To be labelled the future of your genre on RTÉ’s premium talk show is a level of exposure most Irish artists could only dream about.
It was on The Late Late Show when Ryan Tubridy made the remark about ska band ‘Interskalactic’ as they covered Bob Marley and The Wailers classic ‘Simmer Down’ with pure enthusiasm. There is no doubting that Interskalactic are becoming increasingly prominent in a scene which has no clear flag-bearer.
The Howth-based band have been on a steady rise to prominence as they lead the contemporary wave of ska music in Ireland. The eleven-piece group have quickly become festival favourites in Ireland as they play the Harbour Ska/Reggae Fest in Bray today.
“It [Interskalactic] was the brainchild of Tim (drummer) and Alison (saxophone). The band they were in had recently split and they decided to do a brass-heavy first wave ska band,” said Ray Cranley, the singer of the group.
“The thinking behind it was that there was plenty of bands doing ska and reggae but not a whole lot doing the original 60s stuff.
“Originally only Tim, Al (bass), Ro (percussion) and myself (guitar) were ska fans but I would say now that everyone that has spent time in the band is converted.”
Their resumé already includes the Cork Jazz Festival, Body & Soul, Sea Sessions and Electric Picnic, where they recently played the Salty-Dog stage to a raucous crowd.
“I think the Dublin ska scene is doing great. Pretty much every ska gig we’ve been to or played over the last while has had a dedicated group of old and young lads and ladies up skanking. You have bands like The Bionic Rats, Skatuesques and Gangsters regularly playing around Dublin that [are] always pulling a good crowd.
“You also have groups leaning more towards the more reggae influence with a touch of ska like After the Ibis, Weedway, The Regulators and Trenchtown … [they are] putting on some amazing shows. All these bands have musicians with unreal talent and in some cases, you’ll find members crossing over the different bands. Being a small scene it works really well to keep a variety of bands going.”
The group’s live performances boast a combination of original work and covers that give a ska-flare to songs such as Outkasts’ ‘Hey Ya!’ and Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Goin’ On’.
Ska gigs aren’t as heavily promoted as other genres, however, there is a demand for the music. Interskalactic is used to crowds with a healthy variety of age, though, Ray is aware of the lack of consistent ska venues.
“The first place that will pop into any ska lovers’ head in Dublin is the Foggy Dew. ‘The Rats’ are there every week in some form or another tearing the place up.
“There’s no real regular venue for live ska although I know we seem to have done a good few gigs in The Grand Social this year. To be honest, if you want live ska it’s a case of following the bands, not the venues.”
Getting the best out of such a large group is a tough task and it can be challenging to get all eleven members available.
“We are not a professional band. We all have jobs, be it within the music industry or out of it. It’s hard to bring eleven people together but I do feel that the vibe of the band, the love of the music and the crowd reaction to our sound pulls us all together and makes it work.”