Summer of Ska

I think ska music is the most fun, upbeat music in the world. Also, I think that Reel Big Fish is the coolest band ever.


Hi Bre. You’re on my website now. Do you like ska music?


But do you like ska music? Y’know, that dance music that originated in the 70’s or something in Jamaica, went to the UK in the 80’s, and then got big for like a few years here in the US in the latter half of the 90’s? A lot of the stuff being “ska-punk,” or ska with punk elements (or punk with ska elements)? Horns? Upbeats? Skankin’? Checkered articles of clothing? Etc.?


Members of Save Ferris turned into a band called “Starpool,” after their star-shaped pool that they had parties around down in Orange County Land, apparently. Though Monique isn’t involved with it. Apparently she started a new incarnation of Save Ferris in 2013, and fought a legal battle with other band members. Save Ferris is gonna have a new EP some time this summer, apparently.


Yeah, bands splitting gets ugly sometimes, eh? Like Tomas Kolnaky with Catch 22 and Streetlight, Joe Escalante and Steve-O with the Vandals, or Danzig with the Misfits… though he’s collaborating with them again, apparently.


Oh yeah, huh? Well, don’t you get how intertwined ska music is with punk music? At least the Third Wave, which is all I really know. Experts say that ska-punk goes all the way back to the Clash in the late 70’s!


Yeah! People who know things! The Clash did it way before Operation Ivy or Rancid! But yeah, I wouldn’t really count the Clash in the 3rd wave, since they ended in the mid 80’s… One of the first 3rd Wave Ska acts that I know of (aside from Op Ivy ad Rancid) is Skankin’ Pickle. Those guys were pretty awesome. Their first album, “SkaPunkRastaFunk,” kinda indicated what their sound was like in those days. I think they got more solidly ska-punk by their Green album, however. So yeah, they were gettin’ popular… and then Mike Park decided he didn’t want to do it anymore.


Yeah, but then he founded Asian Man Records, the Bruce Lee Band, and the Chinkees.


It’s okay, he’s Asian. Also, he’s really cool. My brother would write him to ask if he could use his bands’ music in his movies, and he’d say “yeah.” From most accounts, he’s a really nice guy, and he seems it whenever you read his stuff on social media, as well. Anyway, it was about the time that Skankin’ Pickle ended that Reel Big Fish’s “Sell Out” got played on Mtv, and the Summer of Ska happened… unless it happened a couple years later. Not really sure if it happened in ’96 or ’98, but whatever year it was, it was pretty awesome. Maybe it was both, or all 3, if you count ’97. What were you doin’ in ’97, Bre?


You have good tastes! Although Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake were probably the biggest names out of the Third Wave, and a couple of the only bands still touring as ska acts. The Aquabats decided they didn’t want to be ska anymore, for whatever reason… But yeah; Less Than Jake’s first big hit was supposed to be “Dopeman.” They made a video for it for Mtv and everything… it never got aired, because it was about a “Dopeman.” Go figure. Also, Reel Big Fish are supposedly “One Hit Wonders,” though both them and LTJ have strong followings to this day.


So they say. They say the same thing about Five Iron Frenzy… I think FIF agrees with them, though. Five Iron was a christian ska band with crossover appeal, btw. A big part of my teenage years, but then they broke up when I graduated… and then they got back together a few years ago, and put out one of their strongest albums to date, “Engine of a Million Plots.” You should check it out. It was crowdfunded, too; made a lot more than the goal was. Actually, I think Save Ferris’s upcoming EP was also crowdfunded. Lotsa bands doing that these days.


Yup… anyway, there are/were a lot of ska bands from the Third Wave, but talking about them all would take effort, and I’m lazy. The Bosstones were another big time band in the genre, and Sublime and No Doubt are frequently referred to as ska, but weren’t really.


Because I decided I wanted to draw more than one anthropomorphic animal looking annoyed at me.


There we go. So whaddya think, Todd?


What about Ska King Crab? Best Take On Me cover ever, eh, eh?


Dude, that’s harsh.


When I was really small, I remember once that my dad gave me a sip of his beer. Not sure what he was drinking; it came in a can, and it was probably a domestic of some sort, like Bud or PBR. It tasted very bitter, and I didn’t desire another sip.

