Ska band Fink's Constant performs for WITF Music on April 5, 2023.
WITF Music: Fink’s Constant
Family, tragedy and mozzarella sticks.
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Ska music has largely been an under the radar genre with a few waves since its original heyday in the late 1950s. If you’re cocking your head to the side with a ‘huh?’ face, don’t worry. The band Fink’s Constant can help explain.
“I usually tell ’em it’s reggae with horns and a little bit faster,” says Zak Nye, the band’s guitarist and lead singer. “And I’ll say, ‘Have you ever watched America’s Funniest Home Videos? The theme song? That’s pretty much ska.'”
“I try to take them from what they know to what they don’t know,” says trumpeter Chad McCartney.
“So I’ll start with Bob Marley or I’ll start with Cops. ‘Bad boys. Bad boys’, right? And I say if you speed that up a little bit and add a couple of horns, you’re gonna get the music of ska, which is the soul of Jamaica.”
The rest of the band line up consists of Don Wood (trombone, keyboard, vocals), Andrew Hartman (drums), Micah Yohn (bass) and Andrew Sheffer (saxophones, vocals).
Ska music is actually the predecessor to a couple different styles of music as Zak explains.
“Jamaica was an English colony, back in the day, probably even before that, the fifties, sixties. They used to get radio from the southern states. And I think there’s rumor or maybe truth to it that there was a Fats Domino song that somebody switched the beat around and they played it and that was the beginning of ska.”
That song was “Be My Guest”:
Chad adds, “And they play the guitar backwards. They play the bottom strings first so they actually changed that upbeat, that obviously became the music of Jamaica. And then they used that music to convey their sadness and their happiness and their joy and their strife.”
“It started with ska and then it slowed down to rocksteady, and then it slowed down to reggae. And those three things just kind of intermingled. And then they started to share it with the world and it kind of caught on fire.”
Fink’s Constant’s first gig was in January of 2000. With that kind of longevity, it’s not surprising the band thinks of itself as a family.
But one bandmember that hasn’t been mentioned so far is actually the most pivotal: Mike Fox. Mike was the band’s founder, lead singer, trumpeter, guitarist, and main songwriter until he passed away in 2021. That left the band with a lot of uncertainty about if and how they would continue on.
Before he passed, Mike had left the band with sketches of songs and lyrics, a blueprint to continue the music.
“We met and we decided that we would try really hard to continue this idea that is Fink’s Constant,” Chad says. “And to put those words of his out there into the air because they need to be heard. He was very wise and he had a lot of really good things to say, and we’d love to at least get one more album out. And then after that we’ll see how it goes.”
For that next recording, the band has decided to include people who were touched by Mike’s presence in life.
“Our next album, we thought it would be cool to hear a lot of different people sing the role of Mike Fox. And this is an open invitation. So instead of trying to replace him with one person, we’d like to invite them into the studio, and we’d like to have a variety of people kind of sing the part of Mike Fox. We thought it would be really cool to have the voice of Mike Fox represented by all these different people.”
When asked about what ska means to the band, there was a long pause.
“Family,” says Chad.
“Mozzarella sticks,” Zak says and he and Chad laugh. Zak explains, “It’s what a 13 year old kid hears when he gets mozzarella sticks.”