The Slackers

The Slackers

The Slackers have spreading their gospel of "Jamaican Rock N Roll" for 22 years now. While they have been influenced, and even personally taught by Jamaican ska/reggae originators, like the Skatalites and the Upsetters (Original backing band for the Wailers) they play it with a decidedly American accent. Basically, this band is equally appreciative of old blues, country, 60s soul, rock, and Rnb as it is of reggae, rocksteady, dub, and Ska. It is as if the Rolling Stones or the Yardbirds had grown up on Bob Marley as well as Muddy Waters.

Smashing the stereotypes of "ska" as happy,uptempo, and shallow music, the Slackers play with an aggressive edge and their songs veer in themes from the personal to the political. Back in 1996, the NY Times declared the Slackers to be part of "the sound of New York", a mantle they haven't given up since. Ten years later, Alternative Nation stated that their music is "protest music made for dim, sweaty basements, The Slackers would sound at home supporting Rancid as well as some grizzled New Orleans electric blues trio." The LA Weekly wrote about, "their unfettered energy, unerring skankability, and playful anger."

The band basically divides its recorded output into 2 categories. First of are their "albums", which are as sax player, Dave Hillyard, says with just a hint of his typical sarcasm, "these are where we try to take over the universe." This steady stream includes Better Late Than Never (1996), Red Light (1997), The Question (1998), Wasted Days (2001), Close My Eyes (2003), Peculiar (2006), Self Medication (2008), The Great Rocksteady Swindle (2010), and The Radio (2012).

Not content with letting the record industry dictate their output schedule, the band has also put out numerous eclectic and whimsical albums following their different interests of the moment. Slackers & Friends (2002) saw the band performing with some of their idols like The Congos, the late Glen Adams of the Upsetters, Cornell Campbell, and Doreen Schaeffer. International War Criminal EP (2004) was a bitter broadside against the Bush Administration. Afternoon in Dub (2005) is pure reggae bliss. Boss Harmony Sessions (2007) was a collaboration with DJ Boss Harmony who arranged and refiltered tracks in unorthodox ways. Lost & Found (2009) is a compilation of forgotten tracks, alternate versions, and remakes from the bands recording vaults.

Currently, the Slackers have just completed a new EP of new material, My Bed Is a Boat. It is being released on vinyl, cd, and as a download by Big Tunes ( The Slackers completed their fundraising goal in 2 weeks and it will have a street date of September 5th, 2013.

The EP features songwriting from 5 of 6 band members as well as putting the lyrics of Robert Louis Stevenson's poem, "My Bed Is A Boat" to a little Richard-esque rock n roll beat.

The band recorded these tunes in the Brooklyn studio of Victor 'Ticklah' Axelrod (Antibalas, Dap Kings). Dave comments, "It just felt natural. This band started rehearsing in little New York basements so to pile us into Ticklah's place in a Brooklyn basement felt like us returning to our roots." Vic (Ruggiero) was excited to get back to using Analog tape for the basic tracks, "It just sounds right."

The band has also put out 3 live albums; Live At Ernestos (2000), Upsetting Ernestos (2005), Slack In Japan (2005), and 2 DVDs; The Slackers: A Documentary (2007) and Live at the Flamingo Cantina (2009).
This focus on the live show is not surprising because the Slackers have a good part of their existence on the road. Since 1997, the band has been doing around 110 shows a year. This includes some 32 major North American tours, 18 European tours, 3 Japanese tours and 4 Brazilian tours. They have played in 43 different US states, 6 canadian provinces, 22 european countries, 5 Latin American nations, Turkey, Japan, and South Korea.

They have appeared on the stages of numerous festivals such as the Warped Tour (1998), the Lowlands Festival (1999), Pukkelpop (1999, 2004), CMJ (2000), Montreal Jazz Festival (2000), the Bourges Festival (2001), the Dour Festival (2002, 2007), Deconstruction Tour (2004), Augustboller (2005), Streetbeat Festival (2005), Popkomm (1999,2006), Summerjam (2007), Mighty Sounds (2007), Ilosaarirock (2007), Glastonbury (2008), Ink N Iron (2009,2012), Beautiful Days (2010), Rebellion (2010, 2012), Santa Monica Pier (2011), Rhythm Festival (2012) and Shambala (2012).

They have opened for Rancid (1999,2003,2006), Hepcat (1999), Joe Strummer (2002, 2003), Floggin Molly (2002), Jimmy Cliff (2002), the Beat (2002), Pennywise (2004), Toots & the Maytals (2005), The Pogues (2006), John Spencer's Heavy Traffic (2007),and The Specials (2010).

They have sold out numerous headlining gigs including such venues as Bowery Ballroom (nyc, 2 times), Brooklyn Bowl (nyc), The Bell House (nyc), Slims (San Francisco, 6 times), Lee's Palace (Toronto, 3 times), The Underworld (London), The Middle East (Boston), the Melkweg (A-dam), SESC Pompeia (Sao Paolo, 2 nights in 2006), and the Loft (Tokyo, 2 times).

Hopefully, if you have read this far, you are starting to get the point that the Slackers are a phenomenon. A worldwide phenomenon. An underground band with a cult following, they can fill venues everywhere!

The band has come a long way from their little dirty rehearsal studio on e.3rd street on the lower east side.

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