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There’s also a picture of me at a park somewhere, sitting in the dirt next to some empty cans of beer. I don’t recall anyone being drunk in those early years, though I remember drawing pictures of Warcraft II orcs and trolls for my brother in 96, as he sat out in the front lawn after a few drinks. He asked me if I could draw something more peaceful or something, and then he threw up. I saw tomato slices in the barf; maybe he’d eaten Mexican? It didn’t distress me at all that he was throwing up, for some reason; I just thought, “Oh well, that’s what happens sometimes when you’re drunk. Also, he is my hero and I don’t care what decisions in life that he makes, he will still be my hero. I will probably also puke in the front lawn, some day.”

At some point in the next few years, I was exposed to my brothers’ friends. They were mostly in bands in the next town over (which was also where the university was, consequently). Also, they were very rowdy and silly. Mostly, they were in punk rock or ska punk bands, and their desire was probably to see how much nonsense they could get away with. Also, probably to get laid, I dunno.

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My eldest went to college with a lot of those guys, and my middle brother started hanging out with them a few years later when he moved out of the house. My eldest did his touring band thing and largely remained the same, but my middle brother changed during this period, I think. There was a much larger focus on partying and going to bars for him than there’d ever been. He gained the nickname “Robot” downtown with that crowd, and occasionally would sing some songs for these local bands.

A couple years before I turned 21, I stayed the night at a brothers’ friend’s place. This was the first night that I drank; I had at least a couple beers, maybe a shot, or maybe a mixed drink, I don’t remember for sure. I just recall my brother’s friend informing him that, yeah, I was gone. I’m not totally sure I was, but the suggestion made me act sillier than I might have, I think. Later on, I turned 21, and my sister and brother in law took me out. Some of my brothers’ friends were there, and one of them bought me an Irish car bomb, a drink that I found quite tasty. Again, the people with me thought I was far gone, but I’m not sure if I was. No, I was definitely drunk a couple weeks later with some friends; I blacked out part of the night, and the next day was my first experience with being hung over. It was not as unoffensive as I remember my brother’s hungover incident being. It kinda sucked.

After I turned 21, I would go out with my middle brother to the bars, and people would buy me drinks (which was awful nice of them. I kinda miss being 21, based on that fact.) Then we would walk across town, back to his apartment, and pass out. I have lots of memories of those walks, in January and February when it was cold, and not caring because I was drunk (just wanting to get back so I could go to sleep).

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The bar crawls felt like a rite of passage, but lacked total legitimacy, because I wasn’t buying the drinks with my own money. A brothers’ friend offered me a construction job when I was drunk once, if I called him. I never did. A couple years later when I was actually working, I was ready to buy my own cases. However, my tastes weren’t refined yet, and I would often buy a case of Miller High Life. Not sure why I chose that; my brother usually drank PBRs or something else. Eventually however, I discovered such tasty treats as Deschutes’ Jubelale and Black Butte Porter, Widmer’s Drop Top Amber, and Rogue’s Deadguy (I was very confused by the name “deadguy” the first time I was offered it; “do I want a dead guy? What? Is that some super strong beer?”)

Although I was buying my own stuff now, I was still going to my brother’s parties. On one such night, I was instructed to chug a bottle of vodka for 5 seconds, which I did. I was then instructed to chug the bottle for another 5 seconds, which I did again.

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This led to me informing my father on a video that a long-haired wig was the hair that I always wanted, and calling him a bitch in the same breath. When informed that I had just called my father a bitch, I responded that he would never see this video. That was not the only alcohol I had, and of course, we went on a bar crawl that night. Someone would set down a beer in front of me, and I would just drink it, assuming it was for me. Eventually, I woke up the next day… VERY hungover. The same elder brother friend who had instructed me to chug the vodka bought me breakfast… and I promptly threw it up. It was suggested to me that I ought to drink more to combat the hangover, but I didn’t want to do that. We went to a tailgate party for an OSU game, and at some point, an open can of beer was thrown at me by a belligerent drunk guy (an elder brother friend) because I was hungover, and my sister came and picked me up in her van. I laid in there the entire game, feeling horrible. My eldest brother happened to be down for this game, and when he saw me, he told me that I needed to “shape up.” Then, on the way to my sister’s house, we stopped so I could puke on the side of the road, and people booed me (and I sincerely don’t understand that reaction to this day… “That guy’s hungover! He already feels terrible! Let’s make him feel WORSE!”)

There was another party at some point; my brother’s 30th. He drank 30 drinks that day, in celebration. He was very gone. At one point, he had me sit down, because he wanted to have a heart to heart with me or something, but he just stared at his feet the entire time.

