By Chris Fishlock

As things start to kick off for The Skints’ annual Christmas party, with the bar in full swing and as the venue starts to pack out, I head backstage to catch up with Josh from The Skints to talk about their very successful 2011, touring, the making of the new album, their year ahead and more…

2011 has been a fairly big year for you despite not releasing anything, has there been any particular highlights?

Yeah man, it’s been kind of nuts really, we’ve done a bunch of touring, we started the year going on tour with Reel Big Fish in the UK and Europe, we demoed the album and then we did some more headline shows then it was festival season. We recorded the album, it was kind of stressful at points but we did have a lot of fun doing the album, getting to do an album with Prince Fatty is definitely my highlight of the year personally, but the Gym Class Heroes tour was wicked as well.

Josh from The Skints

You have done a lot of big shows this year, playing with loads of big bands such as Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake and Capdown, did you grow up with these bands, is it pretty mind blowing that you’re now supporting them and hanging out backstage with them?

Yeah man well we listened to a lot of different types of music growing up but the ska punk thing was always the kind of shows that I went to and I went to see all those bands when I was a kid, I never ever thought that one day oh yeah I’m going to be on tour and just hanging out with these guys and you know their just normal dudes like everyone else, it still does mess with your head slightly in that how things can come full circle when you have been listening to a band growing up, so yeah man in a big way.

Is there any one band in particular you have sort of thought ‘wow, I love this band, how have I ended up playing with them?’

There’s so many dude, when we went to Europe with The Slackers that was one, the Sublime shows in London that we did, that was unbelievable for us to be the only British band that has played with Sublime at the time, that was fucking crazy and even when we’ve just done some festivals with people like Toots and the Maytals, Julian Marley and people like that, it’s just yeah outrageous man, Reel Big Fish, loads and loads man, were very very humbled by most of the people who we support.

Aside from the album, what else can we expect from you guys in 2012?

Videos definitely because we haven’t really had our video game up to scratch so the videos and stuff will be coming hard, and much more touring and festivals next year, headline tour, load’s man, were going in guns blazing.

You seem to be doing a lot of acoustic things at the moment with the acoustic session today and also tons of YouTube videos, is that something you are loving quite a lot as a band?

Yeah it’s just like you know, we’ve always kind of played acoustically to ourselves just hanging out and stuff and we’ve done a lot of touring full band and the acoustic thing is something really simple that we can just set up in front of a camera  and it doesn’t take any effort on our part at all and it’s something really quick that we can turn around within a few hours and we’ve been enjoying some of the stuff, some of the covers we were doing  and just yeah we sort of thought we’d use it to our advantage. We thought how little effort it takes us to be able to throw together , so hopefully people enjoy that side of it as well as the heavier bassier side of the live show and the records.

When you played the acoustic session earlier to a very small amount of people, is that almost even more nerve-wracking than when say supporting Capdown to loads of people?

So much man, purely because we’ve never really done it before, playing acoustic to like 20 people today was scarier than when we played Reading Festival in front of like 4000 people, definitely. It’s really weird.

The Skints – Up Against The Wall

You’ve made the album with the pledge campaign, is it important to have the fans as being part of the album?

Yeah it definitely was that, but in truth the reason we started the pledge campaign was that we didn’t really want to be in debt to anybody, like a label or anything then them being able to call the shots on what we do because they’ve lent us money, so obviously we didn’t have our own money to record at the time. It is important to have the fans involved, the thing is, it is important to us but at the time we really didn’t expect the response it got, it was a full on gamble really and it really did pay off in our favour so we literally can’t thank everyone that helped enough. It’s shown us that there are people that care about this band enough to pay for something that they’re not going to see a return on for a while.

Was making the album with complete creative control something that was important for you and is that something you plan to keep to for the rest of your career?

We’d never say never to having a label it’s just at the time we didn’t want someone to have our nuts in a vice about the kind of album we wanted to make, you know if the time comes and there’s a deal offered where we have got complete control and they can fund it then yeah that’s cool but at the time it wasn’t really being offered to us so, you know I’ve got nothing against record labels, what I have got against is people trying to buy their way into being in The Skints.

