Known for their rough and tumble, and very sarcastic approach to traditional skinhead sounds, NJ oi! and reggae infused ska mainstays HUB CITY STOMPERS have been making music for over 15 years and their new rowdy offering “Haters Dozen”, comprised of some older and newer songs that show no signs of them slowing down. Apart from being able to find the perfect blend of their influences, comparisons are probably unnecessary as the record has its own gravity, range, and unique feel. We invited the orchestra to drop us a first hand commentary on the amazing, adventurous lyrical content behind the record, and here’s what we’ve got.
For those not familiar with the Hub City Stomper’s sound (come out from under your rock), you take one part oi, lots of ska and punk in two-tone and third wave varieties, a dash of pop undertones, a lotta bit of self-deprecating humor and two bottles of high energy. // ReadJunk
Embracing various styles and eras of ska from the 60’s through the 80’s, and adding reggae, punk, oi!, hardcore, and even hip-hop, jazz and classical influences, Hub City Stompers manage to avoid a typical, formulaic ska sound. // CD Baby
You realize three things immediately while listening to Hub City Stompers’ latest LP, Haters Dozen: they’re having so much fun, they seem almost as entertained as they are entertaining; alongside the fun, they make serious statements about racism and hate; and their chops are deeper than ska-punk, delving into jazz and rhythm & blues. The appropriately titled 13-track debut for Austin-based Altercation Records kicks off with an introduction by skinhead reggae legend Roy Ellis (Simaryp) on “Hub City Stomp,” the Stompers’ autobiographical ode to the city in which they were spawned. // NJarts.net
Put on your boots and get ready for some dancing. New Jersey ska titans, Hub City Stompers, continue their reign of traditional, first-wave ska — taut with occasional fragments of Oi and hardcore. While the murky waters of ska are tainted with melodic ska-core bands and pseudo rivivalists, Haters Dozen, will restore your faith in genre. // SoundRenaissance
From the cover art of Haters Dozen–a baker’s dozen of cupcakes with hands of various hues and genders giving us the finger–it shouldn’t be a shock to know that New Jersey’s Hub City Stompers have always clearly relished being the defiant bad boys and girls of ska, taking the piss out of everything and everyone (they refer to their fans as droogs), and letting the chips fall where they may. Their targets on their sixth album Haters Dozen are legion (abusers, cheaters, fakers, leaches, and haters) and they take them on with a mix of sharp humor and deadly seriousness–all delivered in this fantastic collection of catchy ska songs that will end up taking permanent residence in your head. // DuffGuideToSka
HUB CITY STOMP
Rev Sinister: “This is actually one of the earliest songs I ever wrote for Hub City Stompers. There is a version of it recorded back in 2003 or 2004 that was going to be on our first album, ‘Blood, Sweat, and Beers’ but it didn’t make the cut. We’ve played it live ever since, and here it is 15 years later. It was mainly written as an instrumental with a driving, stompy flow to capture the action of the crazy New Brunswick I came up running around in. But I felt I had to add a few lyrics to really capture the whole idea. The product is our tribute to the Hub City. The fact that we were blessed to secure an intro by the legendary Roy Ellis, who the musicians in HCS have backed a couple times over the years, just puts this one over the top.”
Rev Sinister: “Well, typically in cases like this I’d be saying that this song isn’t necessarily about anyone specific but simply may have been inspired by certain events. But, hell, for this one I can say that both qualify. The subject of this song is not identified by his proper name, of course, but certainly by his deeds, character, and people’s reaction to it. Sad to say that despite this being from rather personal experience, I know everyone has a scumbag or two like this in their scene so people will likely relate to this.”
Rev Sinister: “Ah, the ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’ theme. That’s always been an all too easy concept for me to realize, which made this an easy one to write, lyrically. Musically, while I had generally composed something that I wanted to be kind of distinct from HCS’ already diverse catalog, the band did some fine tuning that added an almost pop-punk angle that we’d never really covered before. I love covering new ground like that and still keeping our stamp on it.”