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I think my parents came over at some point when he was already gone. It was pretty awesome. I’m not sure if that was the night I jumped off the roof onto a trampoline; that might’ve been a different night. Someone else outdid me, holding a chair as he jumped down. That’s how hardcore we were; we jumped down off of things.

Drinking wasn’t just the providence of my brother; I would also drink with my friends, on occasion. They didn’t drink as much as I did, however; they thought I had a problem. That’s silly, though! I never lost access to beer, so how could I have a problem? Anyway, we’d have guys’ nights sometimes, and as we got further gone, some ridiculous things would be said. One dude needed to go to the park one time, and also needed to buy a Hershey’s Bar (he didn’t care about chocolate sober). There was also one night when everyone had walked to the park, but for some reason, he and I walked back to his apartment. While there, we had like two or three shots, and then he said, “One more for cleansing,” so we had one more. I repeated this to our other friends when we got back to the park, and they were like, “What does that mean?!” And it became we said, and also the title and chorus to one of my songs (consequently, when I recorded the vocals for that song, I was intoxicated).

There was this one night during the time that I lived with my friends that I bought a six pack of Jubelale, and drank the entire pack. I was supposed to go with them over to another friends’ house to sit in their jacuzzi, but I chose instead to stay behind, chat with people online, and drink all my beer. I then wandered out into the woods around our house in the middle of the night, and I almost fell into the river. When my friends came back, I told the girl that she was my sister and that I loved her, and gave her a big hug. She was super touched.

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The next morning, I didn’t remember this, and was hungover. She did not like that I didn’t remember this.

New Year’s Eve, 2010 and 2011, I got very drunk with my friends. In 2010, nobody else drank as much as me, and I was crawling underneath a table. I was also not able to finish a coherent sentence, apparently. Also, I went to the host’s computer, and tried to get on messenger so I could talk to the girl I liked. I ended up passed out on the floor in that room. Don’t think I got messenger to work. In 2011, I didn’t want to get as drunk as I had been the year before, but my friends and I decided to play the Street Fighter: The Movie drinking game… I don’t remember what my shots were taken for; I just remember that my stomach started to get upset before I was wasted, and I wanted to quit then, but everyone yelled at me, so I kept on going. Then I blacked out, and my “sister” whom I love came over when everyone wanted to go to the park, and I told her I needed to talk to her. Instead, I hovered over a nativity scene and kept apologizing to her. Then I threw up into a bowl and threw it across the room. The next day, I was too hungover to go anywhere until the evening.

As the years past and I had more unfortunate interactions with hard alcohol, I decided I didn’t like it, and that I should stick to beer. I enjoyed my ambers still, but I was moving towards IPAs, Porters and Stouts.

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I enjoyed the variety that Oregon had to offer, up until I went into the Air Force and couldn’t enjoy it anymore; then, I appreciated it even more. It is my experience that places like Texas and Arkansas do not appreciate the darker or more hoppy beers as much as I do (nor do they appreciate variety). There were some local breweries in Little Rock, but you couldn’t find most of their stuff at any local grocery stores, like you would be able to find a local brewery’s beer in a store in Oregon. Still, in Arkansas, separated from my social groups, on the weekends, I looked forward to the beer I would be able to drink. Now that I’m back and out of the service… I have a definite beer gut. This was a goal, though; to grow my hair out, grow my beard out, and grow my gut out. I’m on track; most of my pants no longer fit.

People who Demand Respect (but Haven’t Earned It)

Ever notice how there are certain people who are just gigantic pricks? Who walk around like the world owes them something? Something, like recognition and/or respect that they haven’t earned?


Why are they such dicks?


Well, isn’t there some psychological explanation for their behavior?


I think you nailed it; I think it’s pride. Or at least some of it is. Some of it is probably also insecurity about looking weak, and getting pushed around. So they push others around, instead.


People who demand respect, but haven’t earned it. Inevitably, those same people often refuse to treat others with basic human dignity, much less respect. These guys are real shitheads.


Y’know. People who carry themselves with some kinda air of importance, like they’ve done amazing things in their lives, even though they haven’t done much more for the human race than anyone else around them. They will make demands of strangers, or treat them with disdain if they dare interact with them.


