A high-energy medley of soul, ska and rock music forms the basis for The Pietasters' passionate sound, inspired by real life. Get ready to skank* the night away at The Pietasters' free concert Aug. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at Kingstowne Center, 5955 Kingstowne Center, Alexandria as part of Lee District Nights. Lead singer Stephen Jackson took some to time to answer a few questions about the upcoming show.
Introduce the band: The Pietasters are Jon Darby, keyboards; Toby Hansen, guitar; Stephen Jackson, vocals; Alan Makranczy, saxophone; Jorge Pezzimenti, bass; Jeremy Roberts, trombone; and Rob Steward, drums.
How did you form the band? We got started when we — the first iteration of the band — were students at Virginia Tech. We played our first show on Halloween of 1989. Once we realized we could meet girls and get free beer for the band, there was no looking back.
Where did the band name come from? The term "pietaster" is used to describe a fat person in Northern England. Some friends of ours were visiting for the summer and had a little pietaster chant to announce our arrival. It just kind of stuck.
Describe your sound: Our sound includes equal parts soul, ska and rock. We grew up on D.C. punk/hardcore and that has influenced not only our sound, but our do-it-yourself approach to touring and the music industry.
Biggest musical influences: I can't speak for everyone in the band, but between the seven of us we like Alton Ellis, The Melodians, Bad Manners, The Specials, The Bosstones, Soul, Everything Motown and Stax. Especially Otis Redding, James Brown, Marvin Gaye. Punk: The Clash, Bouncing Souls, Minor Threat. We also all like bands like the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Supergrass.
Describe/give a quick lesson on how to skank (*for those who don't know how to dance to ska music): I guess the easiest description is running in place. You've gotta feel the rhythm, though, or else you look like a moron.
Who is/was your favorite band to tour with? We have been fortunate to tour with a lot of our favorite musicians. The Bosstones have been great friends and we got to see a lot of the world with them. Joe Strummer and James Brown are two legendary acts that we've had the pleasure of supporting. Both were very gracious and made us feel like legends too. The Bouncing Souls are also a favorite band for us to play with. It takes a special chemistry to get along for weeks at a time. We have had nothing but good experiences with other bands though. No bad stories to tell.
Where have you toured? We've been all over the U.S., Canada, and Europe. We manage to still visit all of these places yearly. Although not often enough to keep all of our fans happy. Japan and Australia are still hold-outs for us.
What can fans expect with the upcoming show? We hope to play a lot of new songs. We're finished with the recording and are now mixing our latest studio CD. The release date is not set yet, but we are gearing up for a fall release, God willing. The outdoor, afternoon aspect of the show is nice for us too as we usually play dark bars late at night. It'll be fun to be outside with some new friends — as long as it cools off a bit!