Jamie from The Skints

You use Twitter and Facebook a lot to connect with fans, is it an important thing to keep a good relationship between yourselves and the fans?

I think with the twitter and Facebook thing, it is important in this day and age with people looking at their phones looking at that every 5 seconds, if you can be connecting with people and let them know what’s going on because people see so much information all the time from bands, if you want people to know you’re there, you’ve got to let them know all the time so that stuff is important.

Yeah yeah definitely, well me, Jamie and Marcia are the ones who write all the tunes, and we have collaborated a lot more on this album than we did on the first album and I think it benefited from that. The first album, the way we write, and is sort of still true, is that whoever’s singing has probably written the song, we kind of write our own parts. This album was a lot more all 3 of us writing on one tune together rather than Jamie’s song, or Josh’s song, or Marcia’s song or whatever.

There’s a big mix of instrumentation on the first album, is that something were expecting on the new album as well?

Yeah man, even much more so, when we recorded we just went hard, we’d tried to make our album sound as full as we could, so yeah, loads more.

You’ve got a fairly dedicated fan base but you’re starting to branch out more with shows, such as the tour with You Me At Six next year, what are you thinking about playing to a different crowd that isn’t quite as dedicated to you?

It’s not about playing to people who are and who aren’t dedicated it’s more about getting more people involved you know. We’ve been kindly offered the You Me at Six tour by the band and were really not going to say no to playing to those kinds of numbers even if a handful of those people become fans after it then it was worth it you know. Obviously we’ve got mad love for the people who are into us already but for us were really not interested in staying in one little box and playing with one type of band and playing to one type of crowd you know, we just want as many people who are up for it to get involved and come hang out at the shows and stuff and listen to our records.

You Me At Six talk about The Skints on BBC Radio 1

With your own gigs like this, when you get to pick your own support acts, you’ve gone with a bit of a different flavour of genre with the acts tonight, do like mixing it up a bit?

Definitely man, I get bored with one genre at a gig you know what I mean, obviously we don’t always get to pick the bands all the time but tonight it’s our show that were hosting so we got to pick bands were really into and their kind of doing their thing which is different things to us which is important, we listen to so many different types of music were probably not going to put on a gig of bands that all sound like us or whatever, yeah man there’s a lot of different flavours tonight, I’m hoping that will make it worth a ticket for people as well, because we’re here to entertain.

Marci from The Skints

As well as this being your own Christmas party and headline show, in a relatively small venue from around where you’re from, it’s almost a friend and family type show, is that something you love doing? And how do you feel about tonight?

London shows in general for us do feel like coming home. We haven’t headlined in London since the summer, and we’ve had such a good year that we just wanted  something to round the year off and have a bit of a party, to say thank you to everyone who has been with us this year. Gecko who have been friends with us for a long time and Random Impulse we’ve been touring with this year and we’ve been really good friends. Yeah man it’s to see the year off in a party style you know, yeah and have a bit of fun tonight.

To end with, any idea when were expecting the new album, that seems to be on every fans mind right now.

Literally, there’s going to be an announcement in the first week of January, but it’s really not that long, it’s really not that long, it’s not that long at all, it’s just the thing were waiting on at the moment is finishing the artwork, were really proud of the artwork with the first album and with this one we want to make even better, the album is done, all the music is done.  But we have a date and that will be announced in January.

When you’re spending a long time on the album, do you prefer it so you can make the best album you can make rather than just throw it together to get to the fans straight away?

It wasn’t really a case of being in the studio for ages, the album, we finished recording it for quite a few months now, realistically if you add up all the sessions we had recording we probably only spent about three or four weeks in the studio, of course it’s long but we did the first album in 6 days, which was because of the budget and stuff but this time we had a little bit more room to breathe, we didn’t get anal about it at all, we tried not to get hung up on being perfectionists because otherwise you’re never going to be happy with it, but the reason it’s taken so long is more because of the timing and us wanting to do things in a bit more of a structured way you know, rather than just get it out for the sake of it being out, were really proud of this album and we want to do it right, we want to do it justice.