No, but you’d know them when you see them. They say their own names to try and get their way. They feel they have the authority to judge anyone and everyone, even when they are clueless on the details. They feel that they can declare something, and that that makes it true. They don’t have actual social skills, because they’ve always pushed others around instead of learning them.


Look, they’re a blight on the planet, they come from all social classes, and they’re dickheads. From an officer in the military to a big name mainstream rapper, from the businessman on the airplane to some dick on the internet. They all suck. The sad thing is that they probably know it, too, but they just don’t give a shit. They’d just prefer to continue to make everyone else miserable, because that’s what works for them.


Because none of them are just “a bit prideful;” they’re all giant, throbbing cocks, who think that everyone else should just bow down before them. They suck.


It bears repeating. Anyway, I blame our culture for this; pride is overvalued, and humility is undervalued. It’s all about number one, and what’s in it for me. Greed is good, etc. We need selfless people to be our leaders and role models. People who care for those they’re in charge of, at least as much as they care about themselves, if not more. We need heroes who want to be leaders, not heroes who want to be worshiped.


No, but Hillary and Donald both exemplify what I say wouldn’t make a good leader, come to think of it… …but this is getting too political. I just wanted to complain about the average douchebag on the street, at the show, on the tv, in the band, etc.


Yes, but they’ve demonstrated why they are owed it, and they don’t demand it. They have acted in such ways that one would be remiss not to respect them. They have enough humility to understand that they are mere mortals, just like the rest of us. They don’t expect others to bend over backwards for them, they are gracious to those around them, they make themselves approachable. They understand what being a good human being means, and they strive for it.


Screw you, don’t ask me that. I can’t answer that question; I don’t know. Only the people around me can answer that question for me.


I know. I just have to strive to be what I think is good, and to not be a hypocrite.

My Brother’s In the Band!

I am the youngest of 4 (or 5, if you count my half sister) children, separated by exactly 6 years from the next youngest (we share the same birthday). That dynamic has always been interesting, because I’ve always been so much younger than the rest of them.


My sister was like a second mother to me, and I spent a lot of time with her (and she spent a lot of her own money on me, haha). Of course, that doesn’t mean I haven’t always been incredibly attached to my mother; I am very much a momma’s boy. Whenever I am going to be away from her for a long time, I get separation anxiety really bad; it happened both times in Yellowstone, and it happened whenever I had to leave home after a visit while in the military.

However, my hero has always been my eldest brother. The age separation there is about 11 years, but growing up, he was always the coolest person I knew. Everything he introduced me to, I thought was the best thing ever: They Might Be Giants, Smashing Pumpkins, alternative, ska, punk, techno, electronica, etc., for music (my musical identity would not be the same without him); anime like Akira, Sailor Moon and Robotech; The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Gordon R Dickson’s Dragon Knight series, and Robert Asprin’s Myth-Adventure series; just a lot of things. For pretty much all of the 90s and into the early Naughts, if he expressed an interest in something, I would probably be interested in it, too.


He could also do no wrong, either; I saw him “through ruby-colored glasses,” as my sister put it at one point in our childhood. Lately, he has expressed the idea that he had a temper and got irritated easily by certain things, but whenever he got mad about something back then, it seemed reasonable to me. If he ever had a disagreement with anyone, I would probably think he was the one in the right, or at least feel that he had reason for feeling the way he did. It wasn’t until maybe my high school years (but probably more like my college years) that I started to see any fault in him at all; probably because he started to express more liberal-leaning ideas, and I was still firmly positioned with the Republican Party. However, I have recently begun to lean more in the liberal direction, myself (I even registered as a DEMOCRAT this past primary!) so our ideals align again, mostly.

Anyway, at one point when I was still a small one, my brother went to college, and moved out of the house. He would come back during the Summer to live with us, but then he’d leave again, and this made me sad. While he was in college, he became part of a local ska band, named for an item they had purchased at a rather cheap price. I don’t remember ever seeing them play, and they didn’t really go anywhere while he was with them. After a bit of time, he was in another ska band; this one, I remember seeing play in the back yard of his college dorm. One of his childhood friends was also in this band, very early on, but he quit after like this first show they ever did. I don’t remember them playing another show until like a year-and a name change-later. At this point, they gained another couple members, I believe, and started playing at local venues and bars and such.

The band was beginning to get noticed, and people were liking them. My brother talked about how one time he was walking into a restaurant, and this girl jumped out at him, yelling something like, “YOU’RE IN [THE BAND]!” and it alarmed him.


