Skank revival

Planet Smashers bring the fun back to the ska scene

The Smashers have accomodated French crowds with written lyrics on stage.
The Smashers have accomodated French crowds with written lyrics on stage.
Credit: 
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Ska didn’t die when Gwen Stefani left No Doubt. The reforming of Montreal’s the Planet Smashers marks the revival of ska as the subculture it was always meant to be.

Before the July release of Descent Into the Valley Of ..., the Smashers hadn’t put out an album since 2005’s Unstoppable. They called it quits in 2007 after about a year and a half on tour for their fifth studio record.

“We became kind of stoppable,” guitarist and lead vocalist Matt Collyer said. “We were on the road seven, eight months of the year since 2000.

“There’s nothing else I would have wanted to have done more, but at some point you have to realize that it takes wear on the body and the spirit.”

The band tried putting together an album prior to the split but eventually ditched it for a break from recording and touring. They’d spent over 40 months together in transit.

“It was going to be like a dark sort of crappy record — slow tunes, kind of boring,” Collyer said.

In 2009 they started playing again as a break from their full-time jobs. Collyer works at STOMP, the Smasher’s record label, doing label management. Drummer Scott Russell is involved in video production and works as a chef. The band’s tenor saxophone player, Neil Johnson, is a glass blower; and trombone player Andrew Lattoni is the only professional musician in the band.

The Smashers collectively committed to making another album last fall.

Collyer said it was their best recording experience to date, despite having taken a six-year hiatus from the studio.

“For me, I would place it up there with Mighty [2003] and Life of the Party [1999],” Collyer said. “There’s less filler on this record than previous ones.”

Life of the Party earned the Montreal Independent Music Award for best ska band in 1999.

Jabs at neighbours and high school peers could be found in the Smashers’ older hits, but Collyer said the new record has a different direction.

“Normally we make fun of other people more, on this one we kind of make fun of ourselves,” he said. “That’s a good thing.”

Collyer said the break from recording helped the band re-focus on fun with the new album.

“It really represents what the Smashers are all about,” Collyer said.

The band’s entertaining character comes across in the music in part because of their laidback attitude towards the studio process. Collyer said memories of making the album are enough to make him laugh aloud.

“Our francophone saxophone player who can barely speak English wrote the lyrics to the Descent Into the Valley Of ... opening track.”

The Planet Smashers play Time To Laugh Comedy Club tomorrow night at 7 p.m.

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