British ska-punk band The Skints talked to me about their second album, how to survive the music industry, and widespread government-influenced murder.
There is something about the sound of The Skints. It’s something to do with that off-beat funky rhythm; that earthy dubby bass; that outrageously danceable energy. The Skints have put everything interesting about British ska-punk into their own personal blender, shaken up to pack an even wittier punch. Pure punk, on its own, is noisy adrenaline – retaliation against something that you want to kick at. It makes you want to turn up the volume and jump up and down on your bed at 3 in the morning whilst Mum and Dad scream from outside the door for you to “turn that bloody noise off”. Exciting, yes, but let’s be honest here, it’s a challenge to jump around to without looking like a complete…twat. But the sound of The Skints is that same adrenaline, that same jumping-on-the-bed-at-3-AM business, only it has something more. Its got rhythm, wit, groove, style…coolness. It’s also far more infectious when it comes to dancing it out in front of the girls and more enjoyable because you look like less of a tit when you’re doing it. Nuff said. Here they are, and this is what they had to say…
Hello, Skints. What have you been up to recently?
Since coming off an awesome tour in February/March with Reel Big Fish, this year has been dedicated to our upcoming album. It’s been a work in progress for a while now but it’s slowly but surely becoming a reality! And all summer we’ve been playing some great festivals all over the UK- we’ve been busy but having soooo much fun.
You guys started out pretty young – around the age of 16 when you got gigging, if I’m right. So what got you all together and why ‘The Skints’?
We go way back! We have all known each other and been friends for many years. Marcia and Josh have known each other since they were 5, and we all went to the same secondary school so there’s a strong family vibe. The name ‘The Skints’ was thought up by 14 year old Josh as the name of a ska band he put together for the school Christmas concert, it was so much fun it kept going.. we played for a few years at local venues with local bands and settled into the current line up in 2007, which is when we began to write the material that a few people will know from our first EP.
I’m in a band myself with some mates and often our ideas come together through lots of random jamming together, which generally involves pissing off the neighbours! Tell me about your song-writing process. Do a lot of ideas come from spontaneous jamming, or does it tend to stem from a single brain?
It has definitely changed over the years but one thing that doesn’t change is, we all write our own lyrics. Although our first album was mainly comprised of songs that Jamie and Josh wrote, a lot of the arrangement/harmonies were written by Marcia and most of the extra instrumentation. At the same time, lots of the songs were written around bass lines that Jon had written so no matter what it’s always been a joint effort! The songs would be very, very different if any one of us were to leave. Nowadays it’s even more of a collaboration. Our new record features lots of Marcia’s songs which is a change from the last one! it also includes a few songs in which all three of us sing a verse each/three part harmonies so vocally it’s much more diverse. We really worked together on this new record, through both deep thought and spontaneous jamming!
A song of yours that stands out to me (and I’m sure for a great many other people) is ‘Murderer’. Loving Marcia’s harmonies on this tune. Can you tell us what this song is all about and, maybe more importantly, who is it about?
This song means nothing, it’s about no one! We were just jamming one day and it came out!
Listening to the chorus of ‘Roanna’s Song’ with the lyrics “I don’t care what you say or who you are, nothing is right about war”, it’s clear that you have a strongly anti-war stance. So what’s your take when it comes to politics itself? Would you rather have the freedom of a smaller government or the security of a bigger government?
That’s such a massive question!! I’ll be honest. We are so passionate about certain things and it definitely comes out in our music. But we don’t write these songs to make a political point! It’s just important to write about what you feel and know – we can’t pretend to know all the answers cause at the end of the day we are just musicians! We don’t believe in war and frankly we don’t think our government is doing a very good job. But we also don’t know how to fix it and couldn’t pretend to, we’ll leave the political guidance to the king blues thank you very much 😛
Roanna’s song was written at quite a difficult time. I was trying to cope with the loss of my little sister (Roanna). The pain of her death was unimaginable and it suddenly dawned on me that there are people all over the world grieving just like I was for absolutely nothing, it’s allowed to happen by the government because in our society being in the army and going to war is not considered wrong enough to bring to an end. There are people in the world who’s job is to kill and be killed. There are people every day going through what I was dealing with and it was for nothing. I lay awake a lot thinking about all this which is what prompted me to write it all down.. the hurt I was feeling at that time was laid thick into that song, that is why it changes mood and subject so much ! I don’t know the ins and outs of war or the government. I don’t know how it can be fixed, a lot of what i said is through ignorance, pure hurt and emotion! But at the same time that can sometimes bring out the best in you creatively!
Here’s a typical question, I know, but it’s a good one. If you had to choose one song in your lives which stopped you in your tracks and made you think: “Wow, I want to make music like that”, what would it be?
It’s hard to choose a song that represents the whole band! Hell it’s hard to choose one song anyway! But I’m going to instead choose the soundtrack to the film ‘Babylon’- the songs and the music from the era in which the film was set heavily influence our sound today and we all share a deep passion for it. You’ll hear it the influence strongly in our new record 😉
Whilst on the subject of influences, what’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
That’s another difficult one cos we’ve all been to different gigs! Though one that I know we can all share was when we supported Sublime with Rome last year. They were fantastic and it felt so amazing to be in that position, the fact it was such a momentous occasion made the night even better!
You’re second album is by far my favourite. Tell us a bit about it. Blew my mind, but did you ever experience that ‘second album syndrome’ at any point?
Of course! As soon as we began writing new materiel we experienced this. Our first album was full of songs we’d been developing since first starting the band so the album flowed very naturally.. This time round, not only do we have less time in which to write these songs, but they have to match up to the quality of the first release…and at the same time we had hundreds of people who had pledged money to help us fund this record so that just adds pressure as well!! You find yourself feeling like you have to make everyone happy. There are people who wish we’d go back to the punk side of our music and there are people who never liked that part of us in the first place! Obviously it’s important to stay true to yourself but it’s amazing how much that can go out the window when you have demanding fans asking why you don’t play your older stuff anymore! Haha. It’s all good though, we went to the exact right producer, Mike ‘Prince Fatty’ Pelanconi. He helped us craft our sound into something truly authentic but original and still very much us.. I feel like we caught the right vibe with this album, we worked incredibly hard on it and I think it shows.
As you first began to find success around my age, what advice would you give to someone like me and my band, pursuing a career in music?
I don’t really know if my answer will be good enough for this question seeing as I can’t say we’ve exactly followed these rules and it’s not necessarily true in our case! But i’ll give it a shot.
The music industry is SO competitive and the most honest and correct answer I can give is- you need to be one of the best, if not THE best at what you do. If there’s someone else doing what you do, playing your instrument, writing your style of music, and they are better than you then you will find it incredibly hard to succeed. Doesn’t mean you won’t, it’s just, this is a cruel world and doing this can be so disheartening. It’s important to keep positive and keep your chin up, not pay attention to the haters.
So my only advice really is if you want to spend your life playing an instrument or writing songs or being in a band, keep positive and stay humble. Practice until you are the best and become someone who the music industry simply can’t do without!! Oh and make sure your influences go far back enough. Taking influence from a band who are already a mash up of genres can create a somewhat watered-down sound, something everyone’s heard and that the world just doesn’t need more of. It’s like building crazy extensions onto a building with no foundations! Try and be aware of the history of the music you play, because only then can you develop your sound appropriately. Obviously there are exceptions…but we feel quite strongly about that.