Nestled about halfway between New York and Boston is suburban Connecticut, the home of Spring Heeled Jack. As evidenced by the band's latest record, the aptly titled "Songs From Suburbia," playing to New York's discerning, purist ska crowds forced the band to master their craft, even as their pop/punk/ska hybrid is more suggestive of the Boston's Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
"When we started out ... there weren't any other ska bands in Connecticut," explains lead singer Mike Pellegrino. "New York is a scary place, we've played there 30 times and still worry that people are going to hate us on any given night. And we had Boston nearby, so we had the chance to play in really cool scenes in cool cities."
With "Songs From Suburbia," Spring Heeled Jack evolves further toward crafted rock and pop songs than on their debut, 1996's "Static World View." Guitarist Ron Ragona's requisite riffing and the three-horn attack of Chris Rhodes (trombone), Tyler Jones (trumpet) and Pete Wasilewski (saxophone) provide a punked-up ska framework for the album's polished vocals. A peculiar inclusion on the record is a cover of "Makisupa Policeman," penned by neo-hippie noodlers Phish. Pellegrino, an admitted Phish fan, says he was careful not to reveal the song's source to the his Phish-friendly bandmates until after it was recorded.
The Spring Heeled Jack method of composition made easy to camouflage the song. "With a lot of our writing, we'll have one guy come in with a very basic concept, like a chord progression or a horn line, and everyone else will put their contributions in," says Pellegrino. "We all kind of sneak our own ideas into each song."
Currently on tour in support of their new album, Spring Heeled Jack are making their way through the South after teaming up with the Amazing Royal Crowns in Texas. Pellegrino and his bandmates are eager to return to Orlando for their latest visit to the Sapphire Supper Club.
Pellegrino feels that the Sapphire is one of the best venues in the country for Spring Heeled Jack to play, although something major has gone wrong during every show. "Last time all the stage mikes went out, so we played acoustically and screamed the words until everyone in the room joined in," he says. "We have a really cool bond with people when we play there, we feel really comfortable."
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