Q&A w/ Bad Time founder Mike Sosinski on new comp ‘The Shape of Ska Punk To Come: Vol. 2′
When Bad Time Records launched in 2018, one of its first-ever releases was the following year's The Shape of Ska Punk to Come: Volume 1, a compilation that served as a who's who of the current ska-punk scene. Since that comp came out, the current ska scene has grown and Bad Time has become the most prominent American record label for the genre's latest wave, so it's with much anticipation that Bad Time Records now announces The Shape of Ska Punk To Come: Volume 2. Pre-orders are up now; if you pre-order it, you get an instant download, and the songs will be released one by one each day to the public until the whole thing is streaming. Proceeds benefit the ACLU and West Oakland Punks With Lunch.
Compared to the 13 songs of the original, this one has 20 songs, and it's got everything from veterans like Jeff Rosenstock and Mike Park to established staples of ska's latest wave like Kill Lincoln, We Are The Union, JER, Abraskadabra, Omnigone, Flying Raccoon Suit, Thirsty Guys, Los Skagaleros, Noise Complaint, Dissidente, and Millington to promising newcomers like Tape Girl, Eichlers, Lo(u)ser, and Dang!t. There's also the debut of Remnant Collective, a new project of Dan Alfonsi of Still Alive (who were on the first Shape of Ska Punk), and a couple international bands that may be new to American listeners: the UK's Redeemon (ex-Beat The Red Light, Smokey Bastards) and Moscow's Glory Hunters (both of whom have upcoming releases on Pookout Records, including Redeemon's new s/t EP which you can pre-order in the US from Bad Time).
The Shape of Ska Punk To Come: Volume 2 doesn't repeat any of the same bands that appeared on Volume 1, and it's got an even greater sense of musical diversity. Anybody that says all ska sounds the same, this comp would prove them wrong.
Ahead of the comp's release, we caught up with Bad Time founder (and Kill Lincoln member) Mike Sosinski to discuss the importance of compilations, the differences between Volume 2 and Volume 1, what went into choosing the artists for this comp, the Eric Dolphy-referencing artwork, the charities that the comp benefits, and more. Read on for our chat.
In related news, we've still got copies of our exclusive limited-to-100 gold vinyl variant of the new Abraskadabra album available in our store.
UPDATE: Also read our interview with Jeff Rosenstock on his contribution "NO U," and stream all the songs as they come out daily...
One of the first things you did when you started a label was put out a comp. Can you talk about the importance of comps to you personally and why you wanted to make sure that Bad Time had one?
I think a comp is an essential piece of showing what a label is about as a whole, and comps were so important to me growing up and getting my footing in the ska scene specifically. You know, like the Plea for Peace comp, Mailorder Is Fun!, the Misfits of Ska comp were huge, they introduced me to so many bands. Comps bring you in with certain bands, but then they introduce you to bands you maybe haven't heard of before. I think that's one of the most powerful things about a comp, the ability to bring you in to so many different bands that you maybe wouldn't have found anywhere else because you were interested in certain other bands. That was always a huge thing to me as a ska fan growing up. It's how I found so many bands.
[...] The Shape of Ska Punk to Come is kind of my answer to Misfits of Ska, just an opportunity to showcase a few bands I really like that are maybe not ready to put out a full-length record, but who I want to get into the Bad Time universe and introduce to people.
This new comp definitely seems primed to pull people in with bigger bands and introduce them to smaller ones. It spans generations, with veterans like Mike Park and Jeff Rosenstock, and then the bigger Bad Time bands, but also artists who only have a few songs out like Tape Girl, Dang!t, Lo(u)ser. Can you talk about the thought process behind putting together a comp with artists at so many different points in their careers?
Yeah, I mean that was very, very intentional. First of all, I knew that I wanted to not include any bands that were on the first The Shape of Ska Punk to Come -- the exception being Kill Lincoln just because I'm like, "well, that's my band, I have an extra track, I want it on there" -- but that immediately ruled out a lot of my favorite bands like Catbite and Joystick. So I had to look and see who didn't make it on the first comp, and there's We Are The Union, and Omnigone actually didn't make it on there, and then bands like Abraskadabra who are new to Bad Time -- I knew I wanted to get those bands involved. And then I thought about, "Well, who were some of the bands that have been carrying the torch for a long time but still feel rooted in the DIY ska scene?" and immediately thought of Mike Park. He's been really influential to me in how I want to run the label, but he's also been -- I feel like he'd be embarrassed if I called him a mentor, but he's just been really helpful to me personally with advice about the label and little things, so I immediately thought of him. I said, "Hey, do you wanna be on this comp? It's gonna be for charity," and he was like, "Yeah of course, here's a track." So he was really quick to do that, and then he was also able to connect me with Jeff Rosenstock. And you know, there's been so much with ska and Jeff this year, and as popular as Jeff is, I feel like he's still one of those artists that are really rooted in this like, DIY ska underground. No matter how big he gets, I feel like there's still that vibe. He gets what we're doing and he kinda fits in with this sort of new tone movement. So those were my reach bands, and then I had the existing Bad Time bands, and then I really wanted to focus on new bands, bands that are emerging and doing something really interesting that aren't really getting the attention that they deserve. So that's why you have bands like Tape Girl, Eichlers, Lo(u)ser, Dang!t, people who are making really interesting ska and ska-punk that I wanted to make sure got featured.
