Passing the Buck

"When we started, a lot of the music was really depressing and negative," explains Yarnold. "Our goal was to present the flip side of that with more of a positive, upbeat vibe. When we see people smiling out in the audience, that's the best thing in the world for us. It's hard to live in the world as it is, so if you can make it better for someone, make them happy for an hour or so, I think that's a pretty good thing."

Fun is fun and all, but dark clouds might be looming on the horizon, as some industry pundits consider the skacore trend to be the next potential victim of this chew-'em-up/spit-'em-out era of hyperspeed media saturation. Note a recent article in the Los Angeles Times that reports that Southern California radio station KROQ, arguably the trendsetter among the modern-rock airwaves, is pining for more traditional guitar rock again.

"What they don't want is the next No Doubt or the Mighty Mighty Bosstones," the article argues. "The current rush of ska- and pop-oriented acts provides programmers with a lot of catchy, fun songs that get instant reaction. But to the radio folks these groups lack the depth that builds a solid audience the way the rockers did during alternative rock's early-Nineties eruption." Funny thing is, Buck-O-Nine recognizes radio's knack for cramming tunes down a listener's throat to the point of exhaustion.

"Oh no not again/Please tell me I'm wrong," Pebsworth sings in "What Happened to My Radio?" "It's been ten minutes since they played this song/Or is it the band with the one word name/I get so confused it all sounds the same." Of course he's talking about the onslaught of Nirvana clones a couple years back. Silly him.

It's a peculiar position for Buck-O-Nine. On one hand they are finally experiencing the exhilaration of heightened popularity and the rewards that might accompany it -- like the cultural phenomenon of reckless, stage-diving Asian youth. On the other hand, they must ponder the threat of their own obsolescence. Yarnold, who readily admits that there is little difference in the sound of Buck-O-Nine and compatriots such as the Bosstones and Reel Big Fish (Sublime, in fact, with their ska/punk/hip-hop/dub/folk amalgam, are maybe the most original and potentially transcendent of the lot, and they're no longer in existence), recognizes the challenge before them. "We really don't know what the future holds," he confesses. "Commercially we're really not sure if anyone's gonna be buying Buck-O-Nine records when the next one comes out."

But, he adds, the band simply aims to concentrate on writing better, more far-reaching tunes, drawing inspiration from one-time top acts such as the Clash, the Police, the English Beat, Oingo Boingo, and Fishbone, all of whom initially flirted with ska and/or reggae and ultimately expanded beyond. "Right now we're in the middle of this whole resurgence, so it's really hard to say if it's just a passing thing," Yarnold notes. But ska, he continues, "will always be there. It's been around for 30 years. There's always gonna be people that are interested in it, and they're always going to be bands. But I think you can run into dead ends if you don't develop more than just the same old songs over and over."

Buck-O-Nine performs an all-ages show at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 15, at the Chili Pepper, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-525-5996. Tickets cost $10.

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