Space Porn Heroes 

Optimus Prime arrives to save the scene with a wah-wah pedal and The Beat.

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The ubiquitous bitch about the Salt Lake music scene is the lack of support from club owners. “They’d rather book cover bands and inane rap-rock/white-boy funk bands instead of quality original bands,” goes the complaint, as uttered by so many local musicians, fans and hacks. And it’s true: The clubs don’t make money according to the band they’ve booked. Cash comes from the booty-shakin’ patrons bellying up to the bar. And studies (all conducted at reputable, accredited universities, you can be sure) show that bar receipts and booty-shakin’ are directly proportionate to The Beat. That means your garage/indie/alternative/roots-rock/whatever band, no matter how righteous, is always gonna be second banana to the band that brings the funk.


One club “booking guy” makes a good point, paraphrased here: “What no one realizes is these party bands bring in a lot of money at the bar on weekends, making it possible for us to take chances during the week on other bands that don’t have as big a following.”


It works, at least in theory. A true symbiotic relationship between the party bands and the all-original bands would be a dream. But the argument can still be made that all-original bands should be given a chance on weekends. It’s the sort of dilemma in which one might plead to the skies for a hero—any hero—to come provide relief. I’m here to tell you there is only one hero: Optimus Prime.


Of course, it’s not the heroic leader of the Autobots, pulling a resurrection (coinciding almost perfectly with the release of classic Transformers episodes on DVD). It’s a band that is no less mighty. Its sound, which some call “space porn,” is like a Transformer, says guitarist David Payneful. Sometimes it’s classic blaxploitation funk à la Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield or Bobby Womack. Or it could be regular ol’ funk with a passing resemblance to Parliament/Funkadelic. Other times, it’s just smooth soul. But space porn works. So do a couple of other creative tags.


“More like ‘spaceship flight and blast’ at times,” Payneful says. “Or maybe ‘spaceship cruising over flowers’ at other times. At its best, it’s just cool music. Maybe a cross between Ike & Tina and the Carpenters and all that ’60s and ’70s pop and the Red Bennies [Payneful’s main musical outlet], I’m sure. Whatever gives us boners and makes us think we’re cool.”


And that erection-catalyzing recipe (a cool riff, a catchy chorus, a smooth verse and a solo) is motion potion. Put OP (Payneful, vocalist-flutist Amber Jarvis, drummer Mike Sartain, keyboardist Sean McCarthy and bassist Doug Wright) in front of any club crowd on a Saturday night and, while lacking some of the pomp and bombast of the Disco Drippers, they’re bound to have the same effect. Not only that, but it may be the gilded pathway for those “quality original bands” to get more gigs. The idea being that OP would have the opportunity to promote their other bands—including, but not limited to, Red Bennies, Starmy, True Grit and Quadraphonic—as well as providing opening slots to other original bands.


“It is a fact that the majority of people don’t like to hear anything but covered songs and familiar stuff. Ironically, I believe we fit into a very definite and familiar groove, musically. Our music was designed specifically for preppies to dance to and make ourselves a few hundred bucks, but we are missing that one element: other people’s songs.”


Regardless, it could work, right?


“I think that all of the local bands kick ass. They are all of the highest quality—raw talent spraying from our fingers and eyeballs. I feel lucky to be involved with and be able to discover groups here in town that are like that. Yes, I think it’s a good idea. I would love to get my foot in the door with the accessible OP and hook people on [other bands].”

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