Everybody get ready to move around… A lot! Hailing from Huntington Beach, California, Suburban Legends play some of the poppiest Ska-Rock stuff around. Also incredibly hardworking, the group may very well hold the record for most shows played in a single year. Need a number? Almost 1000 in 2002! In a double dose of 3rd Wave Ska reporting today, The Summer of Ska 2012 tour prominently features the band at Syracuse’s Own Lost Horizon.
Formed in 1998, the group has released 6 albums, 7 EPs, 2 DVDs, and has been featured on a slew of compilations and videos… No one can call “Slouch” on these guys. Fun and quirky, Suburban Legends blend together elements of Ska, Pop-Rock, and even Disco to form a lighthearted, energetic stage performance catering towards young enthusiasts and longtime fans.
My record label, Instant Classic Records, helped executively produce a first-time pressing of the group’s first full length album, “Rumpshaker,” and I was very excited to hear that the group would be performing somewhere close to home. That being said, I managed to sit down with singer Vince Walker, guitarist Brian Klemm, and trombonist Brian Robertson to discuss the band’s lengthy career, musical output, and how they’ve dealt with the many hardships they’ve had to endure.
G- Hi everybody and thank you for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! You guys are currently on tour with Reel Big Fish, Big D and The Kids Table, and Goldfinger (on select dates)… How has the tour been going so far?
BK- We’re like 3 deep into it, but it’s good so far.
V- It’s been awesome!
BK- Boston last night was incredible!
G- Where did you guys play in Boston?
V- House of Blues.
G- Good turnout?
V- Yea… It was great. Every time!
G- So, I have to hand it to you guys… You played upwards of 1000 shows in 2002, and I just want to hear your take on that whole situation. When did you sleep and how did you manage such a rigorous schedule?
V- It was all at the downtown Disney area and we played 4 shows per night. Some of us had day jobs during the day, too, so it was pretty hectic. But we were young and had a lot of energy in us.
BK- My back and neck are still paying for it to this day. I have chronic back and neck pain from holding the Les Paul and playing 4 sets per day, every day, for 2 months.
G- Now, how long were the sets?
BK- 30 minutes.
V- Yea 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off.
G- I’m really impressed! I thought I worked hard when I was in a touring band, but it’s not true. How is the Ska scene where you are from and do you find yourselves still very attached to the Huntington Beach scene?
BK- I remember when there was a scene and everyone went to every Ska show… It didn’t matter where it was. But there’s not a lot going on right now. But the thing is, I feel like Ska had that downward spiral where people didn’t even want to mention the name, whereas now it’s coming around and people are like ‘Yea, Ska!’
V- It’s like good vibes when people say it.
BK- People are like ‘I LOVE Ska!’
G- Where were they 7 years ago… Bastids!
BK- But I’m starting to see it go on the upturn again. I’m curious to see what happens in the next couple of years.
G- Right on. As I stated earlier, I’m proud to say that “Rumpshaker” is now available on vinyl, in part due to my record label, Instant Classic Records…
V- Thank you so much!
G- Not a problem and you’re more than welcome. Have you heard the vinyl yet, and how do you guys feel about the pressing?
V- We haven’t had a chance to actually listen to it yet, but it looks amazing. Really cool!
BK- For us, being in a band this long, everyone puts out a vinyl. For them it’s not a big deal. But for us, it’s like wow… We’re on vinyl now!
V- Plus it’s like a blown up version of the cd.
BK- It’s just really cool. It’s like an honor, almost.
G- I was drunk on a Tuesday when I saw the Kickstarter and I just put down as much as I had in my bank account. Speaking of records, you guys recently released a new album titled “Day Job.” How has the reaction been from your fans with the new album? Would you say that it is true to form for Suburban Legends or a departure from your previous releases?
V- No… it’s like we came home.
BK- We took a lot of time off and we wrote this record not knowing we were writing a Ska record. We just kinda had fun. We laughed during the writing sessions, and it just came around organically and naturally. And once it got put out, all the fans were like ‘I almost lost faith in you guys, but I stuck with it and I’m glad I did because this is exactly what I wanted.
G- Perfect… That’s what I was hoping for! You guys are very proficient writers and you have a ton of output… How often would you say the group writes new music and puts out new releases?
V- On the past records, it used to be ‘We’re gonna tour in 2-3 months… Let’s make a record!” On this one, we took our time and we were all part of the writing session, and we did it ourselves. We just had a good time with it.
BK- This album sounds a lot like “Rumpshaker,” in a sense like the Rock-Ska. Like Vince was saying earlier, we came home. And I don’t know where I’m going with that (laughs)
V- We all listen to different types of music and we’re all into different things, but for some reason, when we all get together and play and make something, it ends up sounding like Suburban Legends. The less we try to make it sound like something, the more it sounds like the band. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but with this record, we just naturally let it come out.
