London “tropical punk” four-piece, The Skints, release of their highly-anticipated fourth album, Swimming Lessons, via Easy Star/Mr. Bongo. Swimming Lessons deals with "crushing heartbreak, the impending doom of Brexit and the current political climate, all the while surviving as independent musicians navigating the weird world of 2019." All of these are proverbial “swimming lessons” life throws at us.
Born from the underground London punk scene, and formed at Woodbridge High School, The Skints brilliantly – and seamlessly – fuse 8 bit-influenced dancehall to sound system shaking dub, punk rock, ska, melodic grunge, to harmony laden soul, and hip hop.
With Marcia Richards on vocals, keyboards, alto saxophone, melodica, flute, guitar, and sampler; Joshua Waters Rudge on vocals and guitar; Jonathan Doyle on bass guitar; and Jamie Kyriakides on vocals, drums, and guitar– these “torchbearers for modern British reggae music,” aren’t just swimming... they’re making a huge splash on both sides of the pond.
The Skints sit with INKED to talk Swimming Lessons, tattoos, and headlining their first West Coast tour.
Where does the band name come from?
Josh Waters Rudge: It's a terrible band name because Skints as a plural doesn’t make grammatical sense. In England you'd say, ‘I'm skint,’ ‘he's skint,’ ‘she is skint’. ‘We are skint.’ It basically means that you're broke, you got no money. *laughing* It just sounded like a cool name for a punk band when we were 15.
What was the creative process behind Swimming Lessons?
Marcia Richards: Our creative process always completely depends from song to song. We've got three singers in the band and three lead singers as well, so we're writing songs and then we're also all backing up each other's songs. We sometimes help finish off one another's, and putting input in, in different ways.
This last record was a bit special for us because it's been four years since our last album. We made a conscious effort to play less shows during that time so that we could really get into the creativity of it, and just give ourselves a bit of a break from just touring constantly so that we could produce something that we could put in real time into it. We recorded the main bit in one area in London and then went back to different parts of England for different styles, and then finish up all the vocals in another part. Everything had to be right.
JWR: If you went through this album, each song – whether its a lyric or a little musical idea – you would be surprised from where that was influenced from, in terms of what that genre is and how we’ve transformed it into our own.
While you have always been praised for blending so many different genres, Swimming Lessons especially illustrates this knack, while still being a cohesive body of work and keeping the roots of each genre.
JWR: I think it’s knowing the music that you're dealing with. It’s that sort of funny balance about trying to treat the styles with respect, and also completely doing your own mutant version of it at the same time. For us, I think that fundamentally it's just about good songs and good sound. This album, if you broke down a whole back catalog and [compare it by] acoustic, or just voice and guitar, or voice and piano, I think these are the best songs that we've done. It's probably stylistically, the most schizo as well, but for us, it’s so important for it to be fresh and truly original.
What is tour life like for The Skints?
Jonathan Doyle: We do a hands-in-the-middle kind of thing before going on stage.
JWR: You know in Space Jam when they all touch the basketball to get their powers, that’s kind of what’s going on there. But in general, it's pretty civilized.
MR: Yeah civilized is the right word.
JWR: Not in a boring way, just wholesome.
Jamie Kyriakides: Yeah, we have fun, but we’re sensible about it.
MR: I was actually telling my dad this the other day, when we go on tour, the goal of every single day is looking towards the performance and how well we can enable ourselves to perform that mind and that set. Because there’s so many singers in the band, we’ve got a lot to think about with taking care of ourselves. Obviously, we have fun while we’re doing it, but there's definitely some bands out there who go on tour with the goal of partying as much as possible.
JWR: More like a family holiday rather than a sack party.
Favorite bands you guys have toured with?
JD: Easy Style, The Expanders, definitely.
JWR: Bedouin Soundclash too.
MR: Less than Jake too. Reel Big Fish are so dear to us. And they've always taken care of us and they support our stuff. Big Fish fans are definitely open to The Skints.
Probably the easiest and most fun tour would be with Sublime with Rome.
Any matching Skints tattoos?
JWR: Maybe on this tour we will have an unwholesome night and get one together. I started at 18 and I got this Rancid-inspired tattoo. A lot of my work is from Skunx Tattoo in London.
MR: I actually started at 24-years old. It was more a form of growing up with rebellion for me, and at some point I knew I wanted to look like what I look like now. I had some ideas that at the time I thought were original – that were absolutely not – that I’m glad I didn’t end up getting.
I think it’s just, you think you know who you are for years and years before you realize you never actually know who you are, because it’s always temporary. Once you get to that point you can start to get tattoos.
JK: I have the one on my arm here, that I got just after David Bowie died. It was after a tour in San Francisco, where Josh and Marcia had designs made for them.
JWR: Big ups to Frisco Tattooing in San Francisco’s Mission District.
While John doesn’t have any tattoos, Josh says he compensates with the beard.
JWR: I've always thought John would look really good with a spiderweb on his head. One day we will get him to do that.