The Skints // Nambucca // London /

December 27th, 2011

By: Chris Fishlock

As just down the road at Emirates stadium thousands of Arsenal fans descend Holloway Road to watch the match I had been invited to Nambucca, to watch something very different than Arsenal vs Wolverhampton.  Normally when stepping foot in Nambucca it is a busy place of people raring to see bands, but when stepping in mid afternoon for a private acoustic session from one of the best new bands of the last few years it’s a much quieter friendly atmosphere with only friends, family and ten competition winners getting to see a extremely intimate and special acoustic set from The Skints.

Jamie Kyriakides of The Skints

Having seen many sets from The Skints this year, whether headlining their own show, supporting a bigger band or playing a festival, it’s nice to have a change for their usual full live show for something a lot different in their half hour acoustic performance. Although very used to playing acoustic together as we have seen evidence of in many youtube videos this year the band were perhaps slightly out of their comfort zone having to perform acoustically in front of a audience much smaller than they are used to, but a crowd all intently watching the band perform. Despite the pressure the atmosphere is very friendly, with the majority of the stage banter presented as usual by Josh easing any pressure between the band and audience.

The set list consisted of a balanced mixture of first album favourites, tracks from the forthcoming second album as well as a selection of cover songs brilliantly adapted and performed by the band. The highlight of the cover songs was the genuinely beautiful version of Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love’ performed just by Jamie on guitar and vocals and Marcia on vocals, another highlight was a rare performance of Jamie playing ‘Live. Breathe. Build. Believe’ closer ‘Soul for Sale’ solo. The acoustic set  showed just how talented a band The Skints are and how successfully they can adapt their full band sound to stripped down acoustic version, they even treated us to an acoustic version of ‘Bright Girl’ which they have never played acoustically before. It is also very impressive how well some of the songs sound acoustically, such as the brilliant version of ‘Murderer’ closing the set, a track you would not expect to be easily translated into a slow and stripped down acoustic song. The acoustic set was incredibly special for any big fan of The Skints and was well received, once again the band prove just how talented they are as a unit as well as separately, it’s not often you get to see a band this good in such intimate settings, not a performance to be forgotten.

Moving onto the main event of the Christmas party, once the door opens and the place fills up almost automatically, leaving what was a more chilled out vibe to one of merry anticipation. It’s clear that much of the crowd are very very excited for The Skints tonight, helped by it being their first headline show in London since summer. It’s also clear that The Skints are starting to get bigger with just how fast the venue filled up, you get the feeling quite a few here are seeing the band for the first time, I even overheard someone ecstatic by how small the venue is considering how big The Skints are, not something you would get a year ago, the band have had a decent sized fan base for a while but you really start to get the feeling that the fan base has expanded a lot only in recent times.

Opening the show to an already decent sized crowd was the most enjoyable Gecko, playing a set of brilliantly written catchy songs. They gave a much more chilled out vibe than the other bands playing tonight with their acoustic based songs mixing a clear wide range of influences that come together into songs with great commercial value (in a good way). Gecko are clearly a band who should be amongst the top of the charts with their amazingly catchy and addictive songs, such as ‘Safest Bet’, a free download that got one of the best reactions of their set. Not that the band are modest at all, seemingly enjoying themselves opening for smaller shows but It’s clear they have potential for a lot more. A perfect band to open the night to get a party vibe going.

Next up was the insane, explosive Random Impulse, a London based rapper playing with a full band. The band had a immense energy, with a banging rhythm section who were killing it on stage while being led by Random Impulse’s great hip hop vocals while also joining the band on guitar. It was an incredible and powerful set, with a mega loud and energetic sound which could easily challenge most hip hop acts on the scene today, and was certainly had much more effort and uniqueness from a music scene where very little have the talent to stand out as Random Impulse who has successfully created his own sound.

