Ward Richmond toured the country with rockabilly/Americana band Slick 57, which also includes The O's John Pedigo. The band has opened for Wilco and Frank Black. In 2002, DallasMusic.com named Richmond Instrumentalist of the Year.
Richmond has just sent me a text message from a rehearsal for the first show of his new band, Party Police. It's tonight, September 13, at Three Links, as part of the Elm Street Tattoo and Music Festival. This band also features Pedigo and artist Madison King, a respected East Dallas fixture and gifted songwriter. Here's what the text message says: "I am testing out a smoke machine and trying on my bullet proof vest right now." Those both rank pretty low on the list of ridiculous things about Party Police.
Higher on the list is the band's discography, which to date consists of five songs. You can
, and their subjects run the gamut from "drinking" to "drinking by pools."
Higher still on the list are the music videos for these songs. There are four so far, though the fifth is doubtless coming soon. That is the formula: Song comes out, then video, roughly one of either per month. Those videos are patently neanderthal affairs, featuring the trio's friends suggestively pawing at themselves and mugging at the camera. There is alcohol everywhere. In the most recent video, Richmond ends up sprawled across the keg with beer dribbling out of his mouth. Which is funny, if you know him, because he drinks only sparingly these days.
You could say that about a lot of things Party Police does. It's funny, if you know them. It's meant to be a joke, sort of, in the sense that it doesn't accurately reflect the lives of anyone creating this stuff. Richmond is happily married, in spite of this line from "Totally Bitchin'": "Tall hot and skinny/I bent Jenny over/bitch called me the East Dallas bulldozer."
But it's not exactly a satire, either. Richmond doesn't object to drinking/partying/etc. He did that shit for years. "We try to make it so you can't tell," he says when I ask him if I'm supposed to take the band seriously. They're definitely a caricature, and hedonism in pop music is a sacred tradition dating back to before Elvis Presley and his hips. On the other hand, the music's most favorable comparison is 3OH!3, which I wouldn't exactly call an artistic vote of confidence.
Here's what Richmond will say: "You want to watch it for escape. Everyone involved is doing this for fun."
There's something to that. With Slick 57, he did the grind of an up-and-coming band. He slept in the van, etc. They did the press hustle and played SXSW and all that. Then one day Richmond woke up thinking, "I don't want to be a professional musician." So he got a job in real estate and a stable life. Slick 57 still plays occasionally, and he and Pedigo formed a country band called Boys Named Sue. That band is definitely fun, but it doesn't beg the same incredulity as Party Police. They won our Best Country band award in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010, in fact.
"I thought, 'Why not make party country?'" says Richmond of BNS. Pedigo recently started screwing around with beats, and Richmond saw another opportunity to have fun. "I can sit down and play all the Party Police songs, and all the Sue songs, and they sound the same."
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It's not about credibility, obviously, but if you're still a skeptic on that front, here are some of the band's recent co-signs: Dallas tattoo godfather Oliver Peck has directed the videos. A.Dd+'s Slim Gravy lends a verse to "Pool Party" and shows up in the video. Larry G(ee)'s in the newest song. Peel your eyes off the bouncing asses in those clips and see how many Dallas music fixtures you count. It's a lot.
So Party Police is here, and they'll keep putting out videos until they're bored. You have a few options as a consumer of music. You can ignore it and go on with your life or you can show up to tonight's show. It will probably be a good time. Richmond suggests you not spend a lot of time trying to figure out whether there's a joke, and if so whether it's on you or them, because he doesn't even really know. "Madison says it's a joke that we take very seriously," he says. "I just want it to be fun."