Boise's music scene has always had that one band that's kicking so much ass it doesn't have time to take names. Right now, it’s Youth Lagoon. But it wasn’t that long ago that it was ska band The PirkQLaters, whose fiercely melodic, acid-tongued and warp-powered songs propelled them into a series of tours and opening slots for the biggest bands of the day.
But as ska fizzled, so did the band—its members scattering to the wind and forming other projects like Hotel Chelsea, All Hands Go and, in the case of trombone player Luke Strother, going through a Ph.D. program for trombone.
But after enduring years of a Greek chorus telling its members to pull a full-on Blues Brothers and get the band back together, they finally relented.
The PirkQLaters are announcing this weekend that the band is back on and it will be performing Thursday, May 23 at Knitting Factory and then a smaller semi-private affair Friday, May 31 at Sammy’s.
Guitar player Red Kubena, formerly of Hotel Chelsea and Ohadi, is taking over for Zach Gilstrap on guitar, making him the band’s fifth guitar player.
PirkQlaters frontman Ryan Sampson stopped by BWHQ to chat about what the band has planned, who they think might care and simply, “why?”
RS: “It’s been five years since we did it and people have been bugging us. So that was sort of happening, and I was thinking that we already have a catalog of songs, and the majority of members are already in town, so why not start it over again?
"It’s one of those things where it fizzled out the way it did, and I don’t think some of the members had the closure we wanted. And we still wanted to keep doing it. Even at band practices [drummer Chris] DeVino and I would play old songs together—to Red’s chagrin—and, funny enough, he is now in the band.”
BW: Who’s going to give a shit?
RS: “Yeah. Valid question. I don’t care. Here’s the funny part. All those kids that were 15 or 16 and would come to the shows back then can all legally drink now. So the bar owners will be stoked about that. But I’m not doing it to please anybody; I’m doing it because I like it. That’s why I play the music I play.”
BW: Will you be doing mostly archival material or are you writing new stuff?
RS: “We’re going to start writing new stuff. Right now we’re taking select songs out of the three records, a few covers, and working on those. And we’ll start writing from that point on. Luke, our trombone player is going to be kind of in and out because he’s got so much stuff on his plate, but he’ll still be an integral part of the songwriting process.”
BW: Is there a larger plan to tour again or just play local shows?
RS: “I would like to. That’s a bridge we’ll cross when we get to it. First off, let’s get through these first couple shows. We’re saying we’re coming back, but who knows. I’ve heard that from a lot of bands.”
BW: Do you think the time is right for another ska resurgence? Is bringing the band back part of that?
RS: “I had that conversation last night. Every major ska band out there, be it Streetlight Manifesto, RX Bandits, it’s been six years since a lot of those bands put out a record. The only one that’s even standing is Big D and the Kids Table. And even they are just kind of fledgling right now. You read all the punk and ska publications ... and they’re waiting for this new Streetlight album. What are they doing? What’s it going to sound like? What’s it going to be? I’ve been doing this 15 years and I’ve never seen that.
"It took us five years from Tough Town to put out Last Stand and everybody hated it. If you listen to ska bands from the ‘96 to 2000 period, your Goldfingers, your Reel Big Fishes, Buck O’Nine, they all sounded the same. Verse-chorus, verse-chorus. The verses are all ska, the choruses are all distorted. We tried to do something different, throwing in dropped D and metal riffs and things like that. And people didn’t like it. But now ska has turned to the point where people are throwing more dub in there or getting more jam band-y like the Bandits did. Or with streetlight adding that eastern European flavor. So I think if you’re a ska band and you’re doing something different, people will pay attention.”
BW: So you think the time is right for progressive ska?
RS: “Absolutely. God, what a horrible name for it, but yes.”