Twin Cities’ Ska Up and Comers Space Monkey Mafia Share How an Awkward Phone Call Turned into an Album Title
Based in the Twin Cities, ska rock outfit Space Monkey Mafia are headed out west and will be making their Missoula debut performance at the Top Hat on Saturday, May 4, 2019 with a FREE show. We wanted to learn more about the band, so bassist Joe Barron filled us in on all the juicy details.
It looks like you guys went to school together at McNally Smith College in Saint Paul. Did you all meet there? Are you all from the Twin Cities?
Our guitar player Blake Foster, drummer Riley Jacobson, trombone player Cody LeDuc, and I met and started the band at McNally. It was a combination of Blake’s recital band and a project that Riley and Joe were working on that brought Space Monkey Mafia together as a whole. Blake had asked Joe and Cody to join in his recital and he still needed a drummer, this is when Joe introduced Blake and Riley to each other. The recital rehearsals were going so well that Joe and Riley asked Blake and Cody to jam on their “wannabe” ska project and the rest is history. Cody brought saxophone player Tim Kingstrom in to a rehearsal, and another month later Riley brought Dante Leyva in on saxophone and lead vocals. The addition of the two saxophone players was the last push we needed to book our first gig. We started gigging two months later in October 2016. Although the band resides in and around the Twin Cities and it was formed in St Paul, it is very important to note that we have a couple transplants in the band. Blake, is from dare we say it, Florida, and Joe is from a little place known as New Hampshire.
You’ve probably been asked a thousand times, but we need to know, what’s the story behind the band name? It’s pretty catchy.
It’s a not so well kept secret — come see the show and you’ll learn.
Your debut album Sorry for Your Time came out in 2018. Can you tell us about the making of your album:
Where was it recorded?
McKern Studio Complex at McNally Smith College of Music although the track titled “Don’t Walk Away” and a lot of the mixing, editing, and final touches were done in Riley’s home studio in Woodbury, MN.
Who did the songwriting?
This album was mostly written by guitar player Blake Foster and drummer Riley Jacobson, although every band member has become a song writer through out the course of us becoming a band.
What inspired it?
Tough question. It was Riley’s senior production project at the school, so the fact that he needed a project really helped us to get the music prepared and ready for a studio album. Would have to say a lot of the songs came over time
Have you gotten any feedback about the album?
We have gotten tons of positive reviews from our friends in the industry. We have been featured on numerous podcasts and ska talk shows all around the country. I think one of the most heart felt responses we got was an Instagram message from someone in Asia. That was pretty cool.
Anything else notable?
Flashback to September 2017 — Space Monkey Mafia had booked a gig in Bemidji, MN one crisp autumn weekend and our vocalist Dante was planning to pass the 5-hour drive with a nice bout of phone-banking for Minneapolis mayoral candidate, Raymond Dehn. Unfortunately for politically-inexperienced young Dante, the road to Bemidji is rather lacking in cell towers, so his calls were for the most part awkward and fruitless. One conversation in particular stuck out to us, however, here’s a transcript to the best of Dante’s memory.
Person on the other line – “Hello?”
Dante – “Hi! My name’s Dante and I’m calling folks about the Minneapolis mayoral election, do you have a minute to talk?”
Person – “What was that? I couldn’t hear you.”
Dante *flustered*- “Um my name is Dante and I’m calling with the Ray Dehn campaign, do you have a sec to talk about the mayoral election?”
*silverware clinks in the background*
Person *annoyed* – “Listen, I’m at a restaurant right now, so its not really a good time and I still can’t hear you very well.”
At this point Dante is beyond flustered, spaghetti is flying out of my pockets at record speeds and he just wanted to end the conversation, so he tries saying “Sorry about that, thanks for your time.”, but what he ended up saying instead was…”sorry for your time, thanks!”
*the rest of the band bursts into uncontrollable laughter*
And that, is the story of how our album came to be named Sorry for Your Time.
Who are the top 5 artists that have had an influence on your sound?
Streetlight Manifesto, Radiohead, Madd Caddies, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and The Spin Doctors.
How have you already managed to play 150 shows in such a short time span? Did you play a lot around the Twin Cities? Have you already toured across the country?
We all quickly discovered we enjoyed being on the road and decided to dedicate most, if not all weekends to touring Minnesota and the midwest. When we first started playing, you could find us playing Minneapolis/ St Paul a couple times a month but now we limit our in town shows to every couple months. Our first big tour brought us through Montana, out to Seattle, Down to San Francisco, and we came home through Taos, NM and Denver.
What’s been the most enjoyable part about being a band since you formed? What’s been the most challenging?
That is a tough question! We all have different passions when it come to the music. Riley takes so much pride in the production aspect of everything, Blake is one of the best arrangers any of us know, we all enjoy different things that make our ship sail smoothly, but collectively I think we all enjoy the traveling part the most, getting to experience places we have never been together has been quite a treat for all of us. The most challenging thing, is also probably the traveling. A lot of pressure, time and money go into making sure our van is safe, we have places to say, and enough money to eat and get to the next venue. Some days are just harder than other, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Do you think it’s helpful or more challenging to be an up and coming band in the big city?
It definitely puts a little bit more pressure on things to try and stand out amongst all the other wonderful acts coming out of Minneapolis, but I don’t think we could have made the progress we have with out the support of the Minneapolis music community.
Are you guys familiar with Missoula? Have you played here before or anywhere in Montana? Have you heard anything about the Top Hat?
This will be our first time in Missoula. We came through Montana in the fall and played Billings, Bozeman, Whitefish, and Helena but did not have a chance to make it through Missoula. We have heard nothing but good things about the Top Hat. Our bass player is friends with a lot of the bluegrass bands that have played there.
Bozeman, Montana-based soul pop rockers Dash are opening for you guys at the May 4th show. Are you familiar with them at all?
Our first time in Bozeman we played at the Zebra Cocktail Lounge where Ben Morris of DASH books and runs sound. We stayed in contact and whiling booking this Montana tour, the weekend just so happened to work out where we are playing Bozeman together on Friday and the Top Hat Saturday.
What’s next for the band? Tours? New Music?
We are currently recording an EP. It’s almost out. We will soon have another video of us performing our song “Can’t Eat Money” Live in Riley’s studio, similar to our Viva Ska Vida video. As for touring, it never really stops. We have festival season to get through and are playing a handful of them through out the summer. After that, we hope to head to whichever coast is willing to put up with us.
We always like to ask this to new bands that have yet to play at the Top Hat. What can fans do to ensure they have the best time possible at your show?
Come early, stay late, stay hydrated, and please come talk with us! We love new friends.
Any final words?
Sorry For Your Time