By Melissa Reid
The fourth wave of ska is upon us and influencing dance floors across North America. Local bands are popping up all over with roots in ska and reggae hoping to bring quality back to music. Blackwood Kings is one of the many ska bands producing quality music with real instruments for real people. They define themselves as ‘Proggae’ or progressive reggae. The band’s different musical genres add to their weirdness and honest nature that appeals to ska-enthusiasts everywhere.
Four Victoria boys: Michael Luis, Noel Anstey, Chris Zielonka and Graham Cournoyer began their ska ventures shortly after graduating high school. The band came from very different musical backgrounds including funk, metal and jazz, but the quad pod could all agree on ska and reggae. Ergo Blackwood Kings formed as a progressive ska, dub-reggae band.
They had the foundation for an epic band; the only problem now was the name. Sitting down with the drummer Michael Luis, sporting a colourful layered look, complete with a beanie and headphones he shared the story behind naming their band. “The house I’ve lived in my whole life is on the corner of Blackwood Street and Kings Road and I was like Blackwood Kings – that sounds good! Right amount of syllables – rolls off the tongue and it has meaning. That’s where we have written all our music and where we get drunk and do stupid shit,” says Luis.
Recording the Rhythms
The Hidden Gem, an underground music venue, is where Blackwood Kings found their niche. Sweet Leaf, Brave New Waves and Hillside Hooligans played a show and Blackwood Kings took the opportunity to market themselves. They put together a rough demo, hand made with paper sleeves and gave them to everyone at the show. Their roughly recorded demo got just the right attention. Sweet Leaf asked Blackwood Kings if they were interested in playing a show together in the future. “They were our first real show within the scene so to speak.,” says Luis.
The quality of their Blackwood Kings demo does not come close to fully demonstrating their eccentric and varied live performances, however it produces an honest edge. There is no doubt about the quality of musicians in Blackwood Kings.
Noel Antsey, lead guitarist, shreds unbelievable licks producing crazy distortions. Luis on drums is like the crust of the pie holding everything together. Zielonka’s voice compliments the overall sound of Blackwood Kings. On the demo, the bassist, Cournoyer, rocked old school rhythms, but lost him to a 9 to 5 job in Alberta. They were able to find Gaelan McMillan to fill Cournoyer’s place. McMillan is only 17 years-old and to the other members of the band, he’s a prodigy. The band’s sound is up-beat, easy listening music staying true to ska’s roots.
Reaching Right Ahead
The band felt confident they could make a name for themselves by working with local ska bands and the Victoria BC Ska Society. Victoria hosts a Ska Fest annually, promoting local artists and hosting some of the biggest names in ska and reggae. Victoria’s community supports local ska and reggae talent, and this energy is constantly flowing in and out of the city. “I think ska and reggae music in Victoria will always be healthy as long as there is a Ska Fest and community support,” says Luis.
With a rock solid group of musicians, Blackwood Kings have a bright future ahead. For now, they are stoked to build their fan base and give back to the community the same way the community has supported them.
Melissa hosts Funk ‘n’ Ska Friday’s 8:00-9:00AM