Band of Merry Musicians Finds a Voice, and a Home, in Somerville

Amy Douglas, Rob Phillips and Daymeyn Gantt make up SPF 5000, a Somerville-based band that defies labels. Though if you had to give it one (or five), it would be something like post-modern rock/pop with dance overtones that has heavy new wave and funk influences. Basically, you can’t help but move when you listen to it, which is exactly what these super fun, super talented and super dedicated musicians want.

Douglas told a story about a show SPF 5000 played at Middlesex Lounge in Cambridge where the audience started out subdued, barely swaying to the music. All it took was for one girl to begin moving and the whole crowd followed.

“They can’t help themselves,” said Douglas, the band’s ringleader and main vocalist.

“It’s one thing to see it and it’s another thing to cause it,” added Gantt, SPF’s singer, dancer and ruckus-causer.

“We will make you care,” said Phillips, a producer who plays bass, keyboard, guitar and just about anything other electronic device you can name. “In order to get there, we completely put ourselves into it.”

Amy Douglas, Rob Phillips and Daymeyn Gantt

That means spending a lot of time at Douglas’ Teele Square home, which is appointed with a recording studio, where they work, and the Polynesian Porch, where they play. Phillips and Gantt live nearby and work flexible jobs (as a yoga instructor and hotel concierge, respectively) so they can spend as much time as possible working on SPF 5000.

All of this hard work is paying off too, as the band is currently negotiating a six-song EP and music video due out in early 2013. While SPF 5000 is the group’s main focus, they have several side projects as well.

“We all inspire and challenge each other,” Gantt said.

“SPF 5000 is the nucleus of a mushroom cloud,” Douglas said. She and Phillips also front the Feints, a hard-rock band that they say is the other side of the SPF 5000 coin.

All three members of SPF are from the tri-state area, but didn’t meet until they found themselves in Boston. Douglas is a lifelong New Yorker and Phillips and Gantt are friends from way back in New Jersey.

Phillips came to Boston about eight years ago to attend the Berklee College of Music. He loved the scene so much that he invited Gantt to check it out. All it took was one look at the Harvard Bridge for Gantt to fall in love and decide to move to the area.

Douglas, who knew Phillips from their work in the music industry, came to Boston after her husband, who worked in the financial technology industry, found himself, like many others, laid off during the recession. They decided to leave New York and start over elsewhere. After driving around nearly every neighborhood in Boston, Douglas said she knew they were home when they came to Somerville.

It was the employees at the car wash on Somerville Ave. dressed like the Munsters for Halloween, the small shops in Union Square and a drive up Highland Ave. that convinced Douglas she had found a place to settle.

“This it it, this is the place” she said she thought while driving around on her first visit to Somerville. “I know these people.”

Douglas and her husband found a home near Teele Square where they had room for a recording studio to work in and lots of common space, including a killer second-floor porch, to play in.

Gantt and Phillips live nearby, having moved to Somerville a couple of years ago after spending some time across the river.

“I felt an immediate shift when I moved here,” Phillips said of trading Allston for Somerville. “It feels like a neighborhood, there’s a good mix of families and young people. There’s a more hip crowd than elsewhere in the city. The pace is slower and the people are friendlier.”

Gantt has an especially deep connection to the city, as his mother was born in Somerville … New Jersey that is. As a child, he always knew he wanted to live in Somerville, he just didn’t know that the one he would end up in was a few states away.

“That’s what I’d been longing for,” Gantt said. “I’m a ‘burb boy, but I love the city. Here you get out quickly. I work in downtown Boston and as soon as I’m done with my day, I get to come back. The stress melts away.”

“As far as I’m concerned, Somerville needs to annex itself from Boston and get it over with,” Douglas said. “Somerville is nothing like Boston. It’s palatially urban. There’s a reason why chefs are flocking here, why food is booming here. Somerville is largely about local businesses. Somerville feels right now like a very hip town, it has the making to be the hippest town in the Northeast. It’s a wonderful model of a city for the future.”

And Somerville has provided SPF 5000 the things it needs to find success, namely the space–both physically and creatively–to make music and a place to call home.

“We converted this place into being able to create shit tons of amazing content,” Douglas said of her Teele Square abode. “We have blessings of resources and are all people who want the same thing. We execute, we conduct experiments and work really hard.”

And you can see the merry musicians of Somerville playing right here at home on November 29 when SPF 5000 has a show at Radio (381 Somerville Ave.) in Union Square.

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