Special Patrol Group

Special Patrol Group

 New York City, New York, USA
BandRock

Intelligent, catchy counterintuitive songwriting by the guitarist, the heart of the band. Beautiful girl up front, a sultry, smoky, wanting voice. Filipino drummer, explosive fills, never misses a beat. Melodic, punchy, driving bass lines. Keys with texture, complexity, beauty. Always evolving.

Biography

The story of the band is the story of its members. Here are two inside perspectives of SPG, from songwriter Matt and singer Katie:

"I never know what to say when people ask me what SPG sounds like.

Power pop seems like an obvious comparison, and although I love the songs, sounds and arrangements on LPs by Big Star and the Raspberries, I could probably never write or sing a lyric like, "Ecstasy, when you kiss me I'm in ecstasy," and really mean it (Though I am very grateful that Eric Carmen could).

Some have detected the influence of jazz in our harmonies and rhythms. In truth I got a taste for these harmonies listening to rock and pop songs. In the early eighties as I rode around in the back of my mom's Pinto I heard songs by Bacharach, The Zombies and Steely Dan and their chords just sounded right to me (Though I always thought their music should be louder). Early music by the Smiths and Joe Jackson made even more sense, presenting these pretty and interesting harmonies in the form of punky rock and pop songs. Anyway, I don't think of Charles Mingus rhythms as jazz rhythms, I just think of them as good rhythms.

In the early 1990s, when I decided I wanted to write songs, I spent a lot of time trying to resolve the differences between the high brow stuff I listened to in music school and the great rock music that had wiped out all of the terrible hair metal from the late 1980s. I often found myself the only person among a bunch of string and wind players who understood that all you needed to make great music was an electric guitar, bass and drums. And none of my "rock" friends seemed to understand why I went on and on about the melodies of Johannes Brahms and Claude Debussy. I finally decided that the so-called differences between these two musical worlds were mostly on the surface. In my opinion, if you can't hear the similarities between the angular rhythmic peculiarities of Soundgarden and Igor Stravinsky, then you're just not listening hard enough.

When I was a kid, my older brother told me that if I was going to write song lyrics, I would have to be "a poet." I probably would have been much less intimidated by this had I known that by "poet," Jonathan had meant "Bono." Seriously- there are poetic devices in our lyrics, and they sound good set to music, but I couldn't call them poetry. Here is a lyric from a song "So Functional," from our first LP, The Very Provocative. I like the way the double meaning in the phrase, "content to have a ball" gives the lyric both a lighthearted and bitter tone:

"On a lake of million stars
On the hunt for love, content to have a ball
So romantic, it leaves scars
Blond and blunt she is the cat who makes the call"

All this is my perception of what Special Patrol Group should sound like. But the arrangements and sounds of these songs are shaped as much by the four other people who play them. I asked Katie to join the band because I love the sound of mixed male and female voices, and I wanted someone to share lead vocal duties. Katie has a strong soulful, unique voice. She spent her childhood living classic American show tunes, and it shows in the way she sings and interprets our songs. She also has an incredible ear for harmony and has composed a lot of wonderful vocal parts especially for our latest songs. Actually, she usually seems to just improvise them. My brother and I never really played music together as children. He played guitar and I played piano, but neither of us seriously pursued it at the time. About five years ago when I couldn't find a bassist I asked Jonathan to join me for a recording session in Portland OR. He had never played bass before. These days he sounds amazing. Our live shows and all of our recorded work feature his thunderous groovy bass playing. We occasionally disagree about the role of a bassist ("Enough f*cking inversions already") but we both share an affinity for humongous face melting bass tones. See "Mid September," "Battery In Your Pocket," and anything from our EP, Completes One Task for further examples of this. Michael and I met at the University of Connecticut music department about 15 years ago and we have played together in one band or another, ever since. He is an inventive, awesome drummer. He is also a virtuoso mallet percussionist and arranger. We have always seemed to love the same kinds of music, which may explain why we've played together for so long.

I play a Fender Jazzmaster because I have always loved Elvis Costello and Dinosaur Jr. I am a decent guitarist and singer, but my songs are catchy, funny, pretty and melodic and are probably unlike anything you have heard before. And lucky for me, my band plays them with aggression, precision, and heart.

