New Faces NJ: Status Green

The boys of Monmouth County pop/rock band Status Green seem to do everything fast.

Status Green (left to right): Chris Marino (vocals/guitar), Mike Montalto (drums), Lou Montesano (lead vocals/guitar/piano), and Russell Tolas (vocals/bass).
Photo by Steven J. Dundas Photography.

Their get-up-and-dance tunes make fans shimmy and shake, they opened for fellow Jersey boy Bon Jovi within four months of forming, and they have already released a “greatest hits” album. Well, kind of.

But let’s slow down and look at how it all got started. Close friends since their days at Howell High School in the late ’90s, Lou Montesano (lead vocals/guitar/piano), Chris Marino (vocals/guitar), Russell Tolas (vocals/bass), and Mike Montalto (drums) reconnected in 2005 to create Status Green. Frontman Montesano says the inspiration for the band’s name came from a special memory. “My father, who passed away in 2001, used to always say, ‘you know what would be a great name for a band? Status Green.’ And that was it.”

Growing up in Springsteen territory, the members of the fun-loving foursome showed their passion for music at an early age, playing in garage bands, and enjoying easy access to the bustling New York City and Asbury Park music scenes.

With the formation of Status Green, they too became part of the scene, with gigs up and down the East Coast. They also played a major role in the revival of Asbury Park, performing regularly at the Saint, the Wonder Bar, and of course, the Stone Pony. After winning a radio contest on WPLJ, the band was chosen from among hundreds of acts to open for Bon Jovi at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. That gig raised their status from Jersey Shore band to a national act in four short months.

“We blew up on the scene real quick,” says Montesano, whose musical influences include the Four Seasons, the Beatles, and Elvis Costello, as well as more contemporary bands like Weezer, the Strokes, and the Killers. “Our pop-rock sound really appeals to everyone,” he says. “It’s fun-loving rock-and-roll and we just try to get people moving.”

In 2006, the band put tongue in cheek and self-released its first album, Greatest Hits Volume 1. The locals got the joke, but drummer Montalto says, “Sometimes when we do shows out of state, we have to explain it to them, like ‘No, no, this is just our first CD. We really haven’t been around forever.’”

The members of Status Green have traveled by their own means to places including Chicago, Las Vegas, California, and Texas (with an upcoming trek to Montreal planned for February). “Home is home,” says Montalto. “You know you will have support from friends and family. But the true test of a band is if you can take the show on the road.”
Their catchy and upbeat music is intended to make fans of all ages get up and dance – even the moms out there. “We’ve noticed a huge age variety coming to the shows. We really see the entire spectrum,” says Montesano. “The moms will drive their kids to the shows and start to notice that they really like us too, so they end up staying and hanging out.”  Bassist Tolas adds,” I think it’s great. A mom’s work is never done, so if we can be a small part of what helps keep her sane, then I am more than happy to oblige.”

The band even snagged a role in the upcoming film, Exit 102, about the glory days of Asbury Park. “It takes place in 1974 – the year the Stone Pony opened and the age of muscle cars,” says Montesano, who was cast as the lead – “a guitar-slinging heartthrob.” The whole band is featured in the movie, which begins filming in May. They will also record original songs for the soundtrack.

For now, they are busy writing, recording, and preparing for the New Year. Literally. Their most recent project involves reworking the New Year’s Eve classic Robert Burns’ poem Auld Lang Syne to celebrate its 250th anniversary. It is scheduled for release early this year, and could include performances in Burn’s homeland of Scotland.

As much as they love traveling, the guys say nothing compares to crossing over the Delaware Memorial Bridge and seeing the “Welcome to NJ” sign, and absolutely nothing compares to real Jersey pizza. (Montesano and Marino are partial to Tony’s in Farmingdale, where they formerly delivered pizza together.)

In true Status Green fashion, they refuse to slow down. This past summer, they followed up Greatest Hits with a five-track EP available through iTunes. “We could have waited to finish a whole album, but we just don’t want to keep people waiting too long,” says Montesano. Their latest song, “Big Debut,” is being played during halftime at all the New York Giants home games.

“We’ve been working so hard and we’re doing it all on our own,” Montesano adds. “We may have picked the worst time in history to start a band, but we always seem to shine when we hit a big opportunity.”

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