G- Delving into a difficult topic, Suburban Legends has faced some difficult adversity during their career, including the untimely death of Dallas Cook in a tragic vehicle collision, the death of former drummer Jimmy Sullivan (The Rev from A7X), as well as a van arson and a van robbery… How has the group managed to overcome such hardships?
BK- Stop right there! It’s all coming out in the book, so you can buy the book and read about it.
G- You guys have a book?
BK- No, I was just kidding (laughs). When it happens, it’s just so surreal that you think ‘How can I keep going?’ But you just keep going. You sit there and you accept defeat for a second, and you have nothing else to do but to keep going.
V- Just keep moving.
G- Additionally, the band has had several member changes in over the years, and this can be a difficult situation when working in a creative environment. How is the current lineup doing, how long has this lineup been complete, and how did you find current members to replace the old?
V- I think it’s been 2 or 3 years with this current lineup. It’s a good lineup and it’s been awesome so far.
BK- It’s crazy, too, when you get a new member in the band because we’re a touring band, and not only do you play together, but you live together. Finding someone that you can have a dynamic with onstage and offstage.
G- Do you have any bands that you hope to share a bill with in the future or any places you have yet to perform?
BK- We’ve already opened for Miley Cyrus.
G- (laughing) Did you?
BK- Yea at Disney for her 16th birthday party… Her and Billy Ray. I think that’s the pinnacle of sharing the list with somebody (laughs).
G- And how about places?
BK- Europe and Japan.
V- Yea Europe and Japan.
G- Have you guys been to Japan before?
V- No, not yet.
BK- We’ve had a release out there.
V- Yea I think we’ve sold like 10 records.
G- So the album is certified ‘Aluminum?’
BK- Yea (laughs)
G- Can you tell us about the craziest show that Suburban Legends have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
BK- Define ‘crazy?’
G- It could be anything that you want. It could be the best show that you’ve played, it could be a show where everyone ran around naked in a circle pit, or…
BK- We had one in Texas at Project Rat Hole where the show got shut down because the singer cut himself proficiently. He was just gushing blood.
V- Yea on his chest. It was part of the act.
BK- We didn’t even play. They closed it down before we played.
V- Brain (Robertson – Trombone) tells this story really good.
G- Should we get Brian in here for this one? Brain… Tell us about GG Allin Pt. 2 at Project Rat Hole
BR- So Project Rat Hole… It was in Texas, just outside of Houston. We roll up and it’s just like a regular farmhouse. We were like ‘We’re playing here?’ Then someone comes out and says that the venue is around back. It was this old converted shed type of thing with a garage door as the door to the show, but it was closed the whole time. So in order for kids to go in and out, they had to grab a rope, lift up the door, and go under real quick as it slammed down behind them.
BK- And it had a website!
BR- So, there was like 10 bands on the bill. The first band made up their name on the spot, and then said that they’d never played their instruments before, and just started making noise. Then, and I can’t remember the band, but one of the guys takes out a straight razor during the set and just slices his chest open.
Somebody was talking to me after the show and said that he usually does stuff like that, but not like… I guess he would use old razors that were dull. Anyway, this razor was brand new. The police and firemen came and eventually had to shut down the show.
BK- I think before they shut down the show, we left. We were like “Yea we need to get out of here.”
G- Probably a smart move.
BR- We did sell some merch, but we didn’t get to play.
G- Was it a t-shirt to bandage the wound, cuz I would’ve bought that one. Be like ‘Yea we’re at a Suburban Legends show! This is so hardcore!’
BK- What about that show where we were suppose to open up for Queen with George Michael singing.
BK- There was a Disney show when the Angels went to the World Series, and they were going to throw a Pep Rally for the Angels. So, they set up this stadium-sized stage with 50 foot Jumbotrons in the back, and there were 15,000 people there. We were gonna play and then Queen was going to play, but Queen got a star on the Walk Of Fame that day, so we basically opened for ourselves. It was insane! I brought my dad up onstage to dance in front of 15,000 people.
G- So you guys really have kinda run the gamut in terms of shows. You’ve got the psycho, The British Legend, and the Teen Queen. Well, prior… Now she’s marrying some dingleberry.
BK- She engaged?
G- Yea she’s getting married.
BK- Good for her! That hubby is going to be a rich man.
G- Yep. So, from your standpoint, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands out here in Syracuse, in NYS, and everywhere there are Suburban Legend fans who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
BK- Remember why you are doing it… Because you want to play music. Once it turns into a business, you have to remember why you are doing it.
V- And have fun.
BK- I get to play music with my friends and I get to tour, and it’s amazing. So just remember why you are doing it.