My partner in ska crimes and documentary filming, Randy from Ska Crazy, did an interview with me on his show after we started working on our filming plans. He opened that particular show with the song Ska, Reggae, and Soul by the Bandulus, and that was the first time I had ever heard it. I don't know what it was that hit me the hardest. I am a sucker for vocals, so that was a major factor...but the song itself is just a perfect descriptive of exactly what it talks about. I immediately told Randy I wanted this to be my theme song. I needed some guy to follow me around with a boombox playing this song for the rest of my life. That was it. I was hooked.
I freaking love The Bandulus.
Singer, keyboardist, and founder Jeremy Pena put the Bandulus together in the summer of 2008. Their first album, SKA.REGGAE.SOUL was released two years later and featured the talents of Vic Ruggiero of the Slackers, Ryan Scroggins, Matt Jacobs, Willy Camero and Patrick Kelly, both formerly of The Stingers ATX. The album is soulful and grooving while being so different. Jeremy's voice is very much his own, and it's strong but almost hypnotic. In a world so overrun by voice enhancements and Autotune, thank fucking god people still sing. He has the perfect voice for this music...powerful and soothing and a little bit gruff but only where it needs to be. Yep, I'm hooked.
I have been eagerly awaiting the release of their most recent album, The Times We Had...and it was finally up for download a couple weeks ago. It's already gone on my list of favorite albums for 2012. Don't believe me? Ask my piece in Duff Guide To Ska. I have been playing songs from it on my show since it came out, and that is not anything I expect to be stopping any time soon...except to play songs from the last album as well. I just wish I was able to see them. I think a trip to Texas is in order...
Jeremy was nice enough to answer some questions for me about the band, the album, and what grooves him these days.
First of all, where did the name The Bandulus come from?
Bandulus (pronounced BAN-DOO-LOOS) is Jamaican patios for criminal, bandit, or thief. I use to DJ all of our shows and my dj moniker is Proper Villain Soundsystem, so I decided to keep the theme of a villain. I know it's hard to say and read, but it's different and catchy, I think. Then I found out that there's another band from NYC named The Bandulos. Different spelling, same meaning.
What was it that first got you into this music?
I was about 15 when I first heard the Give Em The Boot 1 CD. There was a song called "Watch This". I was immediately hooked. Who is this? I asked my friend TJ. He told me The Slackers, and I just had to have more of this vintage sound. I think that was the year that Wasted Days came out and it just so happen that they were playing a 2 night party at Flamingo Cantina in Austin. So with that being said, I was front and center both nights. Who knew that 7 years later Victor Ruggiero would record organ on our ska.reggae.soul record.
Are there particular artists who have been major influences on you?
Honestly if it wasn't for The Slackers, We would not be around. They taught me that Americans can play Jamaican music, and still make it their own.
You have played with some amazing and notable acts...the Slackers, The Aggrolites, The Skatalites, etc. Do you have a favorite?
Hands down it's The Slackers. I love love love The Skatalites, but The Slackers have so much more depth than just ska. And on this last tour we were on with them, they invited me on stage for the encore practically every night. I finally got to sing the lead for them! Definitely a dream come true.
Tell me a little about putting together The Times We Had...
Well we started recording it way back in January of 2011. All the drums, bass, and most of my rhythm guitar was finished that first day. The record was supposed to be released a year ago, but due to a busted van and a busted tour I was really bummed and put it all on the back burner for 6 months. Finally the summer of 2012 came and I was out of the depression and put things into over drive. There are still a few things I wish I would have recorded on there, but I felt that it was way past due and decided that it was "good enough".
As 2012 comes to a close, do you have any plans, hopes, aspirations for The Bandulus in the new year?
Yes! I'm talking to my California buds about a possible tour right now. I've also been talking to Mark from Green Room Rockers and Keith Duncan from The Shifters hoping to get something together with them in both the Midwest and east coast. So that would pretty much cover the US. Nothing in stone yet, but I'll let you know asap!
What is in your CD player/on your iPod/on your turntable right now?
I've been listening to a lot of the new Menahan Street Band and Lee Fields. I also just rediscovered the Radiation Kings record. Oh and The Frightnrs EP is too short. I love that record. They are killing it right now.
Get YOUR copy of the amazing album The Times We Had for only $8 lousy dollars HERE!!!
You can, and should be following the Bandulus on Facebook HERE