Joseph R. Scholz is a business litigator with McCarter & English LLP, but moonlights as a hard rock drummer in bands that play across New York City. He’s also a member of Amperband, a seven-piece rock band from the McCarter & English offices who share a passion for music. For one night on Oct. 19, the Amperband will break from playing internal company events to compete against eight other attorney and law firm rock groups in a battle of the bands-style event. The 8th Annual Law Rocks New York City show, held at the Gramercy Theatre, gives legal professionals a chance to rock out while raising money for their favorite charities. Amperband is thrilled to support the Community FoodBank of New Jersey as it competes for the top prize. Scholz, a New Jersey State Bar Association member since 2010, spoke recently about his musical background, history with Amperband and the upcoming show. Those interested in buying tickets or donating can visit lawrocks.org.
Talk about your musical background – what instruments you play and how you got into music.
I started playing drums when I was 14. I joined the beginner’s band in high school and got the bug. Ever since then I’ve played, never professionally, but just to have fun. As a high school student I started a band and played parties. In college and law school, I played in bands that would do the occasional gig, but nothing too serious. After I started my legal career and realized how hard this job was, I thought it was probably a good idea to get back into music. I found some friends in New York City, where I live, who were also professionals and looking to blow off some steam. We started playing mostly cover songs in small rehearsal studios, which was a lot of fun. As the band members slowly rotated over time, we became more interested in writing our own songs instead of playing just covers, so we went through a phase where we did that for a long time. We recorded a lot of music and played gigs all around the city. It was a lot of fun. Since then I’ve had a few other bands that have done the same thing. I did that pretty continuously until the pandemic hit.
What kind of music are you into?
Mostly hard rock. The music that I listen to kind of formed the basis for the songs we’ve written over the years. We were all big fans of bands like Radiohead and Led Zeppelin. There’s a bit of that bluesy, hard rock influence, along with some progressive influences like Rush, in our music. The Beatles, too. It’s kind of a mishmash of influences, but mostly hard rock music with great energy. That’s what gets me the most excited to play.
Talk the about origins of Amperband and how you formed.
We formed a firm band many years ago to play internal events like holiday parties. The lineup has changed over the years, but we’ve had a few consistent members who’ve been in the band the whole time. We only played internal events over the years. It wasn’t until we learned about this opportunity to play the Law Rocks gig that we decided to play an outside event. We have three guitar players, a bass player, two singers and myself. We come from different McCarter & English offices. Some members are from Newark, some from New York, Delaware, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. We play primarily rock cover songs. The setlist runs from Tom Petty to Journey and John Mellencamp, and more poppy rock like the band Lit. For this gig, everyone meets in a central location to practice – Hellhound Studios in Rahway.
Practicing law can be a very stressful and demanding job. How important is it to have a creative outlet like drumming or music to keep you level?
I think it’s an extremely healthy exercise and I would encourage all professionals to have some kind of creative outlet. I think we all need to step away from our jobs and have an outlet like this. It really helps manage the stress. I find music to be very transporting, in a way that lets you forget everything else in your life and just let the music take you away. In the process, all the things you were thinking about at work and all the stressors in your life just go out the window for a little while. It’s an important thing to do now and again.
How has jamming with colleagues helped improve camaraderie at the firm?
It’s become something that really galvanizes people. Not just among the people in the band but others in the office when we play internal firm events. We played a gig recently in Nashville and all the people from the firm not only had a good time, but it was a great bonding experience for everyone. I don’t think a lot of people knew there were musicians at the firm. It’s nice that we can all have fun together.
Describe the band’s excitement for the upcoming show. What do you think your odds are of winning?
We were thrilled to learn about the battle of the bands gig this year. It seems like a great event where these law firms send their bands to play for a while on stage and in the process raise money for charity. I’m really looking forward to it. As far as winning, I guess it depends on how they grade us. I know that how much money you raise is a factor. But as it relates to performance, I think we could fare pretty well. All of us in Amperband are very grateful to everyone who has supported our fundraising efforts on behalf of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey thus far. It is truly awesome to see donations and tickets coming in from across the firm both from lawyers and staff.