Let’s face it, for some strange reason, ska music just isn’t as adored as it should be. Since we’re not living in the mid-nineties anymore, it’s nearly impossible to market yourself as a ska band and be taken seriously. And because of that, I appreciate any artist out there who is willing to twist the ska genre in different ways in order to appeal to a fresh audience. No freshly discovered band does this as effectively as Small Town Get Up.
This seven-piece out of Grimsby, Ontario has been at it since 2009 and incorporate too many influences into their music to list. On the ska side of things, the group features a talented four-piece horn section, and they contribute immense amounts of energy, dynamics, and complexity to the overall sound. The horns, along with some occasional fast, upstroke guitar, give tracks like “Donovan Bailey” and “Everyone’s Home” a familiar Streetlight Manifesto vibe that I just can’t get enough of. The blaring horns also help offer a jazzy, swing influence on certain tracks like “Wild Like We Were,” which closely resemble the unique, Mad Caddies-style of the genre. New-wave ska is a large part of their sound. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, the frontman, Nick Arseneau, incorporates some indie rock influenced guitar riffs, chord progressions, and vocal timbre to the mix. It is strongly reminiscent of the biggest alternative bands to emerge from the early 2000s, such as Franz Ferdinand and The Strokes.
Imagine with Franz Ferdinand with a horn section! Yeah, it’s that good. In 2011, they released their debut album, Mayhem Circus, and it is a solid, horn-heavy release that is sure to get you up and dancing. Their 2014 release, New Noise, is an equally impressive sophomore album, incorporating more alternative influences while sticking to their roots. It surely is an interesting and addicting album.
All these elements present themselves constantly yet at different times throughout the band’s three releases. This makes for a uniquely diverse and memorable discography and, not to mention, an equally memorable live show. I was lucky enough to review their local show in Toronto last month. I did not know what to expect and I was blown away by nearly every aspect of their set, especially how tight they were. All seven members were hitting each accent without missing a single beat and they worked off of each other’s energy incredibly well. It was impressive to say the least, and I’m itching for the next time they make their way down to this end of the province again.
Whether you’re a fan of ska or alternative rock, or even if you are simply looking for something different to discover, I highly suggest you give Small Town Get Up’s material a listen on their bandcamp page, especially the tracks previously mentioned. But most importantly, be sure to check out their live show if you ever get the chance. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
Header Photo by Lindsay Miller Photography
*edited by Danielle Kenedy