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Half of the members of The Fish Police have autism, and they completely rocked SXSW


The Fish Police blend funk, soul and rap into a dance party of alternative pop music that is fully its own vibe.

"It's a nuerodiverse band, with people who are disabled and people who are not disabled," said Dean Rodney, Jr., the vocalist of The Fish Police. Dean and Matthew Howe, who plays guitar, both have autism.

The Fish Police - Fishwater (Official Music Video)

The long-running group formed in 2006 out of a music class at Heart n Soul, a London-based arts charity. Charles Stuart, who plays bass, was teaching a class to Dean and Matthew.

"I kind of started working with people with special needs in the arts. And that was my journey to working with Heart n Soul, and hence that's where I met Dean," said Charles.

Charles and Dean write the songs together, by sending ideas back and forth until lyrics and a song emerge. The lyrics show the audience how Dean sees the world, with thematic influences ranging from computer games to fast food to house plants.

The Fish Police - Japanese Girl - Live at Good Times 2017

"I hear stuff, what people say, sometimes. Or I see pictures of people doing things on the internet. And I start to think, yeah that should be a Fish Police song," said Dean. "Some of the songs are about chicken, like food references. Some songs are about relationships. And some songs are about a place called 'fishwater.' It's like a different dimension where a bunch of people have fun, and they swim in the water."

The rhythm section is rounded out by Andrew Mclean on drums. Both Charles and Andrew play in Grace Jones's live band, thus laying a refined musical foundation for the group.

Grace Jones - I've Seen That Face Before (Libertango)

And while the music may seem simple and direct on the surface, The Fish Police often inhabit a more high-brow art world. The last time they played the US, they performed at New York's Lincoln Center. And before their set at SXSW, Dean spoke on a panel titled "Exploring Music Through the Lens of Nuerodiversity."

"We were talking about a thing called nuerodiversity, and talking about the way people see things. Like everyone has a different brain," said Dean.

The Fish Police said they appreciated the opportunity to play SXSW.

"To play here is just an absolute honor for us," said Charles.

The Fish Police - 'Chicken Nuggets For Me' at The Squidz Club, June 2008

But the "massive" festival, in the words of Dean, did not phase them.

"When I perform on stage, I never get nervous."

"Never?" Charles asked.

"No, never," answered Dean. "Some people do. And some people don't."

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