Bite Me Bambi share “I Don’t Wanna Be” off upcoming debut EP, playing Slacktoberfest
Orange County power poppy ska band Bite Me Bambi are one of the bands on the awesome new Ska Against Racism compilation and one of the bands we highlighted in our new feature on the current DIY ska scene, and after releasing an increasingly promising run of singles in 2019 and 2020, they've now shared another new song, "I Don't Wanna Be." The band -- who are fronted by Tahlena Chikami and who share a couple members with ska-punk vets Save Ferris -- have shown off a different side of their music on each single, and this one finds them at their most fast-paced and punk-inspired. It's got a sneering delivery from Tahlena, and it's just as instantly catchy as anything they've released yet. Listen and watch the Chris Graue-directed video (in which Tahlena pays tribute to the late Toots Hibbert by wearing a Maytals shirt) below.
"I Don't Wanna Be" will appear on Bite Me Bambi's upcoming debut EP (title and release date TBA), which also features previous singles "Hot Lava," "Crazy," and "Strippers On A Sunday," and you can check out the videos for those below too. Bite Me Bambi have also done a handful of quarantine-friendly cover videos, including of Blur's "Song 2," The Specials' "Gangsters," Millie Small's "My Boy Lollipop" (which they actually released shortly before Millie's passing), and The Offspring's "Want You Bad." To hear their contribution to Ska Against Racism ("Carried Away"), you can and should pick up the comp (for $1 or more) at Bad Time Records' Bandcamp. Proceeds benefit The Movement for Black Lives, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, The Alpha Institute, The Conscious Kid, and Black Girls Code.
Bite Me Bambi are also playing NYC ska greats The Slackers' Slackertoberfest livestream on October 3 at 3 PM ET with London's Buster Shuffle, Mexico City's Salon Victoria, Germany's Dr. Ring Ding, Tokyo's Rude Bones, Australia's The Resignators, Bangkok's Tbone, and Chicago's Chuck Wren. Tickets are on sale now, and ticketholders can rewatch on-demand through October 6.
We recently spoke to Tahlena, and some of that conversation is quoted in our new ska article, but you can read our full chat with her below...
BV: How did you first get into ska, and what made you fall in love with it?
Tahlena Chikami: I was exposed to ska from a very early age. My parents, mostly my father, was into two-tone ska and mod music. It was kind of just the background of my childhood. As I got older and started playing music, I think I was drawn to ska because it was fun to play. I was also proud to be a part of genre that’s roots were entrenched in social justice causes. Ska has such deep and vibrant history.
What is it about ska that you think gets such a bad rap?
I think as ska became overly saturated and overly commercialized in the early 2000’s, it started to be viewed as a joke or a passing fad. I understand that. There is some dude who went to ska shows every weekend in the 90’s and he probably looks back on it fondly as a phase he went through in his teens. But the history and culture of ska runs deep. Most casual fans don’t realize that. They only see fedoras, checkers, and beer.
What was it like starting up a ska band in an era where the genre is presumed "dead" by many, and how have you seen the current ska scene grow and change in the years since you formed?
I’ll say it again for the people in the back. Ska is not dead! It never died. Ska, like most subcultures, just dips in and out of the main stream. For us hardcore fans, we have always been here and we always will be. All of us in Bite Me Bambi love playing ska, so when we started BMB we were going to be a ska band. No question about it. We’d play it if 10 kids or 10,000 kids coming to shows. It’s who we are. But I have seen the ska scene growing and changing. I think with the advent of the internet, bands all over the world can work together and fans all over the world can find each other. Sure, it’s still a subculture, but all the subculture kids all over the world can find each other now online. I think that’s given those of us who make this kind of music some steam to keep creating.
Besides your own band, who are some other current/newer ska bands that you recommend? Feel free to either just list a few, or to add commentary about why you recommend them.
I’ve always been a big fan of Oreskaband out of Tokyo. They’re all killer musicians and have super catchy ska tunes. I recently discovered The Upstarters from Washington D.C. They have great vocals and harmonies. Oh! And Panteon Rococo from Mexico. They’ve been around since the 90’s. I caught their last US tour and was BLOWN AWAY! Every song was amazing!
Obviously the music world is taking a big hit at the moment and it's not easy to see the future right now, but where do you see ska going from here?
Bite Me Bambi keeps joking that we’re not a band anymore, we’re a Youtube channel. Personally, I’ve put shows out of my mind. There is no way of knowing when we’ll be able to get back to playing gigs at this moment. As much as I miss seeing our fans in person, I can’t sit around being sad about something I can’t control. So instead we’ve decided to try to find more ways to connect with our fans. Right now, in the ska community, there have been so many awesome collaborations of ska musicians all over the world. People have been recording videos, covers, new music. It’s really exciting to see. One of the benefits of being a subculture, is we’re used to doing our own thing and paving new paths forward. We’re just finding out how to connect in this new world.
Anything else you'd like to add on this topic that I didn't ask about?
I think one of the most important part of the ska scene is the people. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true. You will find the most open and accepting people at a ska show. It’s a place that if you show up alone, you’re leaving with fifteen new best friends that you met while singing your heart out in the pit. Every race, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability is accepted. Personally, in Orange County, I have seen our scene rally around so many causes to really make a difference. Or just look at the new Ska Against Racism comp by Ska Punk Daily, Asian Man Records, and Bad Time Records. They raised over $50,000 dollars for social justice charities. That’s the power of ska music. The people who are so willing to be accepting and giving. It’s truly one of the reasons I can’t ever see myself playing any other style of music.