Rev Sinister: “I wrote this song while in Inspecter 7, actually, back in 1995. But I never wound up presenting it to or performing it with them. Oddly enough, I proposed it as an Inspecter 7 song during the 2013 Inspecter 7 revamp (in which HCS was essentially the line up) and had it all set for another vocalist to sing. But that didn’t work out by the time all was said and done with i7 at the end of the year. So it became an HCS song, and I figured it’d be an ideal one for Rob ‘Rod Gorgeous’ George to take vocals on. Topically, I wrote it after a break up and it was actually from the perspective of the girl, but written for a guy to sing.”
Rod Gorgeous: “We first discussed Voice when we were in Inspecter 7. It was slated for someone else to sing at that point, but got shelved as we started moving back to HCS. Travis asked me if I’d be interested in having my own tune to sing since I sang some tracks with Bigger Thomas and was the singer for Bongo Jones back in the day. So he threw Voice at me and we started working on it. He gave me the basics for the tune and how the song should flow. I got home and recorded the guitar part at my studio and just sang along with it just to see where I wanted to take it melodically. I’m sure Jenny was sick of hearing me sing it but I was looking to bring something different to our set and “put my own spin on it”. I hate that saying.
When we recorded it in the studio, I totally screwed up the vibe on the song, though. When I got home and listened to the roughs from that day, it was just horrible. The band thought I was going for some breathy smoky bullshit crooner style and it just sounded like I had an asthma attack. I wound up recording my vocals over at home so I didn’t waste any more studio time and could work out the ending. I’m happy how it came out after our engineer James EQ’d the tracks and mixed the tune.”
BRING BACK THE DORKS
Rev Sinister: “As the theory goes, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction… and be careful what you wish for. This song acts as the tragic sequel to our controversial hit from 10 years back, ‘Ska Train to Dorkville’, addressing how the void left by the beloved ska dorks’ dwindling numbers was filled by an even more ominous and obnoxious presence: the elitist, misguided, pretentious neo-trad hipsters. We’ll roll out the red carpet and let the ska dorks skank right on down it if it means that these uppity wannabe ‘rocksteady’ twats hit the bricks.”
WHAT’S SHE GOT?
Rev Sinister: “It wouldn’t be a proper HCS album without a parody of a 80’s song, would it? Taking this classic by The Producers, swapping the perspective from male to female, manipulating some lyrical sass, and having Jenny Whiskey take the vocal helm to master it all is just what the doctor ordered.”
Rev Sinister: “Look what happens when HCS gets involved in psychological theory. This one speaks to specifically to the case of daughters growing up without a proper father figure and the impact it can have on them. Sure, it’s not a new theory or idea, but it sure is HCS’ unique twist on the subject. This is another one that’s been around for a while but never recorded. The music was written a good dozen years ago by Mark Hutchinson, formerly or Inspecter 7 and Skoidats ranks, and Justin Dillavou of the Skoidats contributed both musically and lyrically as well (he wrote the chorus, and at times even performed in live with HCS). I filled in the verses and, bam, we had what’s been a favorite tune for years that is now finally recorded. That end reggae/dub-ish part was just screaming for King Django’s special vocal brand on it so we made that a reality, and damn did it work out for the best.”
G & T James: “I wrote the main melody for ‘Distance Water’ 5 years ago and figured it would be a great stompy trad song for us. Then it took another 2 or 3 years before we actually did anything with it. It was my first contribution to HCS besides a little horn lick here and there and it came to fruition better than I could have ever hoped it would. In all the years that I’ve known Roy Radics the only time I’ve ever shared a stage with him was that night at the Grand Victory when he came up to chat over this tune. At the time we were calling it Gin & Tonic but when Radics died we decided this was going to be our Radics song and we needed to change the name. That’s when I named it ‘Distance Water’ because that was his nickname and I’ll always remember it from the signature of every post he ever put up on the NJSKA.com message boards. Big Up Roy Radics. WOW!”
