UTG INTERVIEW: Ska Goes Solo Tour’s Ryan Eldred & Jay Tea

Less Than Jake

On January 2, three legends in the ska community will hit the road together for a string of intimate acoustic dates. The ‘Ska Goes Solo Tour‘ features Chris DeMakes (Less Than Jake), Ryan Eldred (Catch 22), and Jay Tea (The Arrogant Sons of Bitches).

The tour will start at Revolution in Amityville, NY and make its way down the coast to Orlando, FL. The show will offer ska and punk fans a unique experience, being able to see their favorite frontmen performing in a much more subtle and interactive environment.

Under The Gun Review sat down to talk with Ryan Eldred and Jay Tea to discuss the upcoming tour. We would have spoke with Chris DeMakes as well, but we spoke with him back in August, so we decided it was best to hear from some new people and switch it up a bit.

Check out below, where we discuss the solo side of Catch 22 and A.S.O.B. You can also listen to the three newly recorded tracks for the tour’s corresponding 7″ release.

So you guys are about to embark on the ‘Ska Goes Solo Tour,’ what made you guys decide to get together and do this?

Ryan: Well Jay Tea had gotten a hold of me a little more than a year back and pitched the idea to me. It got me excited so I told him I was down and when I found out Chris DeMakes was on board and it looked like this thing was actually coming to fruition I was extremely excited. So basically… thanks for rounding us up Jay Tea!

JT: I’ve been doing tours all alone since the end of ASOB and always wanted to take another solo artist out with me. I love being solo but I miss the fun adventures and hilarious conversations that happen when you’re on the road with a group of friends. I came up with the name “Ska Goes Solo” and started writing my artist wish list. I called Ryan first. I knew he had played a hand full of bar shows up in Oneonta, NY (where we were neighbors for a while). Then I remembered seeing a grainy Youtube video from a bar in Orlando of Chris from Less Than Jake playing solo. I emailed Chris and he wrote back right away saying he was into it. He wasn’t available for the Fall when we’d originally planned to go, so we decided we were going to wait for him to be free no matter what because he’s perfect for it. We found our window in January between his band’s US and UK tours. We’re all pretty stoked it’s finally happening.

Acoustic ska is a little unconventional. Why do you think bands bands with horns rarely get the guts to throw something like this together?

Ryan: I don’t think it’s about not having the guts. I think having a more traditional set up or full ska band is awesome and I love that sound and always will. So obviously having that is exciting and impressive. One reason could be that it can be scary and a little nerve racking to get on up there by your little lonesome and pour some heart out. Or maybe they just blew it and we’re kicking ass! In the end it’s about doing something fun and a little different.

JT: There are quite a few members/ex-members of ska bands I’ve seen do solo shows. I don’t think it’s a matter of guts. After playing so many shows over the years I’ve just become comfortable enough to get up in front of a crowd by myself. Personally, I do this because I enjoy playing solo shows just as much (maybe a little more) than playing with a band. It’s spontaneous. You can stop or change a song instantaneously without having to signal or plan it out with the band. It’s also easier to interact with the audience and for them to make out all the lyrics. I play ska songs at every show because it’s been my favorite genre since I was a kid. Whether I’m in a band or not, I need to play ska shows regularly to feel like myself.

Catch 22

Will you be incorporating horns during these shows or just straight solo with a guitar?

Ryan: I was hoping if we played our cards right maybe some of the opening bands on the bills might wanna come up and jam with us here and there but I think a lot of straight solo stuff as well.

JT: I’m bringing a guitar, melodica, ukelele, tambourine, and drum sticks. I’ll probably do some horn parts on the melodica when we all play together and plenty of impressions of horns with my voice during my set. We are not bringing a sax because there is just no room for it in the car and we’re not bringing a trumpet because I’m awful at it.. But maybe some nice people will bring us a sax or something. I’d love to have some of the opening bands come up and rock a horn solo.

Are there any songs youd like to play but wouldnt necessarily translate into acoustic well?

Ryan: Oh yeah, there definitely are songs like that I’ve found while revisiting songs. Sometimes the do dos, da das, na nas, whoa whoas, and ski bops can get to be a little much but it’s fun to get creative with it.

JT: I take requests from the audience, and I actually prefer being challenged to play songs that don’t belong in a solo acoustic show. Even if I bail halfway through the audience member that made the request usually appreciates the effort. “Go Ska” (early ASOB song) is pretty terrible acoustic but I played it by request in Orlando a few years ago. Luckily no one was filming.