Anyway, they started to get gigs with bands on record labels, and my brother would talk about how they wanted to get signed to like Tooth & Nail, or something. Their sound had also changed a bit; they were beginning to be a bit more swing-influenced, although they also had a song on which my brother played the harmonica, and another that was pretty much just an alternative rock song (didn’t have the horns, ska guitars, or anything). They played a set on the local college station that they recorded and sold as a demo.

This demo must’ve gotten to the record company with which they signed, because they ended up as the opening act for the label’s biggest band’s record release party, which they drove down to California for. After that show, they got signed, and began touring with this other band all across the country. Somewhere around this point, they more or less did away with the ska part of their sound, and tried to mostly be a swing band (they also stopped using the harmonica on that one song, and they never played the alternative rock song again). They had a big single in the Christian music scene, about the Devil being bad. Their album sold a whole bunch of copies, they won some Dove awards for like alternative rock single I think, and their Devil song ended up on a WOW compilation.

People around school knew who they were, and I would tell them that my brother was in the band. I also started posting on the band’s forum online, claiming the same. Most people believed me, but others didn’t, saying I could be anyone. Well, just to prove myself, at times I would repeat something that my brother said about the band. Being that I was saying this on the band’s forum, it would get back to my brother’s band mates, and they’d be like, “Wut?”


I also got to go backstage at shows sometimes, and I’d say things there I shouldn’t say, as well. That didn’t really have to do with my brother being in a band, though; I was just stupid, and would put my foot in my mouth a lot. I don’t know why this gave me the self-confidence to say some of the things that I said, but a lot of the time, immediately afterward, I would realize it was stupid to say. My brother didn’t disown me for this, however; he still treated me very well, and left all his stuff with me; his stereo, his tv, his video games, and his CD collection. He would come back into town when a tour was over, and spend a week or so at home, but then, he would always have to leave again, and it was always very sad to see him go.

Sometimes when he came through, some of his band mates would also stay at the house, and at least a few times, some people from other bands stayed overnight. I met a few people from bands that I liked through my brother, though I was generally star struck and too shy to say much. Also at some point, while in a restroom line at a show in California, he met a girl. He also brought this girl up here to meet us all, because he fell in love with her, and they got married.


At this point, he moved to her home town in California, and we saw even less of him. His band came out with a new album, but it didn’t sell as well as the album before it. He began to compare the band to the one in the movie, “That Thing You Do;” they were a one hit wonder (their original drummer even broke his arm while skating, and they got another guy to take over for him, who ended up staying with the band).

After the second album, they started recording a third, and it was going to be produced by this influential christian rapper. However, the drummer had quit, a new drummer came in, and it seemed like the guys were kinda getting burned out with playing together. My brother was older than a lot of them, and he would get irritated by things they would do.


At some point, the lead singer was starting to question whether he wanted to keep doing the band, so my brother and a couple of the other guys decided to just quit. One of the other horn players didn’t understand, and wanted to have a meeting about it, but the other guys were just like, “nobody wants to be in the band anymore, dude.”


So they played one more show on New Year’s Eve in 2000, I believe, and then called it quits.

After (and during) that, my brother was in a few other bands; one local Corvallis punk band that had already been established, and then some other bands he started down in the San Fransisco Bay Area, and then up here, as well. He never found the same success, but he didn’t really want to, it didn’t seem like; he didn’t like the attention, and he didn’t like the music industry politics (one of the big things being the bit where the labels only cared about money). He told me a lot of stories about bands his band toured with; some of them were good, and some of them were bad, all of them were interesting.

I kinda always wanted to be in a band with him, but I was always too lazy to learn an instrument. At times, he expressed interest in being in a band with me too, but I needed to learn an instrument, first. I bought a bass guitar back before I joined the Air Force and started playing around with it a bit, but I never really had the self-confidence to play it in front of anyone. While I was in the military and searching for ways to fill the void after my fiance broke up with me, however, I finally started writing songs. My brother listened to and liked these songs, and we started talking about how we were gonna be in a band together when I got back. Well, I’m back now, and we’ve had a few practices and recorded some stuff. Who knows if we’ll ever play in front of anyone, though; I can rarely find time to practice, and we still live an hour apart, even though we’re in the same state, now. I love that I’m “in a band” with him now, though. A band consisting of me and my hero.

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…this seems like it should be longer, but it isn’t.