Ed. Note: It’s no secret that I have an affinity for ska…of all waves. Homecoming Queens seem to tread in a lot of grey areas. They frequently burst forth with the exuberance of third-wave and pop-punk like Catch 22 and many of that era’s standard bearers, yet they have the capacity to transcend the limitations of those trappings, unafraid to reach into the realms of jazz to pull out some denser, darker and smokier tones, much like a less matured Mad Caddies. But the potential is there, and occasionally shines through.
Guess who was supposed to review the Homecoming Queens live at Village Pub South a few weeks ago? Me. It was me. See, here’s what happened: the opening act, Tomahawk Chop, failed to do their part in promoting the show, so the promotion company only let them play three songs. In cases such as this you only need to know two things about Long Island punks: they’re stubborn as hell, and you should never take their set away from them. Word of this got to the rest of the bands, and eventually everyone scheduled refused to play. Bam, no show. That’s what you get for dealing with punks.
So, good news, in the parking lot I caught up with Jon Graber (vocals/guitar), Tom Kelly (bass), Rich Seibert (vocals/trumpet), and Phil Deitz (trumpet/flugelhorn/vocals) of the Homecoming Queens. We discussed the nature of the Long Island scene, the flaws of the modern music industry, and the Nuge.
Aural States – First of all, can you describe the Long Island ska/punk scene?
JG - The ska/punk scene? How about that. You have two sects really, the kids who give a shit and come out to shows, and the kids who don’t. The kids who don’t greatly outnumber the kids who do. I guess because of gas prices or because of kids who don’t have jobs or whatever, concert attendance has been lacking for the last three years. It’s crazy because when I was a kid like, going to ska shows and going to punk shows, that’s what you did. It was like, ASOB (Arrogant Sons of Bitches) was playing like every week at the Downtown and there was always something cool, and now there’s really nothing.
RS - It’s a very small scene. It’s adorable.
JG - For what it is, community is very important, and the fact that you can go to a show and say hi to your friends, and that it’s all friends in bands and it’s all interwoven. I mean we’re a little older than most of the kids because we’ve been doing this for like 7 years.
AS – Is it hard work? I mean you guys are playing two shows a weekend, minimum, right? Is there money?
PD – Absolutely not!
JG - It’s definitely a labor of love. I mean, some things are hard work, getting along with people is always work.
RS - It all comes out on the road.
TK - I mean, there are 8 of us.
AS – I suppose that Ska is one of the harder genres to play, what with the need for a horns section and such.
RS - We have the most amounts of people in a band, with the least amount of recognition.
JG - When it comes down to it we all love each other very much, just when you’re with these people all of the time, it gets a little weird.
RS - Virginia is great.
JG - We’ve done two tours, basically of the same area because our second tour didn’t go so well. We we’re supposed to do the Midwest, and from what I hear Indianapolis has a fuckin’ great scene, but because of one thing or another, money being what it is-
RS – ECONOMIC CONDITIONS?!
TK - The place we were going to play, they got evicted two days before the show. So we got stuck in a hotel on Big Beaver Boulevard. (Laughing)
RS - It doesn’t get much better than that.
JG – Dude have you ever gone on The Chesapeake Bay Bridge?
AS – Yeah, I live not too far away from it.
JG - Dude, fuck that bridge! (Laughing) That bridge is so big! We came to a full stop on that bridge. If it collapsed we were all fucked!
JG - But yeah, scenes in Richmond, Virginia are fuckin’ awesome.
PD - They’re all just really cool guys. A little weird, but really cool.
TK - It was weird seeing bar owners and promoters really caring. If the show didn’t make money, they would take money out of their pockets to make sure you had gas money.
RS - I think it’s different here because promoters like to drink too much, and then they don’t care about the scene.
JG - What is that? I ran shows on Long Island for the longest time when I was younger. Like I booked church shows, everything. It comes down to a lot of things. First of all, places to play. If you think about Long Island, like how much space we have, there is like three venues bands can actually play at, and can expect a crowd at. There’s the Crazy Donkey, the Vibe Lounge, and there’s the Munchaba Lounge. Those three venues are all owned by the same promotion company.
PD - So unless you’re willing to play by their rules.
JG - So a lot of bands get discouraged because that company runs on Pay to Play. Like, you gotta sell these tickets or else you can’t play.
I feel like it’s a bigger problem than long island. Cause like, we played this summer, we had some great shows, and there was, I mean, I had a great time, but there was still not a lot of people there. A lot of art, especially music, has gotten so marginalized by like downloading, and by it being in the background of commercials, and fuckin’ malls and everything. You’re constantly being bombarded by free music, and nobody understands that music is a commodity that can stand on it’s own. So why see a live show when you can download a live track from that band?
I just got that new iTunes with Genius. It’s cool as shit, you click a song as it gives you a thousand other bands that sound like that song and podcasts with that and live. But if you listen to the podcasts, there’s no crowd. It’s just the ban playing live, which is fucking bizarre.
RS - Except for Tom Waits, Tom Waits had a crowd.
JG - I agree, I think for most music, your album should be an extension of your live show. In essence, music started as a live thing, there was never recordings when, you know, cavemen got together and hit rocks together like HOOGAH!
PD - Quote him on that.
JG - Like, no one recorded that. Music was meant to be done live.
TK - Can our new shirts just be a picture of John going Hoogah?
JG – HOOGAH!
Naked. Just like, loincloth style like Ted Nugent.
AS – A Ted Nugent loincloth?
JG, RS, PD, TK - The Nuuuggee!
RS - If anybody asks, this is the best show we’ve ever played.
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