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Posted: 11:38 a.m. Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Bandulus talk reggae, ska and soul at Austin Reggae Fest  

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A-list: Austin Reggae Fest, 04.18.14
Tammy Perez/For American-Statesman
A-list photos of Austin Reggae Fest on April 18, 2014.

By Deborah Sengupta Stith

After a few clouds in the morning, Friday shaped up to be a lovely day in the ATX. By the time Austin ska band the Bandulus (pronounce it "ban-doo-loos") took the Butler Park stage at 5 p.m. to kick off the 2014 Austin Reggae Fest, it had turned into one of those ridiculously gorgeous spring days that leave you praising whatever benevolent force it was that brought you into this temperate, weed-scented paradise.

Playing to a respectable crowd who beat traffic to spread blankets on the lawn and stake out prime spots for the wildly popular festival, the band threw down an easy groovin' mixture of reggae, ska and soul. Without the horn pops that typify a ska band the band leans on the push pull of bass and drums, keyboard-provided organ strains and rhythmic guitars to create their grooves. They make good use of the soulful pipes of dual vocalists lead singer Jeremy Peña and Leah Farmer. 

After the well-received performance Peña, who was born in Austin and raised in nearby Elgin, said he fell in love with ska in a roundabout way, through the punk band Rancid who included a few ska-influenced tracks in their catalog. Curious about the sound, Peña, then a high school student was driven to investigate.  "I heard the organ, and I heard the horns, I was like, all right this isn’t Rancid, who are these guys playing this stuff?"  

As it turned out, those guys were the New York City ska band the Slackers. Peña started listening to the Slackers, and just like that he "caught the ska bug."

Fast forward a decade or so and the Bandulus, who have been playing together for seven years,  just wrapped up their third regional tour supporting the Slackers. In a couple weeks the band will head to NYC to record a new album at Dunham Studios. Dunham is the little brother label to the famed Dap-Kings imprint founded by Thomas Brenneck, the original guitarist for Sharon Jones. The band will work with Brenneck and Brent Tubin on the album. Tubin plays with Bermudan artist Uzimon who Peña describes as "the Weird Al of reggae."

So what can fans expect from the new record? "Lot of soul, some reggae," says Peña, "Ska, reggae and soul is our motto. They’ll definitely get a bit of all that."  

Deborah Sengupta Stith

About Deborah Sengupta Stith

Deborah Sengupta Stith is a music writer for the Austin American-Statesman.

Connect with Deborah Sengupta Stith on:Twitter

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