Singer and guitarist David Martinez, 28, resides in the Mesa suburbs but hones his musical chops in a rather unexpected place: the small mining town of Superior, about 60 miles east of Phoenix on U.S. 60, where films like The Gauntlet (with Clint Eastwood), Eight Legged Freaks, and The Skinwalkers were filmed.
"There's not a whole lot do to out here," he says on the phone from the garage where his wistful, narrative-driven pop-punk band Safety Patrol rehearses. "We play music. A lot of kids just make trouble."
Safety Patrol will be making the long drive to Phoenix to open for K Records songwriter Generifus at Trunk Space this Sunday, December 9. Though they've played only a handful of shows in the metro area, the band has found a home at the all-ages art space, Martinez says, finding kinship with acts like fellow heart-on-sleeve downtown punks Dogbreth.
Instead of succumbing to small town boredom and the petty hijinks that can result, Martinez battles it with music in a very active way. In addition to his band, he spearheaded a weekly open-invite outdoor music night at a downtown Superior park this summer. "It was pretty cool, people would bring their guitars and drum sets," he says. "We even got paid for it by the town's parks and rec department. Sometimes there would even be free ice cream for everyone."
Safety Patrol began as a solo songwriter jaunt for Martinez, but he didn't have any lasting success with the musicians he tried out in Mesa. He ended up recruiting three Superior players who attended the music in the park events: Jeff Jones, 49; Tyler Kipp, 17; and Eric Smith, 18. "It just fits now," he says. "We all enjoy each other's company and there's no egos anymore."
While he cites the lovelorn lyrical styles of Morrissey and Bright Eyes' Connor Oberst as inspirations, the first songwriter that comes to mind for Martinez when asked about influences is actually a long-time public radio standby: Garrison Keillor, host of the program A Praire Home Companion. "His humor really inspires some of the humor in my songs," he says.
Though they're always welcome at the park, it's become basically essential for Safety Patrol to play out of town. The band used to play regularly at a Superior café, one of very few local spots for live music, but their enthusiasm apparently led to an overstayed welcome.
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"I guess the songs got a little louder than the proprietor wanted them," he laughs.
Safety Patrol is scheduled to perform Sunday, December 9, at the Trunk Space.