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10 Canadian ska bands to make you pick it up
The Cardboard Crowns - This criminally overlooked Gatineau, QC band is one of the most original acts you’ll hear in a while. Their willingness to mix ska with whatever they goddam please (including alternative rock, pop rock and folk) may lessen their appeal to ska purists but makes for some pretty excellent songs. Also, making cardboard crowns for their opening bands and audience makes lives shows fun as hell.
King Apparatus - Definitely one of those bands that had fans asking “how come they weren’t huge?” One of Canada’s earliest and best third wave bands, the Toronto by way of London outfit put out just two albums between 1990 and 1993 before disbanding. Singer Chris Murray went on to collaborate with The Slackers while the band’s bassist was none other than current Toronto recording/production guru Mitch ‘King Kong’ Girio.
10 Canadian ska bands to make you pick it up
SUBB - Regularly topping radio charts and video countdowns in their native Quebec, SUBB never made quite the same impact in the English speaking provinces. They made some inroads with the excellent 2006 reggae tinged album The Motions and single of the same name - ska fans, however, will prefer their older releases that displayed a perfectly executed punked-up ska style. Though they officially disbanded in 2010, they’ve reunited for large one-off events like the Rockfest Amnesia festival.
The Beatdown - Mixing reggae, ska, rocksteady and soul, The Beatdown is one of those bands that excels at making crowds move their feet whether they want to or not. Rising out of the ashes of the globe-trotting One Night Band, this is another group that delivers the goods every time and hopefully is noticed more and more out of their main base of Montreal and hardcore reggae/ska fans.
The Harmonauts - A rare instrumental group, the Harmonauts describe themselves as “inspired by the power of '60s BOSS Ska, Soul and Reggae [and trying to] create new sounds, melodies and harmony under the discipline of original Rudeboy Riddim.” They’re all insane musicians, but seeing keyboard/organ virtuoso Ryan Chopik in action is nothing less than an experience. Make sure to peep some live video as well.
Rude City Riot - Arguably the frontrunners in the West Coast ska scene, Rude City Riot’s description of their sound as ‘power-ska’ is as accurate as it gets. While they get crowds skanking with the rest of them, these guys don’t ever seem afraid to hit the ol’ distortion pedal.
Prince Perry - One of Toronto’s most respected ska musicians, Perry Gladstone was a founding member of one of the city’s most seminal and uncompromising ska bands (and the most amazingly named one as well), Frankie Foo and the Yoyo Smugglers. He’s gone on to meld ska rhythms with the reggae-informed rock sound of some of his idols like Elvis Costello and Joe Strummer - with a little help from friends like King Kong Girio and Ryan Chopik (hope you’ve been paying attention).
Cheap Suits - This two-tone ska loving Toronto band had an anthem on their hands with their 2005 track "Ska Saves." Eschewing the frantic third-wave stylings of many of their contemporaries and instead upping the energy with touches of punk and soul, they definitely endeared themselves to pretty much everyone that came across them.
Adam’s Mind - Adam’s mind might be the hardest working ska band out there. Popping up as openers for what seems like all the bigger ska acts coming through Canada, they make no bones about it: punk and reggae can join the party, but with them you’re mostly getting straight up ska. Lead singer Ronald Poon is a tiny guy with a tiny voice, but on stage it’s all energy. They’re slated put out a new album sometime this year.
Sound One - Based out of Toronto, this group consists of musicians so good it’s a little scary. Bringing elements of calypso, afrobeat, jazz and soul amongst other genres to their unbelievably tight ska rooted sound they’re another band whose live show is pretty unforgettable.
Though it tends to gain popularity in waves (so much so that the different periods are literally named after these rises in visibility), ska has always found favour with Canadian audiences.
The third wave ska movement that began in the ’80s saw Canadian bands such as The Planet Smashers and The Kingpins stand among international frontrunners (a member from each of these bands collaborated to form Montreal ska powerhouse Stomp Records). Rock bands like The Salads, meanwhile, wore their ska influences on their sleeve. Then just when things were starting to look exciting – interest in the genre faded and the scene fizzled.
Ska never dies, though. It just chills out for a bit, all the while influencing musicians to pick it up again and fuse it with some other influence to create a next wave. Diehards are claiming that the fourth wave, whatever that may sound like, is right around the corner. Of course, people have been saying that for years, so who knows. In honour of the genre’s maybe-resurgence, here are 10 Canadian ska and heavily ska-influenced bands (both active and defunct) to make you pick it up.