Getting people dancing is at the heart of ska music. The style, when performed live, can be better at making people move than the best DJ.
On April 20, RI Ska Productions will present a night full of ska tunes at Revival Brewing Company in Cranston. The cover band RI Bred and Providence experimental rock act They Were Robots will be joined by El Grande, a ska septet based in Portland, Maine.
I recently had a talk with El Grande’s vocalist and guitarist Chris Gironda about how the band began, the music scene in Portland, the state of ska in the 2010s and a new record the band is putting out.
ROB DUGUAY: What made you all want to start a ska band back in 2004?
CHRIS GIRONDA: I was always fond of ska. I loved the syncopation and how it could make you dance. Aside from just liking the genre, I was intrigued by how the percussive strumming style played as big of a role in the songs as the chord progression.
RD: What is it like being a part of the music scene in Portland? Is it diverse, or is one style of music more popular than the others?
CG: Portland has a rich local music history, and it’s an honor to be a part of that. There are cool local shows every night of the week that reach a broad range of audiences and genres, and we’re lucky to have some great venues in town to support that. There really isn't one particular genre that stands out as more popular. There are a lot of cool, smaller scenes within the community, whether it’s punk, hip-hop or folk.
RD: Ska has been a resurgent genre throughout the 2010s, with new bands coming up and established acts putting out new albums. Have you been excited about this new wave of ska music?
CG: Yes! It’s always nice to see a genre of music I love get the recognition it deserves.
RD: What do you think has been the biggest change within the band, either musically or management-wise, over the past 15 years?
CG: Management-wise, it’s really changed over the past few years, mostly because there is a lot more to manage. Our website, social media, booking and promotional responsibilities take a lot of time and attention. It is all worth it to make connections locally and throughout the scene.
RD: You guys haven’t released anything since the “Bayside Story EP” came out in 2016. Can we expect a new record soon?
CG: Absolutely. Our new album, “Brick City Sound,” will be released June 9. We heard you may be able to find a pre-released copy at our merch table at the show on April 20.
To learn more about El Grande, visit the band’s website, elgrandemusic.com.