Josh Waters Rudge of The Skints

By the time The Skints take to the stage the room is completely crammed with people, and as they take the stage they do so to massive applause, after the busy year they have had it must be heart warming to come on stage to such a welcome response. Once the band start playing the cramped crowd start moving straight away and it becomes very clear that the band have outgrown this venue, The Skints infectious music makes you compelled to dance but this proves a hard thing to do in a crowd this packed but the atmosphere is generally great. The crowd is very mixed tonight; many family, friends and early fans have clearly turned out but so have many new fans, sadly at times certain members of the crowd ruin the good vibes by attempting to mosh to the more chilled out reggae tracks, as well as a fight almost starting between songs which luckily got stopped, let’s hope that this isn’t a sign of things to come from a usually very considerate and friendly crowd The Skints normally attract. Apart from these few instances, the crowd generally gave a great response to the band keeping the full room constantly moving, the only problem was the lack of room meaning that the first row often collapsed onto the low stage and many crowd surfers almost just falling right onto the band, which helps the intimate atmosphere of the show, for a band fastly increasing in popularity this could be one of their last shows being this close to their crowd.

The performance from The Skints is flawless, they have come a long way since the release of their first album and are now well accomplished in live performance, playing the set list to perfection while being able to consistently keep the crowd pumped, the reaction to the band is truly special and phenomenal, there is a great connection between the band and audience in the room. The band don’t disappoint the crowd in terms of set list, playing all the old favourites such as ‘Roanna’s Song’ complete with a cover of Dawn Penn’s ‘You Don’t Love Me’, which has become a live staple for the band, as well as ‘Murderer’ and ‘Get Me!’ which both get some of the best crowd reactions of the night, but as well as the classics they also preview a decent amount of newer material, including next single ‘Ratatat’, getting one of the most crazy reactions of the night when the crowd gets told that part of the video is being filmed that very moment.

Overall the show was a great way to end the year for The Skints, with a mixed crowd of fans who have been with them from the start, their friends and family and also a portion of newer fans, this could be one of the final times to see the band in such close and intimate settings and was sure to be a memorable gig for all involved.

Tyrannosaurus Alan – S.T.B (feat. Jak Brown)

After a hard year of touring, Tyrannosaurus Alan have just unleashed their first new song since their debut album Campaign released last year. S.T.B sounds like the Medway act’s usual aggressive ska punk, debatably their best track yet, filled with some great horn parts, shout along chorus, and some brilliant guest vocals from Claypigeon’s Jak Brown. This is only the first taster from the band’s next album, if more songs as good as this is what we can expect then they are set to release something pretty special. S.T.B is out now via their bandcamp page as pay what you want.

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The Felice Brothers – Fire at the Pageant

Fire at the Pageant is the latest single from New York folk rock band The Felice Brothers. This messy track on first listen makes you slightly question the acts musical ability, the song structure and instrumentation appear to be a bit all over the place, but once the song ends it leaves you wanting more. The addictive chorus makes you want to put the song on repeat. Sometimes a messy sounding track can lead to being a fantastic track.

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The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Like A Shotgun

US ska punk legends The Mighty Mighty Bosstones return once again with a brand new album The Magic of Youth. First single is the enjoyable Like A Shotgun, sounding just like classic Bosstones, the song is just as catchy as The Impression That I Get, get your dancing shoes on and get listening. Like A Shotgun is available to download now, with the new album coming out early December.

Drewvis - Disposable Pleasures and Meaningful Pursuits

Drewvis

Disposable Pleasures and Meaningful Pursuits

Released: June 13 2011

Genre: Reggae

Label: Do The Dog 

Rating: 2.5/5

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By: Alexandra Lyon

Disposable Pleasures and Meaningful Pursuits by Drewvis is an album that has been effectively pulled out of the wilderness into the public eye.

Though not prominently well-known, Drewvis’ growing fan-base will no doubt fully appreciate the efforts of talented frontman Drew Bristow, and percussionist Sebastian Laverde. Self-managed, the duo have managed to assemble an admirable first effort at an LP, a simple, relaxed fusion of articulate, relevant lyrics and the mixture of crisp, precise guitar riffs and an irresistible reggae drum beat.

Their sound vocally is reminiscent of groups such as the Drums, in their acoustic sessions. The album, in terms of ambition, aims to brighten the mood of the listener through it’s light guitar hums and quirky use of maracas and woodblocks. The reggae-pop pic’n’mix of tracks is light-hearted and fun, a guaranteed smile-inducer when the clouds seem a bit greyer than usual.

