Our sound is like high energy, danceable punk with horns, crossed with reggae,” says Richard Liukko of his ska band, Mad Bomber Society.
The six-piece Albertan group will head to Whitehorse this weekend to headline both nights at the sixth annual Sunstroke Music Festival.
Often described as the precursor to reggae, ska began to evolve in Jamaica during the ’60s, combining aspects of Caribbean calypso with American rhythm and blues. Since then it has spread around the world in what Liukko describes as several waves.
“I was really influenced by a lot of Jamaican music, growing up in Edmonton,” he says. “So our music stems from that, but instead of old-sounding, it’s a little more high energy and sing-along.
“It’s mostly original; we don’t do too many covers. The whole goal is to play a good, aggressive show, based in the roots of ska. Not pop ska so much, more like Bad Manners or The Specials. If you’re a fan of ’80s punk like Rancid, you’ll also like us.”
Besides Liukko on guitar and vocals, the group consists of Nate Connelly (trombone), “Four Fingered” Mike Johnson (trumpet), Jonny “Jonny Bomber” McCormack (sax), Smooth (bass) and Jason “Skinny” Zazula (drums, vocals).
Mad Bomber Society started in 1997 when Liukko and a few other like-minded musicians decided to form a ska band. They have been playing together since, but not without a few bumps in the road – including a three-year hiatus from which they are just returning.
“Right now we’re just coming back from three years off, for family stuff pretty much across the board … we all grew up,” says Liukko with a rueful laugh.
He says the re-energized band is greatly looking forward to its northern excursion.
“It’s a great opportunity to come up. We’ve played Yellowknife and Dawson in the past and they were great, so we thought this would be a good opportunity to get back together.”
The return from time away has another positive consequence for the Mad Bomber Society – they can now release their second album, China Democracy, recorded before their hiatus.
“It’s pretty much all our stuff from 2002 to 2006, and we’re putting it out now.”
Song-wise, the second album is quite a step from 2001’s Atomic-A-Go-Go.
“There are lots more songs about loves lost, drinking problems and other forms of fun,” Liukko says.
“We’re hoping to have it released for the music festival, but we’d need an advanced pressing. For the actual release we’re looking at August-September. It’s pretty much ready to go, though. We just need the artwork and stuff.”
With their touring season beginning and an album release on the horizon, the coming year will be a full one for the musicians of Mad Bomber Society.
“We want to get the album out and play all over, just see what the future holds. We’d love to come back up north and maybe do Dawson again,” he says.
“We like playing the ski hills in the winter, and the clubs in western Canada seem to like having us, so we love playing there. Our whole thing is that we’re really about just a positive, good-time party … everyone can enjoy our music.”
Mad Bomber Society will play at Shipyards Park Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25 from 11:10 pm to 12:10 am, preceded both nights by the Whiskeydicks and The Pack A.D.
Willow Gamberg is a former What’s Up Yukon intern who writes about music and other arts-related topics.