Umbrella Bed: “Rotate” by Eileen Shapiro

Super Ska band Umbrella Bed has released their brand new album entitled “Rotate”. The band from Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, and launched their career in 1995. They established a quick following in their hometown and then nationally.

The release as themed “sheepish society romance, betrayal, a failed education system, and several others. We shared questions and answers regarding their music and newest endeavors .

Give us a little band history.. introduce the members and tell us how you originated.

We almost accidentally feel into the rise of the 3rd wave ska scene of the mid-90s in our hometown of Minneapolis when we formed in the summer of 1995. We played a basement party for fun and then things moved quickly on to a much bigger level, at least by our standards and we received a lot of accolades, mostly in the Midwest. We have put out six full length albums and one EP and have songs included on numerous international ska related compilations. Our fan base is world wide because our genre is so wellreceived around the world. As you can imagine over decades of time, we have had a number of people come and go ……like our web site bio says……

The band’s primary line up has rotated some over the years but has remained largely intact. Lead vocalist Hellrocket, drummer Mitch Thompson, trombonist Al Teagarden and ska’s (if not rock and roll’s) premier French Horn player Eva Washburn have been around from day one. Trombonist Joy Judge and saxophonist Scott Wilcox have been with the band nearly a decade completing the “Horns of Mass Destruction”. Francisco Guerra on bass and Kabel Lefto on guitar joined Umbrella Bed in recent years, adding a new youth movement to a band on the tail end of its second decade proving there is a lot more history to come.

The name umbrella bed….

We honestly don’t know the answer to this. When we started out, our first show was at a basement party. Someone in the band at the time put a name on the flyer and said, “That’s us” and never explained why or what. If we had known we would still be around a few decades later we might have had a better answer.

What if any message is “Rotate” hoping to get out there?

Not so much message but commentary on life, coming from maybe even a more mature age.

The song Rotate could be viewed politically, “you turn your head to the left, you turn your head to the right” and the chorus says, “You know you are the one, but for who?” but dive deeper and it really is about anyone that lacks conviction and shifts positions based on their current situation. Maybe like even in the corporate board room or a PTA meeting and not just in terms of left and right politics. “Say Your Goodbyes” is commentary based on the documentary ” Waiting for “Superman” , a 2010 film directed by Davis Guggenheim and produced by Lesley Chilcott. It’s a less than flattering look at the American Public School System. “Tell Me What To Do” is a parent looking at one of their children and thinking about life: “yeah, I don’t how this all supposed to work either.” The song “Always on the Rebound” is about a marriage gone bad, while “These Final Days” is about a the last days of a more youthful relationship ending. “Dark Days” is a look in at a particular moment of a relationship while “Strange Conviction” seems like it about relationship but is really a reaction to a dance troupe performance.

Is there a favorite track on your new release that the band enjoys playing?

With 8 people, there are many answers to this but I do think “Tell Me What To Do” and “Always on the Rebound” have 8 of 8 in agreement. Seven of eight think “Say Your Goodbyes” is a perfect song and one person almost hates it!

What exactly is 2-Tone Ska?

The 2 Tone genre, which began in the late 1970s in the Coventry, England area, was a fusion of Jamaican ska rhythms and melodies with punk rock’s more aggressive guitar chords and lyrics.[22] Compared to 1960s ska, 2 Tone music had faster tempos, fuller instrumentation, and a harder edge. The genre was named after 2 Tone Records, a record label founded by Jerry Dammers of The Specials. In many cases, the reworking of classic ska songs turned the originals into hits again in the United Kingdom.
The 2 Tone movement promoted racial unity at a time when racial tensions were high in the UK. There were many Specials songs that raised awareness of the issues of racism, fighting and friendship issues. Riots in British cities were a feature during the summer that The Specials song “Ghost Town” was a hit, although this work was in a slower, reggae beat. Most of the 2 Tone bands had multiracial lineups, such as The Beat (known as The English Beat in North America and the British Beat in Australia), The Specials, and The Selecter.[1] Although only on the 2 Tone label for one single, Madness was one of the most effective bands at bringing the 2 Tone genre into the mainstream. The music of this era resonated with white working class youth and West Indian immigrants who experienced the struggles addressed in the lyrics.

Musically this is the sound Umbrella Bed tried to emulate, although we came of age during the third-wave movement written about in the next question.

What is Third-Wave Ska?

Third wave ska originated in the punk scene in the late 1980s and became commercially successful in the 1990s. Although some third wave ska has a traditional 1960s sound, most third wave ska is characterized by dominating guitar riffs and large horn sections. Examples of third wave ska bands include The Toasters, Fishbone, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Hepcat, The Slackers, Suicide Machines, Voodoo Glow Skulls, Streetlight Manifesto, Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, The Aquabats, Mustard Plug, The Supertones, Five Iron Frenzy, Buck-o-Nine, Suburban Legends, The Pietasters and Goldfinger.

Any new projects in the works?

Already writing another batch of new songs. We hope to have it and some other stuff come out by 2020 – that’s our 25th year.

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