They went on to become one of the city's most popular local bands, and now they are staging a comeback after a 20-year hiatus.
Krystal, which made its mark on the Hoboken music scene in the '70s and '80s, will perform at this week's Hoboken Italian Festival and this month's Arts and Music Festival.
"It's all about Hoboken and the music. This is where our roots are," said Dom Menga, the band's lead guitarist, last week. "We're doing this because we want to play, we want to have fun, and we want to bring back that musical vibe we had years ago."
The rock band, which consists of five Hoboken natives, played throughout the city and parts of southern New Jersey to sold-out audiences of 500 to 1,000 people.
In 1986, the band broke up when family-related issues kept members from dedicating the amount of time necessary to keep Krystal going.
In February of this year, the band's lead vocalist, John Vincent Olson, invited members of Krystal and other musicians to perform together at a fireman's hall in Monmouth New Jersey.
Olson said that the response was overwhelming. He heard there were fans in Hoboken who had wanted to attend but couldn't due to the occupancy limits of the facility.
"It felt so good, so right, to be playing together again," said Olson. "And I have to say, we sounded pretty damn good."
Within a week, Menga contacted Olson, and Krystal was reunited.
"The five us were meant to play together, and we're going to play out our destiny," said Menga. He jokingly acknowledged that the average age of the band ranges in the mid-forties.
"[Krystal is] the only band that travels with its own paramedics," he quipped. "If we live long enough, we're going to make an impact."
Naming the band
Much-like the care-free nature of its members, the name of the band, according to Olson, originated from a member having spun a globe and his finger, landing on an area of Greece known as Krystal.
The group makes its debut performance at the Hoboken Italian Festival on Sunday Sept. 9 at 3:00 p.m., followed by a Sept. 30 show at Hoboken's Art and Music Festival.
In 1975, after hearing Olson perform (he was with another neighborhood band at the time), Dom Menga and Dave Florio invited him to join Krystal. The band's other two current members, Gerard Ciandella on drums and Billy Rozmester - a Hoboken firefighter - on bass guitar, joined in the late '70s, replacing previous members who left to pursue other endeavors.
The 16 and 17-year-old musicians who began Krystal some 30 plus years ago started out by playing songs made famous by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Styx and Kansas at local school halls in Hoboken.
In a few years, Krystal went from being a cover band to writing its own music playing local clubs and bars in and around Hoboken, including Maxwell's.
They later moved across the Hudson and played at Kenny's Castaways and The Bitter End.
In August of 1985, Krystal won first place in Sandy Hook's annual "Battle of the Bands," beating out over a hundred other artists. Although the band broke up in '86, the members have remained active in the music community.
In 1996, Krystal attempted a comeback, playing at a club in Asbury Park. But a disagreement over the direction the band should take made it hard for members to move forward, and they broke up.
This time, however, band members are all on the same page, according to Krystal's manager, Charlene Ciandella.
"They want to give it one last shot for fame and fortune by bringing back the songs that tell a story," said Ciandella, who is married to drummer Gerard. "[It's] the good, clean rock & roll you don't see anymore." The band is putting together an album, which members plan to complete within the next year. They hope to receive industry interest.
Michael Mullins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.