it and has never once looked back.

With his diverse taste in music, Joe is inspired by several different artists.

“Everyone has something to offer, and I try to take at least something from everyone, even if it’s what not to do,” he said.

His first favorite band was The Eagles until he discovered the energetic genre of pop-punk. He grew up listening to Green Day, but has since developed a distaste for the group. Taking Back Sunday and Thrice are now his top two favorites, and he looks forward to the moments when the band incorporates some of their songs into the set list.

“Most people don’t expect it, but their reaction is priceless. Ya gotta stick around for the last set for that stuff,” he said.

In his spare time, Joe puts his creativity to work in different ways, such as building and painting, which come in handy for the band in terms of stage props and set decorations. Every year, he even builds a special display for the Christmas tree.

For Nick, following in the family footsteps and picking up an instrument were a no-brainer.

“I used to go with my grandfather when he drove my brother to guitar lessons, so I got the itch young. I started bass lessons of my own at 9 years old. Singing came later in life. I had the opportunity to take vocal lessons at a music store I worked at, so I gave it a shot. I love singing on stage now,” he said.

His biggest musical influence is The Jackson Five, and Jermaine is his favorite member. Unlike his brothers, Nick has always been inspired by the rhythm of Motown music “from a much simpler time.” When he’s not jamming, Nick likes to get his hands dirty. In the daytime, he is a mechanic and loves restoring and working on cars.

“Like music, I have a passion for mostly anything automotive. My dad and I just got done restoring a 1951 Chevy. We’ve been working on it for over three years and did everything from the ground up, and really made it our own. It was such a cool process. I’m already planning my next project,” he said.

Joe and Nick admit that being in a cover band is certainly not easy, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

“The best advice I could give to someone starting a band is to keep an open mind and just keep going,” Joe said. “When I was younger I had the music I liked, and that’s all I wanted to listen to or play. I also never wanted to be in a cover band. Now I wish I was playing covers from the start. It’s fun, and it’s a great way to learn to appreciate all kinds of music.

“If you’re into your own original music, it’s a great way to meet people, and get your originals out there, too. Aside from that, you will have hard times. There will be arguments and disagreements, people will come and go for whatever reasons, but keep going. It can be a struggle, but if you’re smart and put in the work, you will keep moving forward. Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take two steps forward. We’ve been through it, both individually and as a band. Keep pushing.”

Nick’s recipe for success is to tune out the naysayers and stay focused on the music.

“Ignore the people who tell you there are too many bands out there already or people won’t like the music you play or how you play it. Do what makes you happy, and everything else will fall into place. Also, get ready to work your tail off. Being successful in a band is not for the weak. You have to be ready to put in long days and nights, but it’s all worth it if you work hard,” he said.

Catch the Sweet Talkers every Monday night at Nardi’s Tavern for the rest of the summer. For a full schedule of upcoming events, visit Warning: You just might swoon at the sweet, sweet sound.

— Sandra Weyant


Set List Snippet

“Valerie,”  Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse

“Semi-Charmed Life,” Third Eye Blind

“Jessie’s Girl,” Rick Springfield

“Take Me Home Tonight,” Eddie Money

“King of Wishful Thinking,” Go West

“The Middle” - Jimmy Eat World

“Country Girl,” Luke Bryan

“Irreplaceable,” Beyoncé

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