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The triumphant return of The Slackers

NYC band set to funk up the U of R

Well, hello there, fellows. / Slackers Music Inc.
Well, hello there, fellows. / Slackers Music Inc.

Author: Jessie Anton

Do you ride the rhythm of reggae? Do you like to just plain rock out? Well, is there ever a treat in store for you! On Sept. 21 at 8:00 pm., New York City’s very own ska/soul/reggae/Jamaican rock band The Slackers will “turn up” the University Theatre for one night, and one night only.

For those of you who are not familiar with the group (or even for those of you who are die-hard fans), here is a little background information on these jammin’ gents.

Hailing from New York, New York, The Slackers were formed in 1991 and haven’t skipped a beat since. Made up of Vic Ruggiero (lead vocals and organ), Glen Pine (trombone and vocals), Jay Nugent (guitar), Marcus Geard (bass), David Hillyard (sax), and—last but not least—Ara Babajian (drums), the band has a powerhouse team of talent.

As mentioned in their biography, being personally taught by the Skatalites and the Upsetters (the original backing band for the Wailers), The Slackers hold the authenticity of Jamaican ska/reggae while spicing it up by playing it all with an American accent.

However, that is not the only twist this six-man band has to offer; they are also influenced by some old blues, country, 60s soul, RnB, and rock ‘n roll—a kaleidoscope of genres that blend perfectly into a downright fresh sound.

According to their biography, since the ska genre has a reputation of having an upbeat tempo and shallow lyrics, The Slackers stand as a milestone for the genre. Ironically, to many critics’ dismay, the band makes a point of crafting music anywhere from personal to political standpoints.

Stopping stereotypes with killer records, The Slackers’ most respectable (and in my opinion, most underrated) album is Close My Eyes (2003). The LP reflects on the events of 9/11, acting as a coping mechanism for many. With the album’s raw and complete balance between soothing and personal songs like ‘Mommy,’ along with more deep-thinking tracks like ‘Bin Waiting,’ it makes the ideal musical medication.

It is evident in their discography that with fifteen albums and a worldwide fan base, The Slackers have the drive to tour the world (and that’s exactly what they do). Touring thirty-two countries in twenty-three years, the band has a dedicated relationship to the road.

As listed in their biography, The Slackers go from playing festivals such as the Warped Tour and Montreal Jazz Festival to being opening acts for Pennywise and the Specials to headlining tons of gigs in New York City, Toronto, London, and Tokyo, just to name a few. Clearly, they deliver performances that are sure to leave audiences craving more. No wonder these guys are on what seems to be a never-ending tour!

Speaking of tour, what makes these international hit-makers want to come to little ol’ Regina? Posing the same question myself, I asked The Slackers’ sax player, Dave Hillyard, a few questions about this and a few other things that were weighing on my mind. It went a little like this…

 When was the band formed, and were you always a band of many genres?

 We formed in 1991 in New York City (originally as a punk band), and then later decided to form a more ska-oriented group.

 How did you come up with the name, The Slackers?

The writing was on the wall (literally). At an early rehearsal we discovered ‘Luis is a slacker’ was written on the wall—the rest is history.

 How did your band get into the music industry?

 Music industry? I’m not even sure what that is. I think the main goals of the band are pretty simple: 1. Play music that we love. 2. Play enough gigs that we don’t have to have day jobs. 3. Make some decent recordings that people will want to listen to year after year.

Along the way, we have stumbled into our own way to play things and found enough people that like it to keep us going.

We have had Indie label support on and off since the 90s, but these days (like most things in life) you have to do it yourself; find your own path.

Do you have any special name for your fans?

 Our friends. The great thing about being in a touring band is going around from town to town and seeing friends at every stop.

Who are your greatest musical influences?

 The Skatalites, the Upsetters, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Lebron Brothers, Count Ossie, the Sonics, Jackie Mittoo, the Impressions, the Beach Boys as well as Sam Sham and the Pharaohs.

What makes your music unique compared to other ska/reggae groups like Sublime or even Bob Marley?

We play Jamaican rock ‘n roll. By that, I mean you can hear the Jamaican ska and reggae in our music, but then we sing with our own American accents. Something like if the Kinks and the Stones were as influenced by reggae as much as old blues.

 What excites you most when you perform?

 It’s great to come to a place like Regina or Winnipeg that we haven’t seen in twelve years. To hear people singing along and to see people dancing, that’s my favorite part of the show.

 How long will your set list be? Will it be more recent music and songs from your new EP, or a mixture of both old and new?

 Being that our new EP is only six songs, it would be hard to fill up a ninety-minute set! We will play a mix of favorites, probably around twenty-three or twenty-four tunes.

What made you choose to come to Regina? Have you visited here before?

We are doing a Canadian midwest tour for two weeks. We played Regina once around twelve years ago, and we finally got enough connects to make it possible to stop by again…it only took twelve years!

This time around being equipped with their new EP My Bed Is A Boat (which, based on their discography, features song writing from five of the six band members and twists that wind back to their original roots), The Slackers are certain to have you up, out of your seat and groovin’ along to the beat.

Want a truly fun-filled experience by New York City’s favourite ska/soul/reggae/ Jamaican rock band? Be sure to get your tickets in advance online, by phone or in person at the Conexus Arts Centre box office for the low price of $20. Fortunately, for all students (with their student ID card), the price remains $20 at the door, but for non-students the price goes up to $30. Get your tickets early, my friends!

To have such a legendary group of lads light up the stage with their own brand of awesome artistry will not only be unique, but (I believe) it will also be an experience of a lifetime. Catch The Slackers at the University of Regina Theatre on Sept. 21 at 8:00 pm. —be there or be square!

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