WEEKS WORTH OF WEDNESDAYS
Rev Sinister: “So many HCS tunes tend to be pretty straight forward and in your face, not leaving much to the imagination lyrically and topically. Why not take some band experiences and weave a tale that’s a bit more ‘poetic’ and open to interpretation? Back it with the band’s amazingly catchy and danceable arrangement of the music I wrote/composed and you get a jammy I come to love more and more each time I hear it.”
HARD PLACE TO BE
Rev Sinister: “The quintessential sequel to the Jenny Whiskey hit ‘Skinhead Boi’. ‘Skinhead Boi’ covered the struggles during the subject’s relationship with a skinhead. ‘Hard Place To Be’ covers the end of it all, as the skinhead walks away from what’s most likely the best and most redeeming aspect of his life so he can continue his path of irresponsibility and destruction in place of growing into true manhood. I’d been writing that one for a while, very specifically for Jenny to sing, obviously. And the lyrics are kinda wordy so I was worried about her memorizing it and articulating it. She of course banged it out and had it down in like a week or two.”
Rev Sinister: “This’ll always be a favorite of mine. Topically and musically. It refers to the rare few people among those surrounding you that are actually loyal and true to you, and the tragedy and hindsight involved when people such as that disappear from your life, be it via death, incarceration, or just having to get away. We quite coincidentally started performing it just after our friend Eddie Shots died, so everyone thought it was about him. But it’s not so specific as that, and Eddie got his own song ‘Hey Ed’ on our Life After Death album.”
PHILLY, WHAT THE FUCK?
Rev Sinister: “For the record: we were lampooning the Philadelphia accent with this song well before Tina Fey did so on SNL (not to acknowledge the spot on job she did… she should be in a video for this song). But yeah… the Philly accent… it’s awful. And I have many friends and family from the Philly area so I know this first hand. HCS has toured all over the nation, and Europe even, and we have yet to come across an accent as stupefyingly offensive as the Philadelphia accent. And there it is…. lurking right across the river from us… and, well, right in South Jersey too.”
NIGHT OF THE LIVING
Rev Sinister: “This is officially the first song written by HCS as HCS, dating back to 2002. There are two prior recordings of this song: one on the 2002 Megalith Records “Still Standing” compilation (HCS’ first ever recording), and one on our first full length in 2004 (Blood, Sweat, & Beers). This arrangement and recording of the song on Haters Dozen, however, is by far my favorite. Though he’s not actually on the album, our guitarist ‘HanOi! Jay’ Selvaggio arranged and composed the hardcore breakdown element to this song about 5 years back. And that has been the way the song is ever since, and the way it shall be forever. It being the very first HCS song written and performed as/by HCS, it was addressing our proverbial ‘rising from the ashes’ of both Inspecter 7 and the dead and burnt out ska scene in general, and also called out the elements of the ska scene that I feel helped divide and ultimately destroy what was once a bourgeoning underground scene. These aforementioned elements also took a point in lambasting and criticizing Inspecter 7 and our skinhead and punk following over the years, so I of course had to address that in the song on a somewhat personal level as well. HCS brought the i7 spirit back more aggressively and less apologetically. This song ideally illustrates just how hard we came back swinging, and how hard we will continue to swing.”
Initial skinheads were British youth, including blacks, who continued the working-class themes of Jamaican ska and rude boy acts, such as Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, Duke Reid and Desmond Dekker. Years later, the skinhead movement’s social alienation and working-class unity attracted white supremacists, many of whom increasingly have grabbed recent headlines with their support of Donald Trump and alt-right, racially motivated politics. Hub City Stompers founding front man Travis Nelson said he finds that situation absurd, given that blacks were among the initial skinheads whose culture greatly was influenced by Jamaican immigrants. // Talking with Hub City Stompers’ Travis Nelson about ska, ‘New Brunsfus’ and hate – see the full feature at MyCentralJersey.com