The Big News w/ Roots of Thought & Don’t Tell Dena
UCO Jazz Lab
100 E 5th St, Edmond
7 pm, Wednesday, November 1
With a growing repertoire of sing-along ska punk anthems and an undying love for performing live, The Big News has risen out of Oklahoma City in recent years to become one of the region’s most enjoyable bands.
Now a sturdy five-piece act, The Big News combines guitar, drums, and bass with trumpet and trombone to create an upbeat sound that those unfamiliar with the ska genre can think of as sped up reggae with attitude. Ska is often written off as a one-note novelty genre that peaked in the 90s, but with its 2016 debut, Have You Heard?, the band showed that ska is still alive and well and can’t be contained to such stereotypes. This blog gave it a positive review last year.
Back in May of this year, the group released a new batch of songs as Welcome to the Weird Kids’ Table, a sophomore LP that further expands its sound. It’s moreso a solid rock record with a heavy ska influence than the other way around. “Fell in Love with a Stranger”, for instance, takes a while to even resemble the niche genre.
The album also occasionally incorporates a more serious tone without sacrificing its knack for a good time, as shown through songs like opener “I Don’t Care”. It’s all part of the band’s comprehensive approach to songwriting, which encompasses all sides of life and comes from a highly collaborative creative process.
The Big News has been playing constant shows this year in support of the new record, and that continues with a quickie five-date tour happening this week.
It kicks off on Wednesday, Nov. 1st, at an annual local music showcase called Paper Jam, a fundraiser for the University of Central Oklahoma’s Department of Design. Now in its ninth year, it will feature The Big News as well as budding indie band Don’t Tell Dena and Tulsa rockers Roots of Thought. The concert takes place at the esteemed UCO Jazz Lab in Edmond.
Read on for an exclusive interview with The Big News.
Your new album, Welcome to the Weird Kids’ Table, sometimes has a more serious tone than last year’s debut. Was that a conscious choice?
Not really. We progressed as a band and as friends, and this is just what it came out as. A lot of the material on Have You Heard? was our older stuff. It was the first songs we’d ever written as a band, basically, whereas Welcome to the Weird Kids’ Table (WTTWKT) was a complete collaboration from start to finish.
It seems like most ska music is played in major keys, but WTTWKT frequently taps into minor ones. Did the band draw from other sources as inspiration for this?
Also not really, ha-ha. It’s more like the other side of the same coin. As far as inspirations go, our inspirational sources are about as eclectic as they can be. We don’t all like the same genres of music–or even genres of ska for that matter–but what we really like to do is mix it up. It’s cool to have big poppy catchy songs, but it’s also great to have those really dark, crawling songs with thick horn lines. There really isn’t intent so much as it’s just a style we write in.
Did the band have any second thoughts about including a political song like “Trumpa Dump” on the new album?
Absolutely not. Politics doesn’t stem far from our thoughts as a band. “#5” was slightly political back on Have You Heard, and “Trambo”, which is on WTTWKT, was inspired by [Oklahoma governer] Mary Fallin. A big part of our writing process is that there is no actual intent, just flow. A minor verse can go into a major chorus, and the song could be about not having car insurance or it could be about the white house. Whatever happens is just the way it comes out, and that’s the most fun part. But we are not afraid of disclosing political ideologies like being anti-Trump. Gross. FUN FACT: the vocal tracks for “Trumpa Dump” were actually recorded on Inauguration Day.
How did you decide on the title of the new album, Welcome to the Weird Kids’ Table?
We had talked about the title. It really fit, but we had other concepts that were really cool ideas also. This one just kept coming back. None of us are the so called “cool guys” and really never were, so we identified with the weird kid table because that’s where we were–and still are! It encompassed the songs really well and sort of solidified the imagery and motto we’re trying to create with our music, which is basically “welcome to our club.” Everyone is welcome, but watch out, we’re weird.
Being a ska band, have you ever had a hard time being taken seriously?
That’s actually a big yes sometimes. The novelty associated with ska is fun sometimes, but not when it is applied to all ska. There have been times where all people could think about is goofy songs and bright clothes. Being from Oklahoma though, most people aren’t familiar at all with ska, or they know what it is and hate it. But this also proves to be really fun after we play and typically aren’t what people expected. That happens pretty much all the time. It is the best thing to watch someone expect a goofy ska band, and then we get on stage and put everything we got into it.
How do you manage to coordinate so many shows, practices, tours, and recording sessions among your band members?
Obsession and harassment. This is life.
What has been the response from concert-going crowds in and out of Oklahoma?
We have noticed the crowds getting bigger pretty much everywhere we are playing. They are also getting a bit rowdier, which is great! It is wild the amount of support we get locally and abroad. At the start of a concert, either a) no one knows who we are, or b) some of the people don’t know, and everyone else is about to tear the walls down. Either way, we usually win a bunch of people over, and we all become friends and have a good time. It is fantastic to be able to win people over and we are grateful for it.
Who had the idea for SkaBeQue, your annual ska and barbecue show at 89th St. Collective?
Chris Lee, our awesome designer, had the original idea, but it was our collaborative idea to keep it to local ska. The goal is to grow the local ska scene. We are trying to both tackle the awareness of its presence locally and give people the idea of starting their own bands. SkaBeQue 1 had two bands (us and LFNC) and this year we had three bands (us, LFNC, and Irrational Consumers) so maybe it’s working?? Either way it is definitely a blast. Thanks to 89th St. Collective for hosting the event two years in a row!
What was it like getting to play at House of Blues in Dallas last year?
Once in a lifetime experience, and we’ll never forget it.
How has tour life been for the band?
The most Insane, crazy experiences of our lives. We’ve slept in the van and on people’s floors, our van has leaked rain water (and pretty much any substance that should be inside the engine), our A/C went out in the New Mexico desert, and we’ve heard gunshots numerous times while standing at a venue or sleeping in our van. But we’ve also seen the Rocky Mountains. We’ve seen the St. Louis arch and The Mountains of Wyoming. We were caught in a snow storm in Salt Lake City just to arrive 4 hours later to a much warmer Las Vegas. We played in LA to some of the warmest, most loving people we’ve ever met on the road. Actually, almost everyone on the road has been very good to us, and we appreciate them very much. Be very sure that more touring is being planned next year.
Are there any songs in your repertoire that have become crowd favorites?
“Quit My Job Today” is massively popular. It is also our last song, so when we play it, the room explodes. “Joke’s On You” has done really well as a sing-along. “Kingston Weekend” gets a lot of people moving and “She Said No” typically gets everybody laughing and dancing around. Those seem to be the big ones.
What is your fondest performance memory to date?
It’s way too hard to pick a fav.
Seeing people in east LA wearing our shirts and singing our songs was super cool. They loved us, and they asked for an encore three times, in Spanish. They specifically wanted us to play “#5”.
We played an amazing show in Kearney, NE, that was about 3x over capacity. We got to play Skamicon in Anaheim with Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake. A couple weeks ago we played in front of 900 people in Wichita opening for Here Come The Mummies. But then again you’ve got the countless local festivals and shows like Norman Music Festival or Mugfest or Blue Note or Red Brick Bar. It’s just way too hard to pick a favorite. We just love to play!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you to anybody and everybody that cares about us in any way. We are truly grateful for you. WELCOME TO THE WEIRD KIDS’ TABLE!!!!!
This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.
aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.