In March 2015, London’s versatile reggae rock quartet The Skints released their 3rd album FM via Easy Star Records. The concept album, which exhibits reggae in its many diverse forms, immediately turned heads on both sides of the pond, solidifying the band as a leader of the modern roots movement. But it was during an in-depth conversation with guitar/vocalist Josh Waters Rudge about The Skints’ sophomore album Part & Parcel (2012), that we decided we needed to open up our conversation even further.
The Skints have steadily developed into one of the UK’s premier reggae acts, gaining the title, “torch bearers of modern British reggae” from the British music magazine Clash Music. The Skints are formed by Josh Waters Rudge (guitar/vocals), Jamie Kyriakides (drums/vocals), Marcia Richards (multi-instrumentalist/vocals), and Jonathan Doyle (bass). Pooling together all their musical influences, The Skints have concocted a distinct medley of roots reggae, punk rock, ska, and hip hop. And though their popularity is soaring, in many ways The Skints still feel like a best kept secret in the US.
Josh discusses what he sees as the biggest difference between the UK and US reggae scenes, The Skints’ songwriting process, and his affinity for rap music. We also get an update on where the band stands in their process of making a follow up to FM, as well as whether or not we’ll hear lead vocals from the The Skints’ bassist Jonathan Doyle in the future. Read our whole conversation below.
Interview: Josh Waters Rudge of The Skints
The Pier: We have heard some rumors of a new Skints album in the works. Is there any truth to those rumors?
Josh: Yeah, I mean there’s a new album in the works in the sense of us making new music, or writing new music. But to be honest with you there’s not a whole bunch to tell other than that new songs are getting written. We actually have worked on a couple bits, a couple songs in the studio this year. Whether or not they’ll make the album is even up for debate. But we have a bunch of songs written, you know, at kind of a very basic, acoustic level at this point. They’ll probably make the record, yeah, but we’re not gonna be getting proper stuck into the making of the album until later in the year. Not a whole bunch to tell, but new music is getting written.
The Pier: When the band is writing new music, does that tend to take place while you’re on the road, in the studio, or somewhere else?
Josh: I’d say the majority of the writing happens not on the road. Obviously, one of the benefits of the age we live in now is that you can have that little idea at any point, and you can just do your iPhone voice notes or whatever. So we have a lot of that happen with us — just little, quick recordings of ideas. Then we can bust them out when we’re all together in the session room or the studio. But a lot of the meat and potatoes of writing, I’d say, happens at home.
The Pier: We’ve discussed before how The Skints’ early material is mainly you and Jamie on lead vocals, then on Part & Parcel Marcia took on a larger role in terms of lead vocals. Any chance of hearing some lead vocals from your bassist Jon Doyle in the future?
Josh: Yeah, we’d love to! I think the only vocals Jon has ever been on are some gang vocal shouts that we’ve done on a couple songs. But yeah, you know it’s funny, when Jon actually sings along to songs on the radio or in the van, he holds a tune quite nicely. To his own admission, he can’t really play bass and sing at the same time. So it’s a skill he’d have to work on, but he plays the bass really fuckin’ well so it’s fine, ha!
The Pier: You guys have gotten to come and play the States a couple of times. So, now that you have the lay of the land, what would you say are the biggest differences that you’ve noticed between the London/UK reggae scene and ours in the US.
Josh: Well..and this isn’t putting anybody’s quality of music under fire or nothing like that, but in terms of a scene that functions, I’d say the US is a lot more healthy and there’s a lot more camaraderie between the artists. You know, people helping each other, and bringing each other on their tours. Making an effort to cross-pollinate audiences between bands.
We’re a band that comes from the punk-rock scene. For us coming up in that punk and ska world, there’s very much a camaraderie thing. Everyone realizing that helping each other out is better for everyone. And I’d say that the US reggae scene is a lot more like that than the UK scene.
I’d say that UK reggae is very fragmented. A lot of sub-scenes within that. This is quite a controversial thing to say, and it’s not true of everyone because we’ve got a lot of good friends that we’ve made from the UK reggae scene, but I’ve found a lot of English people that do reggae don’t necessarily want other people that do reggae to succeed. Now, that’s not down to any particular band or artist. Just, I think the history of the music in this country has kind of put people in this mentality where there can only be one at a time.