On a similar note, there's also a lot of musical diversity on the comp. You mentioned Eichlers, who's doing sort of a hyperpop thing, and then there are bands who border on hardcore, and so much in between. Could you elaborate on that aspect as well?
Yeah, that's like one of the main points of this comp in particular. It's called The Shape of Ska Punk to Come, but as I kind of write in the liner notes, the way that I think of "ska punk" right now is just ska that is trying to break down the genre boundaries a little bit. "Punk" doesn't necessarily need to be defined as "loud, distorted, three-chord songs," you know? Here, I think ska punk is just something that's maybe a little bit more experimental, maybe a little different. That's how I think about it for this comp. So yeah you've got bands like Glory Hunters from Russia, who are just like these heavy ska-core maniacs. They're so heavy and technical and the track they have on the comp is wild. But then that's up against Eichlers, who's combining like trap and pop and doing the "hyperska" thing. So I tried to get a mix of stuff on the comp, and through the tracklisting try to ebb and flow through the different styles. Obviously it's not comprehensive -- obviously there are other artists out there doing really interesting things with ska. And of course the one kind of missing element, which I kind of get to at the end of the comp, is more traditional ska. And of course I love traditional ska, but the point of this comp is to kind of showcase bands who are going outside of that tradition.
Other than not having any of the same bands as Vol. 1, what was different about Vol. 2 compared to Vol. 1?
It took a lot longer to put together. I gave some of the bands a deadline of like, this past March or April, so some of these tracks have been done for a long time. And just with the way vinyl pressing is going, I just wanted to try to wait as long as possible to make sure that vinyl would come out kind of around the same time [as digital and CD] -- of course it's gonna be a little delayed, but that's not gonna be news to anybody. But yeah, I think I also had to dig a little bit deeper to find some of the bands. For the first comp, I was like, "Here are 13 of my friends." For this one I had to kind of go out of my bubble a little bit and reach out to bands that were on my radar, but were people I didn't necessarily know very well. It was a cool exercise for me to get out of my comfort zone, and also it makes the comp that much better I think; it exposed me to a lot of new music so I have to assume it's going to expose a lot of the BTR fanbase to new music.
What were some of your favorite discoveries made along the way?
One of my favorites for sure is Tape Girl. I knew about Tape Girl, I had been following her, but hearing her track on this, I was just so blown away by how good it was and how much I liked it. I was just really excited about it, and that's sort of why I made it the first track. I just felt like it was a really good mixture of different styles and a really good table setting for the rest of the comp. Also Eichlers I have to shout out. I was definitely following Eichlers, but to get to know Russ a little bit better over the past couple months since we started talking about the comp has been an absolute pressure. He's just one of the nicest people making music period, and also his music is great. But yeah, all the bands on the comp -- reconnecting with my buddy Dan Alfonsi from Still Alive for his new project Remnant Collective was really awesome; this will be sort of the first showcase of what that band is all about. He sort of has a high concept of what it can be, and this will sort of be the first introduction of it. Working with Chris Graue from Lo(u)ser was awesome... I don't wanna leave anybody out, but yeah it was just good experiences all around.
So I wanna talk about the album cover. The first one was obviously an homage to Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come. This one's an homage to Eric Dolphy's Out to Lunch - why'd you choose that album?
With the first one, I know that Refused album is viewed as a very progressive and out-there punk album -- or whatever we classify it as. But also the name is taken from the Ornette Coleman album The Shape of Jazz to Come, and that always made me most interested in that record. I'm not a huge Refused fan, though I obviously understand and respect that album, but I always liked that they took that title because they were trying to be progressive and be different and sort of set themselves apart. And so, for this one, I was like, "Why don't I, instead of parodying a punk album or something, why don't I go back to the old Blue Note catalog, back to some really progressive jazz?" Now I'm not trying to get on a mountaintop and say that what we're doing is as artistically progressive as free jazz [laughs] -- that's not what I'm trying to say, but I was just inspired by that title and that aesthetic of the old Blue Note catalogs. One of the people I talk to most about music and Bad Time bands is my buddy Matt Ellis from Kill Lincoln, who is a huge jazz buff, a music major, and a professional jazz musician himself. We talk about jazz all the time, and we share albums back and forth, and it was actually his idea. He was like, "Why don't you do Out to Lunch? It's a pretty wild, out-there album, and the cover's pretty cool." So I saw it and I was like "Yes, I can immediately think of how to work with this." And yeah, it was really fun. The Shape of Ska Punk to Come covers I do myself, and I just saw it as a really fun graphic design challenge, so I really enjoyed it working on it. And I got to work with my good buddy DC (Daniel Cannistra) who took the photo for the front cover. We had this concept of like, the original Out to Lunch is a closed restaurant, so what if we look at venues? There are so many venues that are closed -- this was in the height of everything being locked down -- so DC went and drove around Washington, DC and just took pictures of a bunch of venues; he took pictures of Black Cat, he took pictures of DC9, and he took pictures of 9:30 Club and that set from 9:30 Club was like, perfect. It just kind of spells it out perfectly, and worked perfectly on the cover too. And I guess it also has some double meaning because all of these tracks were recorded in lockdown, every single one of them. They were all recorded during a very strange time in ska's history. So it's sort of playing on that idea, and the idea that venues are closed; we're not doing it live, we're doing it from home, and maybe that's more part of the future. I don't know, something like that [laughs].
