SP3 Brings The Funk

After moving to Des Moines in 2010 and getting involved in the music scene through another act, California native Steve Pellow decided to create his own outlet. He hand picked a few musicians, and set about crafting SP3's dance-infused funk personality.

“All of us had played in two different groups,” Pellow said of his SP3 bandmates. “We'd spent quite a few years playing in those bands together, and I decided to make a new band, and put together a group of musicians I enjoyed playing with, playing music that I wanted to.”

To create SP3's sound, Pellow relies mainly upon drummer Evan Cokeley and bassist Brandon Haynes. But percussionist Cecil White and saxophonist Kyle Gowin make frequent appearances, along with a rotating stable of horns, guitars and auxiliary musicians as needed.

“We called ourselves SP3, obviously, but we decided early on that we wouldn't let ourselves be limited by a name,” Pellow said. “So we grow and shrink in size depending on the show.”

That affords SP3 a ton of flexibility and, in turn, gives them a huge diversity in their sound. When the act was booked to play Des Moines dance festival 515 Alive, the lineup consisted of more synth and a heavier bass sound. Meanwhile, the SP3 that played Jazz in July featured more horns and a funkier feel.

“The real variable behind it is budget,” Pellow admits of the changing live lineup. “But musically, it's a matter of what members I need to bring in to fill the card appropriately.”

That flexibility carries over to the band's albums as well. Pellow and his cohorts released one album shortly before the band's first 80/35 appearance, and now they are at a point that Pellow describes as “six months into” preparations for album number two, to be titled “Rise Above and Rage.”

“This album that we're doing now is a little different,” he explained. “We've opened the doors for some instruments that we've not had before. Cellos and that sort of thing.”

With so many players contributing, it makes the songwriting process fairly fluid; something that Pellow believes helps make SP3's sound as vibrant as it is.

“I may have (written a track) as a 120 BPM funk song, and it gets turned into a slow blues song,” he said of the input his bandmates have. “I let them breathe their parts into it, chew it up, spit it out and see if it works. It usually does.”

Originally appeared in Cityview January 7, 2015