Band: Mad Caddies
EP: House On Fire
Label/Vertrieb: Fat Wreck Chords / EDEL
2020 was going to be a big year for the Mad Caddies. The Santa Barbara, California, sextet had reached an impressive milestone: 25 years as a band. Had you asked any member of the Caddies a quarter-century ago if they thought their goofy high school ska band would be celebrating a silver anniversary, they probably would’ve laughed at you between bong hits. But the band managed to make it this far, selling a half-million albums and logging tens of thousands of road miles in the process.
Before the band could really roll out their big anniversary plans, that pesky global pandemic happened — and the Caddies, like every other band, were grounded. But in a strange twist, having this unexpected downtime allowed the group to finally complete a batch of songs they had been tinkering with since 2017: Introducing House On Fire, Mad Caddies’ new five-song EP and their first original music in six years.
“We started writing this collection of songs shortly after releasing Dirty Rice in 2014,” says Caddies bassist Graham Palmer. “It was put on hold a bit as we worked on and toured for Punk Rocksteady, so this downtime recently has allowed us to finish it up.”
House On Fire’s lead single, “Let It Go,” is a chilled-out number that feels sonically similar to much of Punk Rocksteady’s classic punk songs-turned-ska, but the remaining four songs on the EP step away from ska and punk entirely, while still sounding distinctly like the Mad Caddies.
“We've always tried to incorporate different genres within our punk/ska roots, and with multiple songwriters in the band, we have a lot of different influences,” Palmer says. “So we never really feel anything is a real departure, but more of ‘How can we make this genre Caddies?’ It's a fun challenge for us.”
The best example of this is “Waiting For The Real Thing,” a doo wop-inflected R&B number complete with snapping fingers and a big, brassy horn line that feels like it could’ve been played during the Enchantment Under The Sea dance in Back To The Future. The song actually dates back to the Dirty Rice sessions, but it took this long for the band to finally get it right. (“We've wanted to do a ’50s-ish type song for a while, so we're stoked to get it out there,” Palmer says.)
While early tracking for House On Fire actually began in 2017, the majority of the studio work was done this year during quarantine with longtime creative collaborator Thom Flowers (Lagwagon, the Ataris), with drummer Todd Rosenberg handling mixing. The songwriting process was equally collaborative, with frontman Chuck Robertson leading the charge. Adding to the positive vibes in the studio was the Caddies’ new trumpeter Mark Bush, who joined the band in 2018.
“Mark is a great musician and great addition to the band,” Palmer says. “He has a real handle on horn arrangement and theory, and he is always a good person to have in the room.”
One of the best examples of the Caddies’ horn section fitting perfectly is the EP’s closing track, “Wake My Baby.” Described by Palmer as a “straightforward, honest rock song,” the uptempo number about the end of a romantic relationship has bright, punchy horns and a classic 1-4-5 progression during the chorus, feeling like the kind of song Dan Andriano has been secretly sneaking onto Alkaline Trio albums for years. It’s a nice reminder that even after 25 years, the Mad Caddies can still find ways to stretch out their sound.
Oh, and as for that silver anniversary: The band is politely requesting a raincheck, indicating more new music is in the works, as well as potential touring for 2021.
“Our 25th anniversary tour got a bit derailed this year,” Palmer frets. “So… maybe a 26th anniversary tour next year?”
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Band: Mad Caddies
Album: Punk Rocksteady
Label: Fat Wreck Chords / EDEL
The Mad Caddies have always had a diverse set of influences. Since forming in Solvang, California back in 1995, the band has channeled their love of classic reggae, dub, ska, dancehall, two-tone, and punk into something that’s distinctly theirs. Over the past twenty years, the Mad Caddies have made music that slipped between genre lines, and with Punk Rocksteady, they offer a record of punk covers that shows the Mad Caddies are capable of taking all that piss and vinegar and turning it into something beautiful.
Recorded at San Francisco’s Motor Studios with Fat Mike serving as the record’s producer, as well as its spiritual guide, the Mad Caddies got to bring one of Mike’s pet projects to life. “This has been one of his dream projects for a long time,” says guitarist Sascha Lazor. “It’s been a party conversation. ‘Hey, you should do that.’” But after years of talk, the stars began to align. What followed was a two-month long process that saw the band, as well as Mike, collaborate on making a list of songs that were befitting of the Mad Caddies treatment.
“We had a grand vision that we needed to have four-to-six sounds on here,” says vocalist Chuck Robertson. “We needed to have traditional ska, super horn-heavy dancehall songs, reggae, SoCal stuff, and we needed to have something new and weird that we could make our own.” In order to make Punk Rocksteady diverse, the band labored over picking songs that could be interpreted in ways that would feel new and exciting, but still retained the spirit of the originals.
With Punk Rocksteady, the Mad Caddies effectively reframe the past 40 years of punk history into something that’s lighter but no less impactful. From pulling vintage soul music sounds out of The Misfits “Some Kind Of Hate,” or giving the Descendents deep cut “Jean Is Dead” a reggae strut, some of punk’s genre-defining bands are remade at the hands of the Mad Caddies. “If the song’s good, it can be played in any genre and do the song justice,” says Robertson, and it’s true listening to Punk Rocksteady, as the band’s approach shows the limitless potential of the source material, turning Against Me!’s “Sink, Florida, Sink” into a horn-laced joyride and giving the staunch ska-haters Propagandhi a send-up that even they couldn’t deny.
“We wanted this to be a cohesive album that, even if you’re not a fan of punk, you could throw on and enjoy,” says Robertson. And for punks that are dubious of reggae, it gives them a new view of the songwriting chops of some of their favorite bands. With both the Mad Caddies and Fat Mike in a room, the material for Punk Rocksteady had a really high bar to clear, and the band put in the work to ensure it did. “It’s really hard to take a Bad Religion song and make it a reggae song and have it sound good,” says Lazor. “There’s so much movement in the chords, and that doesn’t work for reggae.” But the result was finding a way to translate Bad Religion’s “Sorrow” into something that retained the song’s powerful arch with it sounding like something you’ve never heard before.
A byproduct of reworking all these songs to fit the Mad Caddies’ style was that the band finished the record inspired to look at their own songwriting with the same critical eye. “We don’t like to learn covers or play covers, but we picked these songs that we thought were really good,” says Lazor. “It really gave us a fresh perspective on writing songs.” It’s something that permeates Punk Rocksteady and reminds that, in the world of the Mad Caddies, the best thing to expect is the unexpected.
01. Sorrow (Bad Religion)
02. Sleep Long (Operation Ivy)
03. She (Green Day)
04. ...And We Thought That Nation-States Were A Bad Idea (Propagandhi)
05. She’s Gone (NOFX)
06. AM (Tony Sly)
07. Alien 8 (Lagwagon)
08. 2RAK005 (Bracket)
09. Some Kinda Hate (Misfits)
10. Sink, Florida, Sink (Against Me!)
11. Jean Is Dead (Descendents)
12. Take Me Home (Piss Off) (SNUFF)