Some notable songs on the album include Short Measures, which showcases their charming southern accents, over a clean and uncomplicated guitar melody and drum beat. They also make use of a layering technique with Bristow’s vocals, making one man sound like three; giving the track a more defined “band” feel.

Estoy Esperando featuring female vocalist Amanda Bes adds a new dimension to the album, including a Spanish lyrical section; giving the track a sunny feel and the quirky wisp of Euro-pop mixed with sounds of the Caribbean.

iWant, presumably a pun on the Apple iPod, shows another diverse feel of their music, introducing a bass guitar and a piano into the mix. Layered in ascending riffs, the track is again reminiscent of sounds heard on the continent, though this would be more likely to be heard in a back-street Italian café or pizzeria. Drewvis’ shining optimism is evident in every track, but notably in the pitch of the chords in the guitar’s upper registers and a very kooky sounding vocal, again, from Bristow.

The album on the whole is definitely one to hear if your mood’s not what it should be, as the sun practically shines into your ears through their happy sung/spoken choruses and hooks. The only real hindering point comes when most of the songs sound near enough identical. They have without doubt found their sound, and they realise what works for them as a duo, but there has to be an element of difference to some degree to maintain the listener’s complete interest if nothing else. The songs do seem to merge into each other, which if it were a narrative album would be perfectly acceptable, but it isn’t.

Drewvis – Short Measures

Smoke Like A Fish - Blood, Fish and Bone

Smoke Like A Fish

Blood, Fish and Bone

Released: July 06 2011

Genre: Punk/Ska/Reggae

Label: Do The Dog

Rating: 3.5/5

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By: Rebecca Woolston

Smoke Like a Fish certainly know how to go out with a bang. After announcing last year that the band were to split up, Blood, Fish and Bone is the promised album which was left behind, along with some final tour dates, which are set to end later this month. This album most definitely holds the purpose of making sure that Smoke Like a Fish are not forgotten in a hurry; full of bouncy, energetic ska riffs, which leave you no choice but to tap your foot.

Blood, Fish and Bone is very simply a punk flecked ska record; a sound which any previous listeners of Smoke Like a Fish will know very well. But that’s not to say you’ll be easily bored by them – In fact, the very opposite is likely to be felt. This album is interesting throughout; layering a great amount of sounds the whole way through and including both brass and keys to the usual mix. The whole album is as energetic as possible and is likely to have any keen ska listener hooked.

The tone of the album is set right from the opening song ‘Perfect World’, which is catchy and fast-paced; perfect for dancing to. It starts off with a slow keyboard tune and suddenly bursts into life with rapid drum beats, rhythmic guitar riffs and a catchy brass melody. Another highlight of the album, is the bands cover of the Zounds song ‘Subvert’, which is just as effective played in Smoke Like a Fish’s ska punk style, as it was originally. This song is just as fast-paced and rhythmic as the rest of the album and almost seems to have been made for the voice of the front man, who seems to nearly spit the words of the verse. ‘Subvert’ also features a fantastic saxophone solo, which swoops impressively over the on-going guitar riff. The album ends with the catchy ‘Blow the Whole Thing Up’, which is sure to stay in your head for hours after the album has finished, even through the hidden track which it is followed with.

With their last album being released in 2004, this is most definitely worth the wait and just proves what a shame it is that Smoke Like a Fish are soon to be no more. Despite this, their final album will certainly not leave them forgotten – it’s just a shame that it couldn’t have got them as much
recognition as they deserve.

Smoke Like A Fish – Blow The Whole Thing Up

Four 0 - Tales of the Unexpected

Four 0

Tales of the Unexpected

Released: Out Now

Genre: Ska / Reggae

Label: Do The Dog

Rating: 3.5/5

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By Alexandra Lyon

Four 0 are a male quartet that originate from Bournemouth, England. Recently they released their newest album, Tales of the Unexpected

Four 0 tag themselves as “indie”, but there are also heavy elements of ska, punk, rock and even reggae. This makes for an interesting combination as the album progresses through its ten tracks, jumping from crisp, chunky electric guitar riffs to the twang of ukuleles. Its novel sound is exciting and original, and would make even the most sour-faced of listeners crack a smile.