What made you choose the two charities that you're donating the money to?
We did the first Shape of Ska Punk to Come as a benefit for the ACLU, and I feel like they are just one of the most pivotal organizations fighting for basic human rights on the most practical level. The money you donate goes to legal fees where they're in court, trying to overturn unjust laws, whether it's having to do with abortion rights or basic civil rights or gay rights -- they're really in there doing the actual practical work, and I think that's really important. Obviously there are so many charities that we could go and support and give money to, but I really wanted to give to a larger organization that I felt was actually going to do something. I've worked with some bigger organizations before, and sometimes you don't get the sense of where your money's actually going or what it's doing, but the ACLU I can feel that something is actually happening and work is being done. And then the other organization West Oakland Punks with Lunch, they are a local group here -- I really wanted to make sure that I focused locally. Sometimes I get caught up with the fact that bands I work with are from all around the country, and we're often trying to support causes that are more universal, but I really wanted to make sure that I focused local. There's a major homelessness issue in Oakland and in the Bay Area, and Oakland Punks with Lunch are a group who go to the various homeless sites and try to provide resources and food and Narcan and drug assistance. I just felt like they are a group that has a punk ethos, they're all doing it themselves, and they just want to get together and help. They all got together initially because they all like the same kind of music, but they are trying to do some good in town and step in where it feels like police can't do anything or refuse to do anything, or where our government refuses to step in and do anything. I just respect that they're a small group of likeminded people trying to help. So that's why I picked them. And I feel like it's important for compilations in general to try to do some good. I think it's important for a compilation to have a message and give back to a community -- especially when you're working with a lot of bands, there's no equitable way to properly pay bands for their contributions to a compilation. And I know when you tell all the bands that it's a charity compilation, they are instantly on board -- at least the ones that are on this compilation -- and it's just a really positive and uplifting feeling to know that they would all contribute their music to support a cause, especially in a time when bands are struggling. So I always really appreciate that and I don't want to abuse that fact, I want to make sure the money is going somewhere good where it's going to be used.
Anything else you want to add or shout out?
I'm just really grateful to people that take a chance on the comp. And I know there will be people who buy it because certain bands are on it, and I really hope that they take a good listen to the entire thing and find a new band that they didn't know about before and start listening to them and start supporting them. And I also want to reiterate that I know that this is not everything that's happening in ska-punk or in progressive ska music right now. There are a lot of bands that are doing great stuff that I wasn't able to include, so this is not comprehensive. And I think I've written that in both Shape of Ska Punk's liner notes; I know it's not comprehensive, but this is just my attempt to shine a light on some interesting stuff that's happening. I hope it just encourages people to look for more ska and more ska-punk and realize that there's so much out there and so much exciting stuff happening right now.
1. TAPE GIRL - “Half-Pipe (The Art of Vocal Feminization)”
2. GLORY HUNTERS - “Muzik”
3. JEFF ROSENSTOCK - “NO U”
4. EICHLERS - “Highway 2 the Errorzone”
5. ABRASKADABRA - “Closer to the Ground”
6. WE ARE THE UNION - “A Century of Failure
7. FLYING RACCOON SUIT - “Run Away”
8. OMNIGONE - “Land of Opportunity”
9. THIRSTY GUYS - “Careerist”
10. REDEEMON - “Purpose”
11. JER - “Ska Has Progressed PasT the Need for Incels”
12. KILL LINCOLN - “Misaligned”
13. REMNANT COLLECTIVE - "Laike”
14. LOS SKAGALEROS - “Conditioned”
15. MILLINGTON - “Millington”
16. MIKE PARK - “Saturday night”
17. NOISE COMPLAINT - “Plague Rats”
18. DANG!T - “Kind of Life”
19. LO(U)SER - “Me vs Me”
20. DISSIDENTE - “Atlantis”