By Brian Leak
After watching the “Ska Mitzvah” episode of Delocated on Adult Swim like ten times, I could take up this space by making a hundred ska puns and play-ons but instead I’ll let you in on a secret; if you like ska, fun, horns, dancing, discounts on merch and sweet covers of classic rock songs, Chico Ska Orchestra is something you’ve been missing out on…unless of course you’ve seen or heard them like most people in Chico. They’ve got a new line-up and plenty of new, horny jams.
How did the Orchestra first originate?
I first got the idea for the Chico Ska Orchestra a few years ago when I began working in my home studio. I’d been interested in reggae and ska for a long time, even before my days with the Mystic Roots, but this was my first opportunity to work with a full horn section and put together my own group. I gathered the first group of musicians entirely from Craigslist. Unfortunately, one graduated, and others moved on to other projects, so I had to spend last December and January finding and rehearsing new members.
I listened to the “Satisfaction” cover you did. It’s pretty cool that you’re taking a classic rock song and doing something completely different with it.
Thanks. I actually take a lot of inspiration from classic rock stuff, growing up in the seventies, but we really try not to have any boundaries as far new material…of course it has to lend itself to the “Chico Ska” style, but we do stuff from 60’s all the way through the 90’s, and then some. The fact is that I’m not much of a songwriter, but I enjoy arranging. The concept of the band was to take songs that virtually everyone knows and do them in a way that’s new and interesting, not to mention fun!
How’s the progression been in writing with all the new members?
The new members are all up to speed on just about all of the old material, so we’ve just dropped a few songs to make room for about a dozen new ones…I couldn’t be happier with the progress. The new stuff is all just as good or better than the old stuff, and the band sounds great. I should say, however, that there’s no way we would be this far without all the contributions of ALL of the former members. Nuff respect.
What kind of ska arrangements can we expect from the new music?
We’re currently working on the 2nd CD which will include Don’t Let Me Down by the Beatles, Do Ya Think I’m Sexy by Rod Stewart, Papa Was a Rolling Stone, Trampled Underfoot by Zeppelin…I’ll let the rest be a surprise…
Who are some important influences for the Chico Ska Orchestra?
We all have influences ranging from oldies to classic rock to pop to reggae to ska to punk, so our influences are too many too list…I’m sure most bands are like that, but with 8 members we have hundreds! It’s fair to say we all love the classics like Bob Marley, the Skatalites, Toots and the Maytals, but we also like the 2nd wave of ska like The Specials, Madness, and the English Beat…then there’s the 3rd wave of American Punk based ska, and we dig that too, leading right up to some modern ska bands like Save Ferris.
How would you describe your live shows?
Our live shows are continuing to grow and improve, but right now I’d say it’s just an all out ska dance party. Our members regularly jump into the crowd or on the bar to take solos…our lead singer likes to do back flips off stage; you’ve been warned…but seriously, we are working hard on building our fan base through Facebook and live shows, and soon, everybody who pays to come to a Chico Ska Orchestra show will receive a SKABUCK that will be worth a dollar off CD’s and T-Shirts…kind of a fan-appreciation program!
Who would you like to get a show together with?
We have had great shows with my old band mate Coot and the Mystic Roots, so we love to play with them whenever we can. Boss 501 is another one of our local favs, and of course we’d love to open for someone like Save Ferris or another ska headliner at the Senator…dare to dream…Hey J-MAX, are you hearing this??
What are your future goals for the band?
Immediate plans for the band are to try to finish up the 2nd CD by our gig with Mystic Roots on Dec. 3rd at LaSalles…They make great Christmas presents