Skata Tones

by Nickie Shobeiry

Hailing from Devon, Skata Tones – described on their page as “Six dudes, playing tunes to make you bounce” – are exactly that. Fans of reggae, ska, roots, funk, and good music by talented musicians, you’ll probably want to check these guys out.

So, from the top - how did Skata Tones form? Skata Tones started at college where we came together for a project. Robbie, the lead vocalist, had an EP worth of original material that he brought to the group, and it went from there. The name ‘Skata’ came from the members of the band being ‘scattered’ across North Devon, ranging from Bude to Bideford to South Molton. It also just sounds good!

Who are your biggest influences? The five artists/bands that have mainly influenced our sound would be: The Skints, Madness, The Whalers, Nirvana, and our good friend John Bangham. For guitarist Rob Brooks, non-musical influences are his dad, Paul. For the rest of us: Tony Butler of Big Country as well as anyone else who has supported us.

Could you share some of your favourite on-stage memories? Euphoric natural highs, stage-jumpers, people dancing on tables and getting everyone in the venue singing our own songs back to us. Our favourite songs to play are One Step Beyond, Billie Jean, Bap Bat, Celebrity, and Holiday To The Moon.

What’s the writing process like for you? It varies from song to song, but it usually starts by Robbie (lead vocalist) bringing lyrics and progressions to the band and developing it from there. Our favourite lyric has to be from Celebrity: “I don’t know you but you know me / I don’t judge you but you judge me / Never free, if you were to try and spend one day as me, you’d beg please / And I’d smirk as you fall to a knee.”

What’s the story behind your songs Statistics and Alcohol? The main inspiration behind Statistics came from the London riots of 2011 - we have to give a shout out to Harry Palin for lyrical help with this track. Alcohol is about people going out and only thinking they can have a good time once they’ve had a drink, or whatever other intoxicant they can get their hands on. It also comments on the fact that this is unlikely to ever change.

Could you share a little about your EP, Brief Assignment? Brief Assignment was quite special for us as it was the first time we had ever done anything like that. The name came from college where our last assignment brief was to create a four-song portfolio of original music. The recording process was certainly an eye-opener for us; it consisted of a week of early starts and late finishes, setting up, sound-checks and recording, followed by many pick-up sessions in the weeks that followed so that we could put down the last few parts of the tracks.

You recently took part in a music competition with The Convent (and a huge well done for getting so far!). What was the experience like for you all? The experience for us was quite liberating - just to think that our band had got to the final three of 600 bands! Plus we got to stay in a four-star hotel using high-end equipment and using mixing desks that bands such as Coldplay use. Plus, free food!

Everyone seems to have downloaded music at least once - do you think music should be freely available to own? How do you feel about your music being downloaded? Firstly, we think it’s ace that people want to download our music - or even steal it! We think that if people want to listen to music just to chill with at home then yes, it should be freely available to own. However, if people or organisations start to make profits from your/our work without paying a royalty, then we cannot endorse this. We don’t think digital music will ever completely take over - analogue music is already making a comeback.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received (musically or otherwise)? It came from our first gig back in the days of college when we were still called Two Tone: “If you don’t carry on then you’d be stupid!” We’ve always come back to this when we’ve been going through a rough patch.

If you could choose any rider request, what would it be? We’d ask for some sandwiches and a bottle of Jack Daniels for Robbie, plus a Chinese and ale for Rob, our guitarist. A tuned Steinway grand piano for Harry, our keys player, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts for Marcus, the bassist. For Steve, the drummer, it’d be peach-flavoured water, and for Steve (aka ‘Pops’), who plays the tenor saxophone, mints and coffee. Lastly, ten gallons of diesel and non-alcoholic ginger beer for the drivers!

What can we expect from Skata Tones in the future? New songs, more gigs, and more fun. Roll on 2015!