Syndicate 19

MaineList Article: Syndicate 19

Syndicate 19

Syndicate 19 is a band out of Wells who is beginning to make a name for themselves in clubs throughout Maine and New England. Original members; Randy and Paul have been working at it for the past five years.

Syndicate 19 - at first glance“We are hoping to tour the USA someday soon, maybe to Arkansas and back.” Explained Paul, the band’s lead singer.

The first time I saw Syndicate 19 was when I booked them at Club Mirage in Old Orchard Beach this past summer. It was one of those situations where I had heard their recorded music, and wasn’t exactly sure how to classify them, so ended up throwing them into a gig of mismatched bands as the opening act. I remember hearing a few good comments, and kept a mental note for future reference.

After the summer passed, I was looking for a band to book at Club Texas in Auburn, when I saw a bulletin on myspace from Syndicate 19. They had announced that they were going to be writing a new song on a live video feed through a popular website called justin.tv. I was intrigued, and so I decided to create an account and log-in to see how things turned out.

The video feed took place in their band-room. I immediately recognized Leigh’s massive V-Drum kit in the background. The drum set is unmistakable because it is actually two full sized V-Drum kits combined into one enormous kit, providing a full range of percussion for the band’s versatile drummer.

Syndicate 19 - chat roomBut Leigh wasn’t present during this writing session. Instead, the camera pointed directly at Paul Chase, the band’s front-man vocalist / guitar player. With Randy, the band’s bass player, doing his thing just behind Randy. The two musicians were relaxed, basically doing an acoustic jam for a live internet based audience. Sometimes, they would try and keep up with the chatter that was happening between those of us watching, and other times they would just work out interesting spur-of-the-moment lyrics and riffs.

Syndicate 19 - eJamming with the bandI found it interesting, because at one point, I blurted out a sequence of chords as a suggestion, and the guys would take the advice and form some unique rhythm pattern using those chords. Within seconds they’d start humming a melody, add some words, find repetitions, and build a song. They would use topics that we were chatting about as a reference point, making up lyrics on the fly. It was kinda silly, but at the same time quite interesting.

If there were any non-musician fans watching or listening, I’m sure the improvisation would have been a cool experience to endure. It was more of a fun jam than anything, and I had the feeling that there might have been some people singing along who were probably tuning in at home in their pajamas somewhere out there in cyberspace.

So, during this little e-concert, I asked the band if they wanted to headline a show at Club Texas. They pulled out their schedule book, and let me know in front of a chat room of fans that they were available, and so we booked the gig while in public chat.

Syndicate 19 - handles light and soundThe show at Club Texas turned out pretty good. The band offered to handle the sound and lights, and assured me that they could provide for the entire evening. Once I saw their equipment, I knew exactly why they preferred bringing their own gear.

Robotic moving lights, strobes, lasers, the latest LED lights, and they even had a fog machine! I was impressed. The P.A. was big and proud, and the band worked together to arrange all of the gear for all three bands who were scheduled to perform that evening.

“My brother-in-law, Jake, handles the lights for our shows.” Paul divulged thoughtfully. Everyone stayed pretty busy as things began to unfold.

AthameThe first band up was a new band on the scene called; “Athame”, which I overheard one of the members pronounce as; “aa-tha-may”. I had checked these guys out before I booked them, listened to their demo on myspace, and even visited their band room to make sure they sounded as good live as their recording. The band-room test was convincing, so without hesitation, I booked them to open for the event. They had some pretty good responses from the crowd, and I’m sure Athame will do well, if they stick with it. I was proud to help them get their feet wet by involving them with this first gig.

SeveredmindThe next band was Severedmind, a band who has done a couple of MaineList Events for me in the past in Old Orchard. I always enjoy having Severedmind on board, cuz they have a pretty loyal fan-base. Chris Yerxa, the band’s front-man, reminds me a little of a younger Ozzy. Crazed out eyes, long stringy hair flailing around, his psycho-stance presence. He doesn’t really sound a lot like Ozzy, and I’m sure he’s not trying to sound like anyone, but I can’t help but think of it when I see him perform. Actually, I’ve heard a few people mention that the band’s sound reminds them of Overkill. I would tend to agree, it’s definitely an 80’s metal type of sound.

Syndicate 19 - their soundFinally, our headlining band; Syndicate 19 approached the stage. Once again, mismatched alongside a couple of other bands that sound absolutely nothing like each other. I guess in a place like Club Texas, that’s actually a good thing, because the club has a pretty wide assortment of musical genres, from Rock and Metal, to Country and Hip-Hop Dance music, all under one roof.

Syndicate 19 is a mainstream sound, fabricated from the soul. You can tell that the band’s approach to writing is well-crafted, and heart-felt. It almost reminds me of the mentality of bands of the 70’s, who put more emphasis on the mood of the music, and the dynamics that bring the listener on a journey of emotions throughout each of the songs.