The first and probably the catchiest track on the album, Step Back, is delightful. Full of energy and rock-band enthusiasm, it combines classic gritty electric guitar with a reggae drum beat and Wailers-esque rhythm guitar to form a track which is as baffling as it is brilliant. With an irresistibly memorable hook, “Step back, heart attack!” the track lingers in the mind long after it has been heard.

The same could be said for most of the songs on the album. The boys in Four 0 breeze through each song with a southern charm that seems much more refined than it was when they released their EP, and even their first album. They sound more “grown-up”, as it were. Not any less fun, but infinitely more polished and confident.

Other tracks to take note of are Desert Rains, mainly for the almost animatedly happy introduction that gives us Tyrone Moll and a thoroughly Mexican “Areba!”. Throw in a flawless drum beat, a rumbling bass guitar and a pair of maracas , and you have a track that sums up the attitude of all four boys in a playful six minutes and four seconds.

Ukelay Saturday is also guaranteed to lift the mood of any listener, with vocals reminiscent of those by the Wombats front-man, Matthew Murphy, and Clash Horns is a reminder of the chaos that is the album’s general sound. The boys’ genuine musical ability is also showcased best in this track, with impressive, fast-paced guitar scales resonating from every corner of the track. Also, Lost and Lonely will evoke smiles and a nodding of the head from most listeners, though it can seem as though the boys are trying a bit too hard at times. Some of the lyrics are questionable, nice, but questionable nonetheless.

It is encouraged to vary an album from track to track to keep the flow of excitement moving, and yet it can easily become grating that the sounds are just slightly too varied. Each song is enjoyable in its own way, but at times it sounds like a playlist of different bands playing each song rather than them having their own distinctive sound. The band states that their influences are “anyone that plays good music.” – this may be artistic, but the album is contradictory of itself in many ways. Some fans will appreciate its quirkiness, whereas others will marvel at the fact that a meaty electric guitar has been used on the same album that features a ukulele.

Four 0 – Tequila, Salt and Lime

New Town Kings - M.O.J.O

New Town Kings

M.O.J.O

Released: July 18 2011

Genre: Reggae / Ska

Label: Bomber Music

Rating: 4.0/5

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By: Chris Fishlock

After bringing us great albums recently from The Skints and Random Hand, Bomber Music have another fantastic band up their sleeves – New Town Kings. Having released their debut ‘Sound of the New Town’ way back in 2007, New Town Kings have finally returned with M.O.J.O, one of the greatest reggae albums for quite some time. There isn’t really a weak track on M.O.J.O, and every track, whatever the tempo is very danceable.

The LP is produced perfectly, with a great mix of instruments that create a great authentic ska sound. None of the instruments are too overwhelming, letting no element dominate the music, which gives us a well-mixed sound of horns, guitar, bass and drums. The songs are memorable and have you singing along after a few listens, particularly on highlight tracks Newstand and Dynamite. New Town Kings are clearly talented musicians as well as songwriters and their use of horns is certainly one of their more interesting aspects – bringing us some great horn lines, especially on Stop and closing track Brighter Days.

Many of the songs across M.O.J.O are unashamedly danceable; where ever you are listening to this record whether at home, work or out in public you will feel compelled to start skanking, which suggests they could have some pretty fun future live shows. As well as sounding like an authentic reggae band you also can tell the influence from the two-tone era of ska, and would fit nicely next to albums from The Specials or The Selector.

You’ll be making no mistake picking up this album, but make sure you have your dancing shoes on. It’s great to hear a reggae album this good that also works well as a complete album, as well as the songs working fine alone. And it’s especially impressive that such a good reggae album comes from a British band. The ska scene in the UK right now is becoming more vibrant than ever, and along with their record label companions The Skints and Random Hand, New Town Kings are another great addition to a great music scene.

M.O.J.O – Album Sampler