Face Time: Matthew Elie, the cop who sings

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Lead singer for Civil Disturbance, Matt Elie, during a recent practice jam with his band. To watch a video of a song from their upcoming release, visit sunjournal.com (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

When Matthew Elie was in the second grade, his teacher asked the class to draw what they wanted to be when they grew up. He drew himself in a police uniform, running after a bad guy with a bag full of money. 

Not too many years after that, he realized that chasing robbers wasn’t the only thing he might like to do. He was a pretty good singer, too. At least if the songs he sang in the shower were any indication.

Thirty years later, Elie has made both childhood dreams come true. By day, he’s an Auburn police officer. By night, he’s the lead singer in a band. 

That band’s name? Civil Disturbance.

Name: Matthew Elie

Age: 38

Town: Lewiston

Did you always want to be a police officer? Yes, ever since I was in the second grade. However, the idea became more of a serious and realistic goal right around the time I turned 18 and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

Best part of the job? For me, the long and short of it is this: Much like it was an honor for me to serve my country, it is an honor for me to serve my community because I feel what I do serves a greater good for the betterment of our society, which instills in me a sense of pride, knowing that I’m doing my part. And that is quite possibly the best intangible reward of all.

Most challenging part? Dealing with those incidents that you absolutely cannot forget about. Some of the things you see as a law enforcement officer, they haunt you, and no matter how hard you may try to leave it at work and put it behind you, it just follows you forever.

I hear you’re also lead singer in a band called Civil Disturbance. How’d it get that name? Well, when the band first formed in April of 2003, we all discussed our ideas of possible band names. Having started my law enforcement career, I had been browsing through the list of 10-codes (shorthand codes that officers use for incidents) and saw “10-70: Civil Disturbance.” I thought to myself, “That would be a pretty cool name for our band.” So I mentioned the thought and the rest is history.

Our music is hard, melodic rock that is filled with energy and raw emotion. We thrive on writing and performing our own material because there is nothing more satisfying than seeing people rock out and sing along to the music we created.

Your bandmates have come and gone. What’s kept you sticking with it? It’s a huge passion of mine, so it’s very difficult NOT to stick with it. Writing lyrics, marrying them with music and performing our songs has served as a very effective and positive outlet for me.

What got you interested in singing? I’ve always loved music, but the first glimmer of interest I can recall stems from singing “Because I Love You” by Stevie B in the bathroom after a shower when I was, I don’t know, 10 years old maybe? Haha! Wait, this isn’t going to print, is it!?

Writing your own songs — hard or easy to do? It depends. There have been times where I’ve written the lyrics for an entire song in one sitting, and others where it’s taken months. Musically, it’s been the same. Sometimes everything falls into place in an instant and other times it’s taken a lot of effort.

Tell me about your new album: This will be our fourth (third studio) album, and it will be titled “Mercy and Misery,” with an expected release during this upcoming spring. What I love about this album in particular is that every band member’s musical contribution and talent is distinctly expressed through the diversity of each one of our songs, and it is such an accurate representation of who we are as individuals, as well as who we all have become as a band. When it’s released, it will be available for purchase at our shows, on iTunes and on many other digital platforms, as well.

Do your day job and hobby ever mix? If you’re asking if they conflict, the answer is no. I mean, when I’m at work, I’m at work. When I’m performing, I’m out there to release a little energy and have some fun. But I’ve been out at shows and have run into people who would ask me, “Hey, aren’t you a cop?” And I’ve also interacted with people throughout the course of my job as a police officer who would ask, “Hey, aren’t you the lead singer for Civil Disturbance?” So, it’s been more of a talking point throughout the last almost 15 years more than anything.

Would you ever want to quit being a police officer to sing full time? If I could earn a sizable income and make a decent living out of it, sure. I mean, doesn’t everyone dream of being a famous rock star!? Haha! But back here on earth, I think I’ll stick with the dream I worked to make a reality.

Favorite singer or band? That’s a difficult one to answer because I have a very eclectic musical taste. I like most everything from Frank Sinatra to Children of Bodom, from doo-wop to country and everything in between. But a few of my many favorites include Billy Joel, Cold, In This Moment, Jackie Wilson and Nirvana.

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Civil Disturbance lead singer Matt Elie, center, takes a break with the band during a recent practice session. From left to right: Adam Lamb, rhythm guitar, Billy Farnum, bass guitar, Ryan Boutot percussion, Elie and Matt Tifft, lead guitar. To watch a video of a song from their upcoming release, visit sunjournal.com (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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