Music News

The Medic Droid’s Electro Power-Pop and Ambisextrous Antics are Driving Kids Wild Nationwide

Zach Daniell is wiped out.

It's the night before Thanksgiving and the 18-year-old New Yorker has just flat-out sprinted through lower Manhattan with his 16-year-old girlfriend Kiki Fausel, his sister, and some friends. Bounding and pounding, they make the frenzied one-mile dash from Washington Square Park to a concert at the Blender Theatre at Gramercy in about 15 minutes.

Daniell and his crew have busted out because they're convinced that headliner The Medic Droid has already launched into its set. The Phoenix electro power-pop duo is in town tonight with L.A.'s hip-hop/nerdcore sensation Hyper Crush and it promises to be a big show, despite rumors of an al-Qaeda plot to bomb the NYC subway system.

Daniell and Fausel are particularly fond of The Medic Droid — in no small part because they first hooked up at the band's gig at The Knitting Factory in May — and were worried they'd miss some of their favorite tracks, like "The Killer Anna" and "FScene8."

Luck's on their side tonight, as they've arrived at the Blender Theatre to discover The Medic Droid isn't going on for another 45 minutes.

Shit. At least they got some exercise.

Chris Donathon, 23-year-old vocalist for The Medic Droid, has heard stories from fans like Daniell and Fausel about how the band's music has affected their lives.

"Kids have told us, 'I met my girlfriend 'cause of this song,' or, 'Your song saved my life,'" Donathon says. "[Our music] makes people feel good and they say, 'Every time I hear it, it just makes me happy and I just wanna start dancing and I just don't care.' They've just got this connection to it."

And he's heard about said connections in cities from Utah to the U.K., as Donathon and guitarist/keyboard player Hector Bagnod have been on a non-stop touring blitz across North America and Great Britain over the past two years, opening for such marquee-level acts as Kill Hannah, Escape the Fate, A Cursive Memory, and The Blackout.

And they're bringing with them a sexy and infectious dance groove that's driving a lot of kids wild.

As other Valley electro-oriented pop bands, like Peachcake and Get Down! To Brass Tacks, have taken their synthesizers into indie and post-punk territories, the boys of The Medic Droid have a different kind of tune. It's a catchy fusion of '80s-style synth and pop with elements of New Wave and hard rock, capped off with a foul-mouthed and occasionally androgynous frontman singing catty lyrics through a vocoder.

Their gigs are rowdy dance parties that have attracted screaming teens and 20-somethings of both sexes, particularly scene kids, emo brats, and MySpace users. And the song they wanna hear is "Fer Sure," a sassy electronica jam that became a MySpace phenomenon and launched The Medic Droid to international renown. They know all the words by heart and sing along en masse, particularly the chorus.

"Pulled up at a stoplight/Did drugs on the dashboard/Look at the mess we made tonight," Donathon sings. "Kick off your stilettos/Kick off your stilettos/And fuck me in the backseat/Fuck me in the backseat."

During gigs, the singer becomes Chris "Fucking" Donathon, a ribald, over-the-top persona who says or does anything — stage-diving, dishing playful insults, even lifting his shirt to show his nipples.

Outside their hometown, the off-the-chain affairs tend toward raucousness. As for The Medic Droid's gigs here in the Valley? Not so much. It may owe to the fact that The Medic Droid has played fewer than a dozen shows in Phoenix since forming less than two years ago.

Before there was the band, there was just the song. In late 2006, Donathon enlisted Bagnod's help to create "Fer Sure" and posted it on MySpace. Within months, it had been heard by millions. After a pair of follow-up songs got an equal reaction, the pair took off on a wild ride of success.

But it might be a case of too much too soon. Though they've enjoyed the past two years of relative fame and fortune, both Donathon and Bagnod admit they're feeling burnout from touring for nearly a year straight.

"Since we started playing shows on the road for almost a year, we haven't had time to fall back and catch ourselves," Bagnod says. "It feels like everything took off so fast, and we wanna have everything catch up to us again and not feel so pressured all the time. It's more than just stress. It's like a very overwhelming feeling. We aren't happy."

Chris Donathon and Hector Bagnod are like brothers from another mother. BFFs for life.

They come from vastly different upbringings, but it feels like they could've been separated at birth.

Donathon was born in Florida but bounced around the country after his mother divorced his drug-addict father (who was convicted of murder after a drug deal gone bad). He lived in Tennessee and Sacramento with his mom and older brother before finally moving to Arizona. He longed to be a vocalist since his days as a loner latchkey kid singing along to Rocket Summer and The Starting Line in a homemade recording studio he built in his closet.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.