I have a dance-pop song called “Cross Your Arms” that I perform over a backing track. It’s completely electronic. No guitar, I’m just singing and dancing. It’s “solo” but that tune will never be played acoustic. It’s not ska either but I have too much fun humiliating myself with that song to go a whole tour without playing it.

How is the energy at an acoustic ska show- any skanking and dancing to acoustic tunes? Even without amps your songs must make people want to dance.

Ryan: I like to think I bring the body rock. Music is music in any form and it tends to make people wanna shake it!

JT: All these clubs have good sound systems and we play pretty percussive ska guitar, so it’s danceable. I’ve seen plenty of skanking at my solo shows as well as a few pretty badass circle pits. The first thing I thought when I listened to the master of “Up” by Chris DeMakes for our split 7″ was “you can skank to this!”

You guys are hitting Jersey, Gainesville, and starting out in Long Island. Are you excited to play this type of set in your hometowns?

Ryan: It’s always awesome to see friends and share similar music and ideas with people no matter where you are but the hometown show is usually extra special and especially in such a personal setting as an acoustic show.

JT: The cool thing for me on LI is that it’s the only place people know my REALLY old songs. When I played at Revolution with Scott Klopfenstein (Reel Big Fish, 1995-2011) a year ago, I did 3 Sprout songs and people sang along. Sprout (1997-2003) never toured so that only happens on Long Island.

asob

Is it a nice change of pace to slow down tracks and play more mellow? I’m sure you guys like to show off a less “in your face” side of your talents.

Ryan: It is absolutely nice to show your versatility and use more mellow sounds to effect the dynamics of a show. I wouldn’t say I personally plan on being overly tame for most sets but I definitely will be slowing some things down. Mainly where, as we talked about before, the songs just translate better that way.

JT: My solo act is very very energetic and very “in your face”. I don’t do the mellow singer songwriter coffee house routine. I’m screaming obscenities, playing fast punk tunes, and jumping around. I’m a naturally hyperactive person so my mellow side rarely shows itself. Even if I’m exhausted as soon as I step up to the mic I start going nuts.

All of you guys have been putting out music for a really long time. What sort of tunes can we expect to hear you play on this tour?

Ryan: I prefer the element of surprise but as for the Catch 22 songs there are quite a few and we always shared the writing responsibilities, so I’ll be playing mostly songs that I was responsible for writing. Other than that I have a considerable catalog of songs written in the last couple of years since Catch has been on hiatus. I plan on sharing some of those as well. I will have a few of them, that are in the recording phases as we speak, up on Bandcamp and Facebook pages before the start of the tour.

JT: All my solo classics like “I Threw Away Your Demo (So I Could Use The Case),” “Let’s Go Get A Blood Test (Those Don’t Look Like My Kids),” “I BELIEVE (in nothing),” a few brand new ska/reggae songs, and the rest of the set is up to the audience. I let people shout requests at me. I’ll play ANYTHING. At the more crowded gigs it gets hard to hear what people are yelling so I may institute a “live jukebox” pen & paper system.

Will there be any special surprises fans can expect to see?

Ryan: Wouldn’t be much of a surprise if I told you.

JT: I have a bunch of talented buddies coming to various dates of this tour. Maybe they’ll bring an instrument, maybe they’ll get on stage. I’m also thinking some pop-up outdoor street busking might take place once we get out of the snowy part of the coast. Whatever the surprise is, I’m sure one of us will spoil it on twitter before it happens. [#skagoessolo @skagoessolo @lessthanchris @dredtweets @jayteasprout]

What other non-traditional genres would you like to see go acoustic? Disco? Could that work?

Ryan: I don’t know if the Bee Gees ever put out an acoustic album but I would like to see more hip hop artists delve into the acoustic realm. I loved the acoustic set Lauryn Hill played on Unplugged way back when. I also really love hearing interesting ways people pull off Reggae, acoustically.

JT: Dub-Step. This answer would have been drum&bass but Bedouin Soundclash did that really well already. Plus the song said “rude boy” in it about 40 times which I give them extra credit for.

Will you collaborating on any tracks live?

Ryan: That is definitely in the play book for the tour. It should be interesting since we won’t really have a chance to jam until the first day of the tour but don’t worry, we’re professionals.

JT: Yes, that’s at the end of the night. I’m looking forward to that. If we get along musically half as well as we get along personally it’s going to be a the best acoustic ska trio since Bedouin Soundclash. Is that band still around? They were awesome. Do you have any other questions for me about Bedouin Soundclash?