Since I have actually seen the band before, and have spent some time listening to their mp3s on myspace, I was a little bit familiar with their material. I couldn’t quite remember the words, but I did remember the melodies, and so I found myself humming along. I heard someone ask me if this band was on the radio, cuz they thought they had heard the song before. All I could say in response was… “I don’t know, but if they aren’t, they should be!”

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quote from Josh WojcikI also spoke with Josh Wojcik and Jessica Drost who drove from Portland to see the band for the first time that night. Apparently Josh had met Paul through a work-related environmental expo. Their work-related discussions eventually lead to music, when Paul began to mention his involvement in a local band.

“I guess I thought they were either classical, or folk.” Stated Josh, who may have tried to judge the band’s sound, based on his assessment of Paul’s shaggy, almost hippy-like appearance. “I eventually checked out their myspace, and thought; Oh wow! These guys are really great!”

This was Josh’s first experience seeing the band, and I could tell that he had sincerely enjoyed the music. I spent the rest of the time hanging out with Josh and Jessica, who turned out to be a couple of really awesome people.

Syndicate 19 - follow-up interview

I was originally supposed to interview Syndicate 19 that evening, but somehow missed my chance to catch up with them that night. Instead, a few weeks later, I noticed they were playing at a bar in my area, and so I decided to just follow up and finish the article there.

Syndicate 19 - at RefereesI showed up at Referee’s in Old Orchard Beach to sort of surprise the band. Along the way, I couldn’t help but wonder… Does Referee’s book original bands? I thought they had cover bands there. Does Syndicate 19 also do covers? I ended up being the one who was surprised when I walked in, cuz I had no idea that the band is just as strong with a set of cover material as they are with writing and performing their own.

I remember their opening song, because it’s a song that I, myself, get a lot of requests for. “Blister in The Sun” by “The Violent Femmes”. I looked around the room while they performed their opening song only to see the locals standing motionless with their beers kept close, bundled up in warm winter coats. It seemed like it was going to be one of those rooms were everyone eyeballs the band with accusing frowns. But soon, the people began to respond by rolling out onto the dance floor, and then finally rewarding the band with genuine smiles and looks of appreciation.

It must be a natural response, because I see it happen all the time. You get a group of locals who are pretty much used to their routine bands coming and going. Then, this band rolls in who is difficult to judge based on their looks. You got Paul, who could easily be mistaken as a modern-day hippy, and then Leigh who, to a small town local, might seem as though he just stepped out of a flying saucer.

Syndicate 19 - hippy or punk?

Syndicate 19 - hippy or punk?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Leigh’s Mohawk and colored contact lenses. And there’s nothing wrong with Paul’s hippy hair. These guys aren’t dressing up for the gig, they are just being themselves. If they were dressing up for the gig, I’m sure they’d be communicating ideas, and everyone would basically take on a similar appearance. But that’s certainly not the case here, which is why I think some people might have a hard time figuring out what kind of band they are based on their looks.

Syndicate 19 - the drumsOnce the band begins to perform, it’s easy to gauge their sound, but still a little difficult to explain. I guess, my summary would be… Syndicate 19 is a band who’s sounds depends on the song that they are playing. Each song has it’s own formula, and you get the idea by just listening that there’s more going on than just what you hear. The lyrics are soulful and powerful, and the music drives the emotion to the next level. To give it a classification, I’d label them as a modern rock band with some 60’s and 70’s influence.

I found myself fascinated by the drums. I have always appreciated a good drummer, and I really felt that Syndicate 19’s drummer was accurate as a clock, versatile with his playing, and one helluva good performer. His accentric visuals may seem out of place for the band as a whole, but once you get to know Leigh, you realize, he’s not trying to be someone he’s not.

While checking out their myspace profile, I found a pretty cool video of Leigh competing in a Guitar Center Drum-off. I asked if I could include the embedded video at the end of my article, and the guys said, yeah, no problem, that’d be cool. The video itself doesn’t represent the band, it’s just Leigh competing in a Drum competition. But I’m sure you’ll get the idea about his ability to perform just by watching it.

Syndicate 19 - keeping options openSo to wrap up my experiences with Syndicate 19… This is a band who takes the music seriously, but somehow manages to keep it fun while remembering to also keep it real. The band says they’ll play anywhere and everywhere they can.

“Last summer, we played a few gigs at Funtown USA” explained Paul.

Look for the band’s upcoming CD which will be entitled; “Don’t Wait”, soon to be released for itunes, with some tracks currently available to listen to on their myspace profile.

The band recorded the CD in-house within a month to meet the guidelines presented by rpmchallenge.com. The website apparently beckons participating bands to record an album in a month just because you can!

So, what I’m seeing here is a band who’s taking advantage of modern socialization tactics. It’s cool to see technology change, and watch it evolve in whatever direction it’s heading. It’s hard to predict what the future will hold, but in the meantime, a good way to saddle-up and be a part of that evolutionary process is to keep connections with bands like Syndicate 19, who are in active pursuit of discovery!


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