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    Pope Syndicate

    Pope will eat itself

    Or do almost anything else to connect with its fans around the world, as these hard rockers use talent, the Internet and their home CD burners to spread the Pope Syndicate's gospel.


    In the simple old days, taking care of your fans meant saying, "Youve been a great audience" at the end of each show and handing out a few backstage passes to the cute girls and the guitar fanatics. Today you've got to have a band web site and MP3s and answer e-mail from around the world. But even that wasn't enough for the polished hard-rock outfit from Westchester called Pope Syndicate.

    David Portal (guitar, vocals)
    Jordan Marion (bass)
    Mike Bambace (drums)
    Joe Salvatore (guitar).

    Related links: Official site
    Available from

     Energy Pimps
    Blown   RA  MP3
    Conflicts   RA  MP3
    Dark Days   RA  MP3
    I'll Drive   RA  MP3
    Lenore   RA  MP3
    Skin Deep   RA  MP3
    Veer   RA  MP3
    When to Breathe   RA  MP3
    © Pope Syndicate. Used by permission.
    If a fan wants a free CD, no problem. A box of 25 to give out to friends? Sure, as quick as we can burn 'em. Guitar music to one of the bands songs? They've been known to write those up on demand and e-mail them out too.

    "People write to us and say, 'I'd really love to learn how to play that song,' and we e-mail them the chords," says bassist Jordan Marion.

    "We go to any length for our fan base," adds drummer Mike Bambace.

    And fans around the world are rewarding them by spreading the word and the discs. Alongside big-label street teams promoting the top rock acts to fans outside concert venues, you might find the band members or their volunteer street teams doing the same — not just here but in Chicago, the West Coast, even as far away as Malta and New Zealand (home of an extremely devoted fan whose online handle is "holey_snot").

    A few years ago, bandleader Dave Portal and Marion were in a much different place — playing in a Grateful Dead-inspired jam band called Spywagon. The songs were loose and improvisational and so was the attitude. Until the time came to either start taking music really seriously or forget it.

    "The rehearsals were getting fewer and farther between, and a friend said, 'Dave, you need to sink your teeth into something,' " Portal says. "I decided I didn't want to create a band that was going to be like Spywagon or any of the others."

    The result is Pope Syndicate, a supertight post-grunge quartet with big fat guitar riffs, fierce, throaty vocals, and sheer determination to be the best they can be. Honestly, for a week or so I always had at least one of the band's (free) discs in my CD changer alongside those of Bush, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and the like, and once a day I had to get up and check because I wasn't sure which one was playing — it was Pope Syndicate every time.

    "I kind of look at it like a soup, as funny as that sounds. You can put anything in it as long as it comes out tasting good."  
    — David Portal  

    "Veer" (hear it on RealAudio or MP3) is the fan favorite, judging from a general consensus on the band's Internet message board. The singing style reminds me of Eddie Vedder — starting slow and cool, then suddenly bursting into a hoarsely passionate shout on top of slashing guitar chords.

    The lyrics reflect an anguish about breaking away from the expectations of others — including a girlfriend, maybe — to follow one's own path.

    I want to fly,
    Veer away from this norm in my life.
    I've been no help to stick with my routine and strife.

    Look at my situation,
    Girl, I'm prone to all my problems here.
    Is it me or someone else?
    I must veer from you.
    I must steer away from you.

    If anyone on the message board has any relationship advice for the guy in the song, I haven't come across it, but half a dozen people did advise the band to play the song at an upcoming CBGB gig on the grounds that it kicks ass. (No argument here.)

    With the addition this year of guitarist Joe Salvatore and with a repertoire of 30 or 40 stage-ready songs, the band members feel settled in but not done developing. The latest material plays with odd time signatures, unorthodox structures, rap-rock and some murkier, jazzier sounds. (For a taste of that, try "Skin Deep" on RA, MP3.)

    "We don't have the typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus that A&R people are looking for," Portal explains. "We'll throw that hook in there for you, no problem, but we're going to put it in a different time signature. When I write, I have to keep in different."

    "I kind of look at it like a soup, as funny as that sounds. You can put anything in it as long as it comes out tasting good."

    APRIL 22, 2002

    Reader comments on Pope Syndicate:

  • Pope Syndicate Rocks   from Gary Harmon, Apr 23, 2002
  • Pope Syndicate kicks ass   from jeremy h., Apr 23, 2002
  • Blowing up   from Matt, Apr 23, 2002
  • Top Shelf   from Kenny B, Apr 24, 2002
  • GREATNESS   from Jeanie, Apr 27, 2002
  • Re: GREATNESS   from DONALD FORD, Nov 22, 2005
  • Post on their message board   from Reso, Apr 28, 2002
  • u guys kick ass   from holey_snot, Apr 29, 2002
  • Rocking   from Ada, May 20, 2002
  • !!!   from Katie, Aug 11, 2002
  • haha   from Anonymous, Aug 11, 2002
  • This guys sucked   from Bobby, Mar 5, 2003

  • Post a comment on "Pope Syndicate"