Gil Mantera's Party Dream have refined and reinvented themselves. But don't worry; the guys are still in touch with their inner assholes — literally and figuratively.
As a duo, the Youngstown brothers were once best known for analog nü-wave, an obnoxious shtick of Andrew "Dice" Clay impressions and — when shows needed an extra push — the occasional insertion of candles and beer cans in, ahem, places candles and beer cans don't normally go.
Now the group is a trio with the addition of drummer A.E. Paterra. (Paterra also drums in Zombi, the sonically compatible analog-synth soundscape-rock band from Pittsburgh.)
"We like it," says frontman Ultimate Donny. "It's cooler. We feel more like a band than [when we just had] a couple of dudes up there, playing electronic beats. And [Paterra]'s super tight too. He's kind of an asshole too, in his own way."
The group has also changed its name to GMPD — sort of. Donny says the new title might not be permanent, even though it's on the artwork of the new album, Dreamscape.
"We've been talking for years about shortening it," explains Donny. "It's not an easy thing to remember. [Like with] Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark. OMD flows a lot better on the marquee. It's just a simplification. I don't think it's a case where we have some brand recognition, and we're losing it because of this."
The OMD reference is appropriate. New tracks like "Ballerina" are loving '80s homages, from new-romantic lyrics to electro-pulse percussion. Pop gem "Get Sirius" sounds like the Cure's yearning "A Night Like This" worked over with a Roland keyboard, Devo-model drums and a vocorder. Donny insists underneath the increasingly sophisticated dance music, the band is still obnoxious.
"I think we just wanted to showcase some solid songwriting," he says. "[We're] showing off a bunch of different flavors. This one song ['Supra Natura'] is just for weirdos. It's like nine minutes, on the end of the record. You have to be kind of an asshole to create the song."
The band started recording with its previous album's producer, Shane X. Conry, a noted Madonna remixer who recorded Dreamscape's first single, a guitar-heavy take on "Ballerina." Ironically, the new disc took a softer, dancier turn when their schedules conflicted and the band decided to record locally. They did much of the work in Pittsburgh with Paterra at the helm, recording the vocals at Cleveland's Rock Solid studios with sludge king Rob Stevens of 100,000 Leagues Under My Nutsack infamy.
GMPD released their last album, 2005's improbably poignant Bloodsongs, on Audio Eagle, the locally based indie label owned by Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney. For Dreamscape, they didn't even explore label interest. They just independently released it and went back on the road.
"The key for us is to make sure a lot of people see us," says Donny. "I think one of the artistic goals is to play to 800-1,500 people a night when we tour, which means we'll have enough money for the ridiculous stage props we want — a legit light show, real fog. I would like a basketball hoop onstage, so when Gil's doing his vocorder songs, I could practice my jump shot. I've always wanted a whole family room set on the stage."
More than ever, you don't have to see GMPD live to get it. But it helps. Keyboardist/vocorder-vocalist/sometimes-bassist Gil Mantera has continued developing his self-taught dance routines, which unfurl like a mutated, slow-motion form of ballet. Paterra's presence has freed up the frontmen to explore new forms of chaos — or possibly control. They're taking it one show at a time.
"New songs, a new drummer — there could be some similarities [to the duo shows]," says Donny. "I could impart some wisdom, like a VH-1 Storytellers-type situation. It could be wild. It could be tame. It could be a disaster. Who the hell knows?"