The Pier: Not that the UK is small by any stretch, but do you feel there is less room for multiple bands in a genre like reggae to shine?
Josh: I think that the way that the UK music industry is set up, it’s very much a world within itself a lot of times. And I think that people aren’t aware of how other music scenes operate, and how you can, with touring, and hard work, and your merch, make a life for yourself. This isn’t even just a reggae thing at all. This is just a UK music thing. So many people are trying to appease one radio station, or a few tastemakers, you know? That they really get stuck in trying to make it happen at a mainstream level in the UK. And they forget that there’s a big, wide world out there with loads of people that go to shows every week that love music, and that you can play in front of.
Listen, I’m not saying you have to like everyone’s music, but the more the scene gets bigger it will benefit everyone together. So yeah, that’s what I would say is a big difference. We love coming to the US and kind of feeling that, you know, punk-welcoming, that “let’s do this together, you come on our tour, we’ll go on your tour.” Everyone’s sort of looking out for each other and helping each other out. I think that’s a really nice thing.
But obviously like I said it’s just really different. It’s not better or worse musically, it’s just the way the scene runs.
The Pier: So, as a London-based band, what led you to joining New York’s Easy Star Records and forming that relationship?
Josh: We actually toured the UK with the Easy Star All-Stars in late 2012. Nobody from the label was on that tour because it was just the musicians, but we got in touch with the label off the back of that tour. And obviously we’d been fans of the band for a very long time, and the label too.
It was actually Jamie and myself that were really aware of the Easy Star movement. So, yeah, we told them we were working on a new record and got the conversation rolling from there. This was probably around the time that we were doing a lot of the writing for FM, or maybe just starting to record, and figuring out what we were gonna do with it. We recorded it ourselves and Easy Star really came into the picture, probably during the end of recording into the mixing process of FM. So, we licensed it to them once we’d finished it all.
The Pier: Is it fair to assume you’re a pretty big hip-hop fan based off your style of vocals?
Josh: Yeah, definitely as a listener. I was born in 1990, so throughout my whole life, rap music, from different places, has been a huge part of pop culture. Throughout my whole life. To be honest with you, the whole rapping thing is probably all subconscious influences from everywhere. I’ve never been like, “Oh, I’m a rapper.” You know what I mean? It’s more like a sonic influence that’s worked it’s way into the bands that I’m in.
When I was younger I was really into Biggie Smalls. Going back when I was very young, he was probably one of the first people I remember hearing. Probably after he died, I guess, he must have been getting mad radio play over here or something. I remember being like 11 years old and heard “Gravel Pit” by Wu-Tang Clan, and that hit the hip-hop switch for me. Also, growing up hearing some of the UK stuff, from the garage era as it became grime. And then actual UK hip-hop, and boom-bap New York style stuff. So, yeah man, a lot of things from a lot of places.
The Pier: Has anyone ever come forward and asked you to do a feature or a rap verse on their track?
Josh: People have asked but… Yeah, it would have to be the right song in the right mood, because I’m really not trying to do a solo rap thing, at all. But if it’s my style on the tune, you know, and it’ll work. And it’s saying what I want to say, then it can run. But I’m not actually trying to get out there, and do features as Josh from The Skints… the rapper. You know what I mean?
The Pier: Are there any other outside music projects that you guys are involved in?
Josh: Yeah, just a few things. Marcia has been doing some songwriting for other people, and little vocal features here and there. She just did a tune with an artist that Rome Ramirez from Sublime With Rome is working with. We just did a US tour with them on the East Coast, it was a wicked time. But yeah Marcia’s doing that, and I’ve done a feature for a band recently. So look out for those.
The Pier: Great! We’ll keep our ears open, and we’re excited to hear the new material when it’s ready. Thanks again for taking some time to chat. We’ll catch you on your US tour with 311 this summer.
Watch: The Skints – “This Town” ft. Tippa Irie and Horseman
Watch: The Skints – “Ratatat”