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Not so secret: Guard medic's band is gaining ground

May. 16, 2013 - 04:27PM   |  
The Secret State band members Hunter Schafer, bass and backup vocals; Dan Martiniano, lead vocals and piano; Mike Marx-Gibbons, drums and violin; Josh Jones, guitar and vocals; Danny Espinosa, digital performer.
The Secret State band members Hunter Schafer, bass and backup vocals; Dan Martiniano, lead vocals and piano; Mike Marx-Gibbons, drums and violin; Josh Jones, guitar and vocals; Danny Espinosa, digital performer. (Courtesy of Mitch Schneider Organization)
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The secret is getting out.

If you haven’t heard The Secret State yet, trust us, you will.

The band was founded by an Army Iraq veteran and two Coast Guard midshipmen-turned-downrange contractors, and its single “The Biggest Mistake” has garnered 66 million views since it was first posted on YouTube in September. The song’s official remix, featuring Akon and B.O.B., has tacked on an additional 26 million hits.

This is from a band still polishing its debut album even while getting ready for a summer tour that will help raise money for wounded veterans.

“It’s all kind of crazy,” says drummer Mike Marx-Gibbons, a sergeant in the Maryland Army National Guard, who describes the band’s sound as “the ugly baby of Coldplay and Linkin Park.”

He joined the Army on Sept. 12, 2001, and spent 16 months in Iraq pulling convoy security duty as a medic just after the invasion. Guitarist Josh Jones and DJ Danny Espinosa were football players at the Coast Guard Academy. Although both dropped out before receiving their commissions, they ended up serving in other ways — as contractors in Afghanistan with special ops and counternarcotics units, operating mostly out of Kabul.

Clearly, the band members’ military backgrounds come out in their music. Check out their “Say It’s Over” single on YouTube and you’ll see a story of a fleshy spouse cheating on her soldier husband.

Their latest song, “Fight or Flight,” filmed at the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., promises more military action.

While the song hasn’t even been released yet, the track’s behind-the-scenes, making-of sneak peek has gotten more than 8 million hits. For the “Fight or Flight” video, the band shot at multiple locations around Fort Irwin, including Painted Rocks, where every training rotation leaves its mark with unit patches painted on massive desert boulders. Combat scenes were shot at “Ertebat Shar,” NTC’s mock Afghanistan village.

The soldiers featured in the video are members the National Training Center’s 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.

Set for release May 14, the “Fight or Flight” video was directed and produced by former Army reservist Karen Kraft and Alison Savitch, an award-winning visual effects supervisor and film producer whose credits include “Mortal Kombat,” “The Abyss” and “Terminator 2.”

The two-day shoot at NTC was Marx-Gibbons’ first time at Fort Irwin. “But I had heard the horror stories,” he says. “So I showed up there to do the video a little on edge wondering if I’m going to get locked up by whatever NCO or officer walks by.”

Instead, he ended up partying with the troops and base brass like, well, a rock star. After the first day of shooting, “we all ended up at one of the base bars. Whenever you mix the Army and a rock band together at a bar, it’s a bad situation,” he says with a laugh. “We had a lot of fun. We were doing bear fights — drinking car bombs and Jäger bombs back-to-back, and then everyone growls like a bear and yells ‘bear fight.’ It got a little crazy.”

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