Ska — er, Jamaican soul band not bad


By Connor Rice

Deal’s Gone Bad is not a ska band.

The Chicago group, which returns to DeKalb 7 p.m. Saturday at the House Café, 263 E. Lincoln Highway, certainly pulls influence from the Jamaican music style, but singer Todd Hembrook is hesitant to use that title.

“You get called a ska band, and then you run into people who don’t know what the f*ck they’re talking about, who don’t know anything about Jamaican music,” he said. “They say, ‘Oh, you’re that ska band,’ and they automatically have this image in their mind of No Doubt and Mighty Mighty Bosstones … and they’re like, ‘Oh, so you do wacky circus music.'”

Deal’s Gone Bad has been fusing influences in reggae and R&B since 1994, with a style more akin to Otis Redding than Reel Big Fish. But its horn section and choice of guitar strokes has, as Hembrook sees it, unfairly mis-categorized the band.

“Our lineage, as far as our sound goes, is much closer to ’60s and ’70s Jamaican music and American soul, and that’s where our heart would be, rather than early to mid-’90s American ska music,” he said.

Which is not to say that Hembrook is putting down the genre. He admits that Deal’s Gone Bad definitely has ska songs in its set but is easily frustrated by people who are quick to apply what he calls, “just a f*cking label.”

Alex Beach, guitarist for local band Danger Boy, echoes that sentiment. Danger Boy has played with Deal’s Gone Bad before and looks forward to joining the group again Saturday due to that shared feeling of genre confusion.

“[We’re] super excited, especially because we’re so different from them,” he said. “They’re not so much a ska band as a reggae and dub band, which is [why it’s] really awesome that we get to play with them because…we’re not really a ska band. It’s fun to play with such an amazingly soulful band that’s just super

dancy and fun.”

Hembrook probably wishes more people viewed Deal’s Gone Bad in a fashion similar to the way

Beach does.

“We’re definitely more than just a ska band,” he said. “I wouldn’t even call us a ska band, and unfortunately, sometimes it’s something that we get lumped in to.”