Anyone born before 1995 will attest to three gospel truths about their childhood – there will never be an accessory that tops the yo-yo, Game Boy Color was Nintendo’s creative peak, and when it came to rock music, ska ruled the post-grunge era. For the younger players among us, when it comes to ska think baggy shorts, guitars, skateboards…and trombones. Of course, to categorise ska as predominantly “punk” is to do its origins a huge injustice, although the fusion of both did end up defining ska when it hit the mainstream.
While the genre may have had only the briefest of moments in the sun, it laid the foundation for an underground scene that has maintained a smaller but feverishly loyal cult following, one that the upcoming Ska Nation Outdoor Music Festival can attest to. In celebration of the inaugural multi-day event, here are six modern ska bands flying the flag for all things riffs and horns.
1. The Interrupters
These LA reggae/punk party-starters are at the forefront of the ska underground phenomenon, wracking up millions of views on their singles, scoring a deal with Epitaph Records and even appearing on the cover of Kerrang in 2019. Billy Kottage, formerly of Reel Big Fish, is even a touring member – what more of an endorsement do you need?
2. Popes of Chillitown
Only a band with this name could combine hip hop and reggae sensibilities with thunderous rock, punk and even metal tropes in such an effective way. Coming out of the UK, their adrenaline-fueled music has an edge afforded to them by the influence of UK dub – particularly noticeable with singer Matt Conner, who weaves in and out from pop punk to furious bars with alarming ease. As their album says: Work Hard, Play Hard, See You In The Graveyard.
3. Loin Groin
When it comes to Aussie ska, you can’t go wrong with a band that throws together guitars, saxophone, keys and trumpet to pump out songs titled ‘Chicken Parma’ and ‘VB Ska’. A band from Melbourne that sing about and embody everything that Melbournites love about their city (‘My Team Plays on Friday’ could only come from a sports-mad Vic), this is city charm with exceptional musicianship to top it off.
4. The Resignators
If you’re after some of that Midnight Oil flavoured pub rock goodness, you could do a lot worse than this raucous seven-piece. While their sound is firmly rooted in a ‘vintage’ atmosphere that will make you croon for a Rose Tattoo or Baby Animals revival, there’s something anthemic to their tunes that make them sound as exciting today as ever.
5. The Pirateska Rebellion
Pirate-themed heavy metal is one thing. Pirate-themed ska? Sure! Throw in some songs that are half-English, half-Spanish and fusing anything and everything from bluegrass, roots and all? Now we’ve really got something interesting on our hands. Describing themselves as an international reggae/ska/fusion act, this is the sound of Jack Sparrow in a Caribbean karaoke bar (it’s probably happened, tbh). They embody the very spirit of ska, bringing together a myriad of styles in a huge cauldron, with dancing the only prerequisite. And boy, do the Pirateska Rebellion meet that brief.
6. The Bennies
It wouldn’t be a proper list if we excluded Aussie favourites The Bennies (or as we described them during our last feature, a stunning hybrid of punk, reggae, and ska.) When we spoke to them recently, Snes gave us the heads up that The Bennies would be dropping something new before the year is out, but they’ll also be hitting the Ska Nation fest this October. As they continue to build upon their legacy as one of Australia’s favourite bands ever, there’s no denying that The Bennies are a sign of not only ska but Australian music keeping alive and well.
Ska Nation Festival 2021
Friday, 29th October – Saturday, 30th October
Ti Tree Hotel, Warrion VIC
Tickets: Ska Nation
The Isolators (SA)
House Arrest (WA)
The Pirateska Rebellion
Alla Spina (QLD)
Special Guests TBA