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  Issue 26 - Feature - Badfish

By: Lauren Napier

“Tell me are you a badfish too?/Are you a badfish too?/Ain't got no money to spend/I know the night will never end” Lyrics from the album 40 Oz. to Freedom that are the namesake for the Rhode Island-based Sublime tribute band Badfish: a three-piece band that translates the songs of Sublime into an accessible live show and a group of individuals with a love of music and an understanding of the demand for live music. Not so bad for a trio of computer geeks from Rhode Island.

All computer science majors, the members came together through “a mutual interest in playing music” in 2001. Scott Begin, drummer extraordinaire, met up with Joel Hanks, who plays bass, in a class.  Through Hanks, Begin met Dave Ladin, the original lead vocalist, who was replaced by Pat Downes in the current year.  The idea to be a Sublime tribute band had been spawned a year, but now with a complete line-up the idea could actually be carried out in a logical fashion. And the first show was “scheduled at a local music establishment through the school.”  The show was a bit nerve wracking because the band only had two to three weeks to prepare their set.  “It turned out to be a really great show with a positive response and an interactive audience and from there [we] just continued to book shows.”  Throughout graduations and job opportunities, the band continued to flourish and they pursued “it as a full time type thing.”

What motivates a group of individuals to be a tribute band for Sublime? What leads several different personalities to agree of covering the songs of Sublime?  “Everybody you know in school listens to this music and likes this music and unfortunately the band [Sublime] wasn’t playing anymore, as of 1996, anway.” So Badfish took up that slack and tried “to fill the void.”  If the audience was into the music and seeing it in a life format, then the shows would illustrate that and the demand for a live band playing the discography of Sublime would be hear.  And it worked. The people that came out to the shows “were into the music”.

With a scene that is somewhat limited, getting noticed isn’t too much of a problem, but getting an audience to attend your shows proves difficult.  Not saying that Providence, Rhode Island hasn’t produced a decent slew of talent because “there have been some really cool interesting acts to come out of Providence.” Most notably names like Sage Francis, Monty Are I, and Badfish’s genre-mate: Zox. Zox tours all over the world and were “one of the bands that [Badfish] played with a lot when [we] were starting out and building a following locally.” A reggae style seems to be particularly popular in the Northeast region of the United States, especially in the collegiate scene.  “There’s a lot of it…not even sure what the scene is.”

For Begin, a veteran of the Providence scene, the scene is something he loses touch with while he’s on the road. But the town has seen a good revival of hardcore – a genre in which Begin has also participated. “There’s really good talent in this area” Begin boasts.  Music has been the foundation for the drummer’s life since he picked up percussion in “about sixth grade” and followed in his father’s footsteps.  “Music has always been [my] number one passion in life and is above everything else…above sports…above school..sometimes to the detriment of my grades.” That’s somewhat excusable when your band has a dedicated following and a respectable discography.  But if Begin wasn’t in a band, he would be “playing drums in some capacity or trying to start something up.” Which should be too hard considering the fact that all the members had some sort of original project or other cover band before Badfish was pursued as a full time gig.  If Badfish hadn’t received the kind of response that it has, one would find Begin in an office “doing computer work or something normal” but he doesn’t wish to think about that. Can you blame him? It can be assumed that no one would want to give up a life of constant traveling and performing to sit behind a desk and stare at a computer screen.

Tour takes band members away from normal jobs and a predictable lifestyle. And Badfish is soon to hit the road in the New Year. Begin is “really looking forward to getting back out west” because the chance to hit the west coast doesn’t come very often and the band is often grounded to the northeast region of the country.  The guys are  “looking forward to California…[we’re] playing a show in Las Vegas at the House of Blues with Del Mar…we’re really excited about that and meeting one of the guys of Sublime.” Del Mar,  a band based out of California, is the project of the drummer of Sublime and it is an obvious honor for Badfish to be sharing the stage with a colleague and inspiration.  The weather is a minor perk: “not only are the shows good but the weather is nice as well…here in the northeast it’s kind of crappy.” But even with the thrills of tour and “being on stage…everything else is a little less than glamorous.” There are three guys packed into whichever vehicle was selected for the tour at hand and a tight schedule that doesn’t allow for much sightseeing. So when the begin wishes to take in the sights of the desert and scale the Grand Canyon, there’s no time for that, “you don’t get to check out the things around you….all these areas of the country.” But the two hours on stage every nights makes the driving, sweating, and stressing all worthwhile.

And now those two hours have been expanded even more for the members of Badfish due to their own original project that is called Scotty Don’t.  The band is focusing on “getting that together and working on songs for that…recording some ideas and looking recording a full album sometime soon…getting an audience and giving people a taste of our own stuff.” As far as opening up for your own band, it’s a concept that hasn’t really been done before so it “has merit” and feeds the three member’s craving for performing. Still a rock driven project, Scotty Don’t gives the members of Badfish a chance at being original and gaining their own audience.

Between hitting the road and forming their own project, Begin, Hanks, and Downes are commanding attention. Both the bands of Badfish and Scotty Don’t, same members and different aliases, will be coming to a town near you. So the ticket should be purchased and one should prepare oneself to rock out.
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