The Skavengers

Interview with The Skavengers conducted by Greg Svitil in Boston, Massachusetts at The Middle East on April 18, 1996 (following performance opening for The Skatelites)

Greg: Who are you, and what do you do in the band?
Jon: Jon, I’m the lead singer.
Lana: I’m Lana. Play sax and sing.
Zack: I’m Zack, keyboards.
Jon: Craig plays guitar, there’s Scott, he’s our drummer, Steven, who’s right now our bass player, Laura plays trombone also, Ed plays trumpet, Philip is on horns.
Zack: Horns?
Jon: I mean, tenor sax. I’m sorry.

Greg: I hear there’s been quite a few line-up changes in the Skavengers. Are there any significant band members of past who aren’t in the band now?
Lana: Yeah, Andrew, replaced as bass player. He played a song with us tonight.
Zack: He’s going off to join the circus.

Greg: Wow.
Zack: That’s why he quit our band.
Jon: He’s gonna be a roadie in the circus.
Zack: Shoveling elephant shit.
Neil Berenholz (our friend): For real?
Jon: Yeah, for real. He’s the coolest, I fuckin’ love that guy.
Lana: Yeah.

Greg: So how was tonight’s show?
Lana: We had a blast.
Jon: All the new people: Philip, Mara, and Steve did really well — the pressure and everything. They pulled through. We were all worried when we went on, but we had an awesome time.
Zack: It’s always good to open for the Skatelites.
Lana: And Jon got lost in the crowd.

Greg: How, where, and when did the Skavengers form?
Lana: The first time we formed was when the horn section left the Allstonians and started doing something. Eric and Jill — we all left and formed the Skavengers. Most of them moved to New York, and play with us when we’re in New York. You know, we’ve had pretty much the core with Zack, Laura, Scott…
Jon: Craig, Ed, and now me…
Lana: … Yeah, then we got Jon, then we got the new people, and we keep adding on.

Greg: Who’s been the biggest influences on the Skavengers?
Lana: Skatelites, Skaflaws.
Middle East Staffer: Yo, word to the heavies back there.
Jon: Thank you very much.
Lana: Thanks.
Middle East Staffer: We have a hell of a night here.
Jon: Oh yeah?
Lana: That’s good, I’m glad you had…
Middle East Staffer: We had three good bands in a row.
Lana: Great.
Jon: Thank you. Have us again, we’d be more than happy to play down here.

Jon: We all have individual influences. Scott loves the Fishbone, I love the Bosstones even though some people don’t. I love the Skaflaws.

Lana: We definitely have a lot of diverse influences.
Jon: And it’s not just ska. There’s punk, and jazz…
Zack: Everything. I think that, between the members of the band, we cover the musical spectrum.

Greg: So what have you all been listening to lately?
Zack: Prince Buster vinyl. I found it at Cheap-O (on Mass Ave in Cambridge).
Jon: Sublime non-stop.
Zack: Jackie McTull double album.
Jon: The Skaflaws.
Zack: I think we’ve said that name enough.
Jon: Yeah, no more plugging.

Greg: How are the Skavengers’ songs written?
Jon: Now we’re all starting to write. Phil wrote some, I’m writing, we’re all taking part, which makes it sound a little bit different, because a majority of the songs are written by Lana.

Greg: So who writes most of the lyrics?
Jon: Lana does. For all the songs that we’re playing now…
Lana: We’re starting to write more as a group.

Greg: What are most of the lyrics about?
Jon: Beer, lovers…
Lana: There’s no songs about beer.
Jon: OK… (sarcastically) we’re Green Day.
Lana: They’re about people that piss me off, mostly.

Greg: Is there a current Skavengers discography?
Lana: Oi! Skampilation 2 is coming out at the end of the summer. We have a couple songs on that. We’ll be recording in June.

Greg: Did you play the songs that are going to be on the compilation tonight?
Lana: Yup. “What’s Going On” and “Last Cigar.”
Greg: What label is that going to be on?
Jon: I think it’s going to be Radical Records. The last Oi! Skampilation was on Radical. They recorded the Oi Skaloween show in New York that we played. Ruder Than You is on it, Skinnerbox. There are some oi and punk bands, Blanks 77. It was a good show, we had a good time, and hopefully it’ll sound good.

Greg: What was the most memorable show or most memorable thing that happened at a show for the Skavengers?
Jon: I don’t know. I mean, up until tonight, our shows are pretty much tame. You nkow, we’re dancing, and people are jumping up and down or whatever. There’s no moshing or anything like that, and that’s not necessarily done at a ska show, but we like to have people get involved. We don’t want anyone standing around, so people have a good time.
Zack: The most memorable shows have probably been the crazy New York ones.
Lana: Coney Island High.
Jon: Yeah, Coney Island High was awesome.
Lana: Scott, like, held his drums up with his legs.
Jon: Oh yeah, the drum set fell apart.
Lana: Actually, our recording is from that show.
Zack: That whole show was fucking nuts. Soundmen everywhere going crazy, bands everywhere, the band before us, Inspector Seven threatened to smash the mics ‘cause they couldn’t hear enough through their monitors. It was cool. I think New York is awesome, like the crowd.
Lana: Playing Providence is awesome.
Jon: Yeah, Babyhead. Skins digged us.

Greg: It seems that ska in general is at a point now where it’s becoming increasingly popular.
Zack: “The next big thing,” Billboard magazine said last year.
Lana: Grunge, move over!
Zack: Mephiskaphales on MTV, hey.
Jon: Come on, we’re doing a video. It’s good though. Lana’s been in the scene for a long time. I think a lot of us have been into it way before it started becoming huge.
Zack: For the past three years, it’s been getting bigger and bigger.
Jon: And it’s good now, because we have our foot in the door. It’s not like we’re just starting out, because there are so many bands, and it would be so hard. But the band has been in the scene, and we know people.
Lana: It’s never really gone. There’s always been ska. It used to be more underground, but it’s always been there.

Greg: Do you think that the more traditional bands are washed over with other bands hopping on the bandwagon?

Jon: Oh yeah.
Zack: The least true to the ska sound, Madness, was the one who got the biggest.
Jon: The Police.
Zack: They were a ska band?
Jon: Well, they played white reggae. I wouldn’t call them white ska, but I still think we should cover a Police song.
Zack: The bands that are big right now for ska are like, the Bosstones, and they’re not that ska.
Jon: I mean, whatever. You’re gonna have an argument with any band. Like Fishbone, too — they’re a funk band. You know, I could say that, too. Fishbone did Lollapalooza, Rancid’s doing Lollapalooza, “Time Bomb,” whatever. It’s music, just have a good time listening to it. And hopefully, the majority of us are in it to have a fucking awesome time, and I think we all do. But maybe we’d like to make a living out of it. You know, everyone needs to live.
Zack: I think you’re in the wrong band.
Jon: That’s why we need an MTV video. (begins to sing) “I’m just a girl, in the world.” A lot of bands become big though, and lose their ska thing. If that ever happened to us, I don’t think we would.

Greg: What are the near-future plans for the Skavengers?
Jon: Well, Steve says he’s going to leave for the summer. The next plan is to tour a lot and to do an album. It’s pretty basic. We would definitely like to play more than Boston. I’d like to play Providence again, New York. I’d like to just go all over, let people know who we are. People in Boston know who we are, and New York now ‘cause we played there twice. But it’s so hard when you don’t have really anything out. Hopefully this CD that we’re going to be on, a lot of people will know about.

Greg: Any last thoughts?
Steve: I had a good time tonight, it was my first show.
Jon: Thank you for interviewing us, good luck with your fanzine. I could really use some Stevie’s right now.