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Can you tell me about the 7″ you guys put out?

Ryan: It seemed like a logical thing to do for the tour and Asbestos Records were nice enough to put it out for us. I think the songs fit really nicely together and give a great representation of each individual artist. There will be multiple color pressings and if I’m not mistaken there will be a checkered pressing as well.

JT: It’s a split single with 3 tunes recorded specifically for the tour. The lead track “Up” by Chris is an anthem for the tour. He wrote it on the plane home from LTJ’s recent Japanese tour a few days after we decided to do the 7″. It’s out now on Asbestos Records and will be available at the shows on black, white, and a super limited run of black and white two tone vinyl. We’re only going to sell 5 or 6 of the black & white ones to the first people at each show that way every city gets a chance to buy them before we run out. Fans can also order it from Asbestos Records directly. It’s streaming on our Facebook page and website. We made these tunes solo acoustic with minimal overdubbing so people can hear on the record what they will hear at the shows.

Catch 22 filmed a DVD on LI back in the day. Are you looking forward to Amityville? Do you have fond memories of The Downtown? Think it’ll get as hot and sweaty? It will be January after all…

Ryan: I sure am looking forward to that show! Long Island has a great energy and an awesome scene. Whenever Catch 22 was headed to The Downtown for a show we knew we were in for an amazing night. I was sad to see that place shut down… so it goes.

Ryan, it has been a while since some new music. Any chance for a new Catch 22 record in the future?

Ryan: Damn, I sure hope so. Until then… I’ll be out there doing what I can!

Jay Tea, you’ve been kicking ska’s ass since I was a little kid. For fans of A.S.O.B. or any of your other projects that haven’t caught up with you in a while, what have you been up to recently music-wise?

JT: The next batch of Jay Tea songs I’m writing are half comedic and half sincere so far. There’s a new solo album worth of material but they may be best split into 2 thematic EPs. I’ll be debuting those songs on the tour and I’m going to try to have something released before the summer.

I sang and wrote on an EP in 2010 with Hello Nurse called Pharmagicians. They were a power pop rock band that asked me to replace their frontman. The funny thing with that was they never played ska at all and right before I auditioned they wrote 2 ska songs and I was thinking “No one is going to believe that I’m not fully responsible for turning Hello Nurse ska.”

I played a ton of shows and did a few recordings with The Nix 86, pretty much reprising my keyboard acrobat role from ASOB. I’m still an official member of that band but we’ve become pretty inactive since early 2013.

I’ve played a bunch of reunion shows on keys with The Fad. I never played with them when they were a band but I’ve played twice a year with them since they “broke up.” I got to play The Apple Stomp at Irving Plaza with them and that was the best ska show I’ve been to in ages.

I also sing the last 4 lines of “Road To Paradise” by TAT with Tatiana DeMaria at her solo shows.. that’s possibly the coolest thing that I’m listing in this answer.

I update my Facebook and Twitter every time I’m doing something solo or with a band.

Ska Goes Solo Tour Dates:
Jan 02 Revolution Music Hall Amityville, NY
Jan 03 Dusk Providence, RI
Jan 04 The Knitting Factory Brooklyn, NY
Jan 05 Jammin Java Vienna, VA
Jan 06 Asbury Lanes Asbury Park, NJ
Jan 07 The BoneYard Atlantic City, NJ
Jan 08 The Note West Chester, PA
Jan 09 The Camel Richmond, VA
Jan 10 New Brookland Tavern West Columbia, SC
Jan 11 Swayze’s Marietta, GA
Jan 12 High Dive Gainesville, FL
Jan 13 The Shark Tank Tallahassee, FL
Jan 14 Crowbar Ybor City, FL
Jan 15 Propaganda’s Lake Worth, FL
Jan 16 BACKBOOTH Orlando, FL

For more information, check out SkaGoesSolo.com.

Conducted by: Derek Scancarelli
To see Derek’s concert photography, check out D. SKANK PHOTOGRAPHY.

 

Derek Scancarelli

Derek Scancarelli is a feature writer, interviewer, videographer, photographer, radio-er and more. In 2015, he received his MA in Journalism in New York City. In addition to Under The Gun Review, Derek has worked with Noisey (VICE), Alternative Press, New Noise Magazine and many more. He also pushes some buttons at SiriusXM.

Comedian Jim Norton once called him a serial killer on national radio. Enjoy the internet with him on Twitter.
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