Just think... if Patrick's Head didn't have so many problems holding on to drummers and bass players, the band would sound completely... normal. Thankfully, the three musicians from Philadelphia decided to forge ahead as a trio. The band will be celebrating their latest CD release at the World Cafe (upstairs) in Philadelphia on October 22nd.
Patrick's Head has a unique sound - a mix of acoustic folk and alternative rock ala the Violent Femmes or Replacements. There's a blend of anger and sadness within each song. These are the tales of the working class; songs you hold your glass up high as you sing along with the band. Philadelphia can be a beautiful city and an ugly one as well; such is the inspiration behind the lyrics of Patrick's Head. By combining electric guitar and acoustic guitar at the same time, the band's sound captures the city's essence. It's hard and soft. It's gritty and beautiful. It's a sound that you could imagine hearing on the radio, but lyrics that might be too dangerous for radio. And that's part of its beauty.
The members of Patrick's Head include the Dublin-born singer John Byrne, Patrick Mansfield on electric guitar, and Scot Wikander (formerly from Red Bank, New Jersey) on acoustic guitar.
Scott Wikander described the band's beginnings. "The first couple of years, it was a lot of experimenting. We started out as a 5-piece with the bass, drums and all that. Then we spent two years cycling through bassists and drummers and trying to make it happen. We had a stable of bass players who would show up for different gigs. Just whoever was available. Then we lost our drummer and we were looking for another drummer while we were trying to find a permanent bass player. We did that for about two years and just got sick of it. We weren't spending any time writing songs. We were spending all of our time trying to find people and then when we'd find somebody we were spending all of our time teaching them the songs. And then they would stick around for two months and they'd leave and the whole process would start over again. But the three of us had been there the whole time, so we said maybe we don't need anybody else."
The idea of a 3-piece rock trio is rather unique for Philadelphia or anywhere else for that matter. The idea of mixing an electric guitar with an acoustic guitar makes the band even more unique. Surprisingly the combination works extremely well.
"The 3-piece was actually a bit of design," explained Wikander. "Patrick had always felt that it would be a cool thing to do to have just the acoustic and the electric guitar by themselves. It works out well because the guitars don't fight each other. It has a full sound that tends to surprise people. For whatever reason it tends to come off bigger than it does."
Patrick's Head has put out three records including their debut "Conversation With Baby", "Buy Us A Pint", and their last release "A Mild Case Of Something Weird..." which came out in 2003. The upcoming release started out as the recording of a single song that has become a crowd favorite and developed into the recording of an entire record. All three members of the band contribute songs to each record. Although each of them has very different musical influences (one loves Dylan, one despises Dylan) the songs have a consistent feel without sounding too much alike.
"For some reason, we tend to write songs very similarly," said Wikander. "We just get together and everybody brings a group of songs to the table. We'll play our songs and then it kind of goes through an approval process. Basically, the other two people will pick songs out of the ones you brought. From that we'll end up with a handful of songs and once we have the songs that we all agree are good songs we sit down and play them."
The World Cafe, where the band will have their record release party, has become something of a home away from home for the band. They have had numerous shows there and have been asked appear on the popular radio station WXPN several times. The band primarily stays within the Philadelphia area right now, but they would love to be able to play out more. The main obstacle right now is time and money. The goal is to keep playing before more and more people each time. If you've never seen Patrick's Head live you're in for an exciting show. The band practically has to be dragged off stage because they love performing so much.
"We're basically just greedy!" laughed Wikander. "We just like to keep playing and we have all this music. We never want to take breaks."
You can purchase all of the band's records at their official website www.patrickshead.com as well solo CDs from Patrick Mansfield and John Bryne. In addition to the CD Release Show on October 22nd at the World Cafe (3025 Walnut Street - University City) in Philadelphia, the band will be at the Lond Grill (23rd & Fairmount) in Philadelphia on October 27th.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.