Is Brick Bosso new hype of 2020’s Californian underground? With its song-based psychedelic, adventurously raucous rock, bringing melodies back in a world where it now only belongs to some sophisticated acts, this mysterious project suddenly reveals a new side of its talent, adding to that a connection with the raising glories of West Coast ska: Ska’N’Bones.
If Ska was popularised in the late 70’s, early 80’s, thanks to the boldness of the well-named band Madness, the origins of this genre date long before that. It was, in a nutshell, the 1950’s precursor of reggae, which whom it shares rhythmic similarities. Some say ska is reggae on vitamins (or any upper substance), while it would be more logical to see reggae as ska on weed.
Here comes Mr Ska Time, real tapes and real ska.
From the first notes of “Leaky Connections”, you know it’s Brick Bosso. And you know it’s ska. The good news is that Brick Bosso doesn’t pastiche ska; he lives it. To the bones. (pun intended)
You distinguish the unmistakeable trademark of Bosso, that almost Lennonesque acid in the voice and guitars, the sometimes surprising chords change (“All Of These Dreams”) that remind us that there’s a very competent musician behind the project.
Brick Bosso going ska isn’t a surprise when you dig deeper in his blurred identity: it happens that the common ground with Ska’N’Bones is hard to deny.
It may take a private detective to dig under Brick Bosso’s mystery, yet the man himself wasn’t too reluctant to answer our almost innocent questions.
You joined Ska’N’Bones sometimes after you had already launched your Brick Bosso career. Would have “Ska Time” have existed without becoming part of Ska’N’Bones? Or was a ska album already a plan of yours anyway?
Brick Bosso: I had created two Brick Bosso [https://brickbosso.bandcamp.com/] albums before Ska ‘N’ Bones assembled, which, when we finally released Smally Fingers then played live, inspired me to write songs in the Ska style for a third album. All the fun of reuniting with old friends plus the energetic mania of Ska music motivated me to create Ska Time as a spin-off of Ska ‘N’ Bones.
How different is your writing approach of ska with the two projects?
Brick Bosso: Having the parameters of a Ska beat just made it easier to formulate the tunes. I had already conceived of “Leaky Connections” as a kind of manic new wave song, so when I was finishing it to present to Mike and Jon, I added the Ska beat which motivated and propelled me. A good beat always helps, and this period of writing for Ska Time was lots of fun because I had been re-infected with the Ska bug.
Will the “Ska Time” album bring live material for Ska’n’Bones?
Brick Bosso: We’ve already performed “Leaky Connections” live and I hope that there will be others.
With “Housing Crisis”, you blur the boundaries between ska and reggae. How would you really differentiate the two styles?
Brick Bosso: As I understand it, Ska was created first in Jamaica of the 50’s, then was adapted to become reggae at a slower tempo to make it cooler for the dancers in crowded clubs. This story could be totally apocryphal however. The best of both genres are concerned with issues of social justice, though there are obviously examples of cool love songs in both.
For sure, “Housing Crisis” is the gem of the album, with its reggae-infused skank and intriguing synthesized brass. It also brings a more socially assertive lyrics on the table.
Brick Bosso: I’m aware that as a white man my reggae creds require of the listener a bit of suspension of disbelief, but the issue-the high cost of housing, which is a literally life-threatening reality all around me in California–seemed like a natural topic for a reggae tune. And the melody as I was writing it fit the slower tempo, so I went with it. Reggae did catch my ear as a child, but when the second wave of Ska arrived around 1979 –The Specials, Madness, The English Beat and Selecter — my head exploded. The combination of social justice issues, romantic discontent, and fun upbeat mania was the perfect mix. It was off the charts fun and still affects me in a ways no other genre of music does. And yes, I think that having Reggae as a vehicle almost cries out for social content. When writing housing crisis I very intentionally created it almost as homage to those great reggae artists from Jamaica I first heard in the 70s. I think it shows most in the synth brass arrangement and the drum sounds. Social content is not necessary but Ska and Reggae do beg for it.
Another tune is called “(I Wanna Be) Legitimate” and despite its title, doesn’t raise any question: it only confirms that Brick Bosso is legitimate in the ska world. To the point of leaving Ska’N’Bones behind, as just a stepping stone? The closer “Bye Bye Bones” may make us wonder. Still, Bosso corrects that ““Bye Bye Bones” was written in an extended period of inactivity between the first Ska ‘N’ Bones single and the recording of four additional songs for our first EP. My imagination went wild, as it often does, and the resulting song is a speculative, humorous look at my concerns about not hearing anything from my pals in the band, because they were all very busy with other gigs. Funny fact: the sound bites at the beginning and end are excerpts from recordings Mike, Jon and I made as promos for Ska Parade on Dirty Radio… I’m not going solo–Brick Bosso is a separate project but is not exclusive.”
40 years after the early 80’s ska boom, Bosso and Ska’N’Bones might be the twins that will renew the genre.