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Rum: The fuel that runs Staylefish

TK Dallman | Interrobang | Lifestyles | February 9th, 2009

It's anyone's guess why some bands aren't touring the world with millions of adoring fans. They excel at their artistic craft, exude huge amounts of energy and are pretty good businessmen too, yet they struggle to make a living.

For reggae-rock group Staylefish, that path has been tough, but after five years of playing together, the group is finally starting to catch a few breaks.

Surely, the market for their music exists, given the success of similar bands like Ill Scarlett and Bedouin Soundclash, but dozens of traps and pitfalls can put the fate of any band at risk, especially in the midst of economic struggle.

“It's a hard industry to accomplish things in as of the past few years.” Richard Howard, one of the band's singers said, who's easily identifiable, given his shoulder-length dreadlocks. “Our scene has the advantage that it has a very die hard fan base that will support bands in the genres they enjoy. “[However,] many labels and radio stations feel safer sticking with music that has made them money in the past like pop and radio rock.”

And in a business as fragile as the music industry, taking such risks can be perilous to one's career.

Still, reggae-influenced artists have seemingly found success, in waves, since Bob Marley's breakthrough with the Wailers. Generations of artists with similar styles and attitudes have taken up the torch, from Long Beach's now-defunct Sublime in the ‘90s to modern groups like Staylefish.

And in honour of what would be Marley's birthday, Staylefish are playing The Out Back Shack at Fanshawe this Friday, February 5.

“Bob [Marley] is the shit,” Howard said. “He made a music genre, a religion, and a country that was considered at the worst taboo, at the best inferior, not just acceptable but even revered. Very few men or women have been able to do that. And the man and his music remain timeless.”

He and the rest of Staylefish acknowledge the debt that they owe Marley, but the connection runs a little deeper for Howard, who has Caribbean roots. His family comes from the archipelagic state of Trinidad and Tobago, and as a result, Howard has been able to tap into another world of influence, both musically and culturally, from Ragga Soca music, a blend of Jamaican Ragga with a Trinidadian form of calypso music, to beverage choice.

Howard's musical and lyrical stylings, he states, are “fueled by the tastiest rum on the planet. Angostura 1919 at the LCBO. Drink that shit!”

It makes sense, too. Self-described as “positive chaos”, a “sound orgy”, shit-kicking soiree” and “a wicked trip to welcome exhaustion,” it would be hard to imagine anything but good times at a Staylefish concert, especially with the energy of six members on stage.

Staylefish played the Van's Warped Tour last summer, and as a result of the crowd response, several record labels ears have perked up.

But for now, the band are more self-focused.

“A couple labels have shown interest - it's a tough time to be a label though.” Howard explained. “For us, we're just trying to knock out a wicked album that people are going to want to get behind.”

They've been working on a follow-up to 2006's Audible Addiction, which should be out later this year. Their style is more refined, but fans need not worry - they're “still mixing reggae rock and hip hop like there's no tomorrow.” Howard added that the latest recordings represent their best work to date.

They'll be performing new and old songs alike this Friday at The Out Back Shack for the Bob Marley Birthday Bash. Fans of reggae-rock or just a good, high-energy performance will not be disappointed.
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