This is part of our weekly series titled “Columbus’ Own,” where we profile a local band every week.
The members of The Skashank Redemption have an unorthodox way of describing their particular brand of music.
“We’re like crack cocaine,” said Joe Brenneman, saxophone player and backup vocalist for the band. “We make you really happy.”
The band, which is made up of Brenneman, Don Seipel, Robbie Warner, James Johan Olaya, Neil Stackhouse, Jake Huffstetler and Evan Wanous, has had the same lineup and been part of the Columbus music scene for more than a year. Seipel, bassist for the band, said this area in particular has helped the group thrive.
“Columbus does have a lot of people who are open to the possibility of trying something they haven’t tried before,” Seipel said. “With Columbus, there’s a blank slate. You can be what you want to be.”
And what does The Skashank Redemption want to be? In the words of the band’s lead guitarist Olaya, it wants to act as a cathartic influence for its audience.
“(Audience members) want to go there to have the big release of whatever emotion they listen to that music for,” Olaya said. “With metal and ska, it’s a more intense kind of music, and that thing you want to release is probably all of the energy you have at one time. With ska, it’s just a friendlier way of doing it.”
Though the band members agree their sound is essentially ska-based, which is an upbeat version of punk with a horns section, they have varying definitions regarding this genre.
“The first impression is punk with horns,” Seipel said.
Stackhouse, the trombone player for The Skashank Redemption, put it in layman’s terms.
“Really it’s just upbeat guitar,” Stackhouse said.
Olaya had yet another way of putting it.
“Legend has it, someone gave birth to something that was not quite human,” Olaya said. “It had horns. Ska was born.”
No matter the definition given, Olaya said there are always misconceptions regarding the music and the types of shows ska bands put on.
“The most popular music today is the stuff that people have the least chance of looking stupid listening to,” Olaya said. “They feel like ska is one of the genres at the other end of that spectrum.”
Seipel said this is the main reason people tend to stay away from ska-based bands.
“It’s consciously not cool,” Seipel said. “You have to get over the idea that, ‘I have to go and be cool somewhere.’ No one there is cool, don’t worry about it.”
Huffstetler, lead vocalist and trombone player for The Skashank Redemption, said it can seem like too static of a genre for people to enjoy.
“People think it doesn’t change,” Huffstetler said. “We have great shows, we have great turnouts… but unless they want a ska band, they don’t want to have us play… it’s this idea of being very flat, very static.”
Despite these disadvantages, Huffstetler said people just need to come out to a single show for their minds to change.
“Please come out to a show,” Huffstetler said. “Once you’re there, I promise you’ll have a good time. It’s just a constant battle to convince people otherwise of their preconceived notions of what ska is.”
The Skashank Redemption attempts to break these notions with energy and expecting the audience to do the same, Huffstetler said.
“I want you to f—— dance,” Huffstetler said. “I busted my a– and I’m sweating, I want you to do the same thing.”
Stackhouse likened the atmosphere of an average show to that of any metal band — there is always raging energy, but the point of each genre is different, he said.
“If you go to a metal show and you go in a mosh pit, someone will punch you and knock you down,” Stackhouse said. “We still have mosh pits and people still knock you around, but if somebody knocks you over, the next person is going to help you up… The point of heavy metal is to be hardcore, the point of a ska show is to go and have fun.”
The next time people will have a chance to experience this type of performance with The Skashank Redemption is in October at Skully’s Music-Diner.
The next show is scheduled for Oct. 29 with ska band The Toasters, and it will be a Halloween-themed show. Soundtrack ‘96 is also slate to perform at the show.
Also upcoming for the band is an as-yet-untitled EP release, which is slated for Dec. 6, Brenneman said. The band plans to hold a CD release show at Scarlet & Grey Cafe that same day.
No matter what the future holds for The Skashank Redemption, though, all of the members are confident in a single fact, Seipel said.
“On the record,” Seipel said, “we are the best band in Columbus.”