For those interested, I took the name Special Patrol Group from a British sitcom that aired in reruns on MTV in the 1980s, called The Young Ones. The show, for its reckless energy and absurd plot contriva

Lyrics

August and Still Unaware

Written By: Matthew DeMella

Seventeen, twenty-five
Which of you in your right mind
Could possibly romanticize with rose eyed letters?

August and still unaware

Puzzle late every night
There's no blue in black and white
To make that piece fit just right, a little pressure

August and still unaware
August and still unaware

Leaving in just three nights
Somehow bagged the last invite
Sadly we have to remind you, pack for pleasure

August and still unaware

Swatting all the little flies
Always there around your eyes
All the things that took your time never got better

August and still unaware
August and still unaware

August and still unaware
August true is in the air
When it's gone you'll miss the hues of purple heather
When it's gone you'll miss the hues of purple heather

Still no sleep, still you lie
Tied up in some broken lines
Shaped like pretty Westland Pines wherein you're tethered

August and still unaware

Never left the easy climes
Playing games and paying fines
Inevitably combined to leave you beggared

August and still unaware
August and still unaware

August and still unaware
August true is in the air
When it's gone you'll miss the hues of purple heather
When it's gone you'll miss the hues of purple heather

Filament Fanfare

Written By: Matthew DeMella

More than you average downtown massacre
It could be truly great
Finish your cocktail before it gets too late

Hit the ground for the filament fanfare
Brighter the closer you walk
Watch our shadows expand in the red flares as they
Draw you pictures in chalk
Flocking around, the bored reporters
Talking about how the traffic is blocked
Brighter, the filament fanfare
The closer you walk

Down on the dirty lower right side corner
Thugs swarming out in the street
An off chance and you fall off of your feet

And hit the ground with a filament fanfare
Brighter the closer you walk
Watch our shadows expand in the red flares as they
Draw you pictures in chalk
Flocking around, the bored reporters
Talking about how the traffic is blocked
Brighter, the filament fanfare
The closer you walk
Brighter, the filament fanfare

Robert from North of Greenwich
Still in his clubhouse spikes
Took and left Sarah and the twins
Turned off the turnpike
With the flies
In his Izod
In a pile
Singing with the katydids

We got our corps of flashbulb informants
Already set a date
Finish your cocktail before it gets too late

Only an Oasis

Written By: Matthew DeMella

Only an oasis
For cheap Manhattans
Best if you avoid the well drinks for the time being

In among the faceless
Ever patient fans
This routine's still fresh although we know where its heading

Black satin still looks good on your skin
Waiting in dark July air

Your friend's always generous
Wasted, sitting up
He will take your patience for his sympathy

Never really serious
With his intentions
Just until they're on their feet it's temporary

Black satin still looks good on your skin
Waiting in dark July air
Lives flatten - a one half horse cul de sac
And your son is such a nightmare

Two o'clock three
Urgency
Passed out on the love seat
Entreating:
"Need I need"
She's written a reminder across his cheek

Last season
And still pretty tightly wrapped
You're good at least for one more year

Discography

SPG released its first full length, "The Very Provocative Special Patrol Group," in December 2008. Mid September has been played on several college stations since release, as well as Never Negotiate. We recorded and released a second three song EP in the summer of 2009, "Special Patrol Group Completes One Task," and we have since continued writing and recording. Our LP is currently underway with an expected release date of Spring 2012.

Set List

Sets are usually between 45 and 90 minutes, depending upon the venue's line up for the evening. A full set list would typically include the following tracks:

Only An Oasis
Filament Fanfare
August and Still Unaware
Coat of Silver Ghosts
Really It's Just the Work
Singing Silver Blades
Mid September
Battery In Your Pocket
Filament Fanfare
Gravity In Reverse
Caustic Chemistry
Singing Silver Blades
Take It Personal
Blow Your Hair Back
Black Clouds Follow
Train Shakes the Rail
614
So Functional
Straighten Out
Take It Personal
Honey
Backseat Sunday Morning
My Granada
Let's Get Arrested
Blood Red Meadows