This week, we celebrate the nation’s independence. The U.S. of A. was founded by descendants of English settlers who saw opportunity in America. So, it’s fitting that a new band of Brits searching for good fortune is making its way across the country and into Houston this week. Buster Shuffle hails from and celebrates London. The band is making its first-ever Texas appearances this week and is hoping to earn new fans with its infectious, cockney-inflected brand of ska-punk-pop music.
We had a chance to visit with Jet Baker, the band’s front man, ahead of this week’s Texas run, part of a two month long tour of the States supporting Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who hail from Boston, a foothold of American independence. Both bands sail into Houston’s House of Blues this Friday. We asked Baker what he’s heard about Houston and, if you’ve been outside at all today, you might guess his response.
“We’ve been warned by lots of people – the Mad Caddies, we were with them last night – they’re like, ‘Man, it’s gonna be hot,’” Baker said. “I mean hot, in the U.K., is just never experienced. So we’re expecting to be wearing our shorts and taking it, trying to stay cool.”
Staying cool shouldn’t be a problem for Buster Shuffle - they practically ooze coolness. Their music is buoyant, catchy, hip. There are toe-tapping pop tracks like “Me, Myself & I” and body movers like “I Don’t Trust a Word You Say,” from its latest album, I’ll Take What I Want. Everything in the catalog is delivered with a decidedly British flair.
We mention to Baker that ska seems to be enjoying yet another rejuvenation and bring up bands like The Interrupters, New Zealand’s Night Gaunts and his own to support the notion that a new wave is forming.
“Is it a new wave? Maybe there is something brewing coming through. I think what may happen is it’s always there, I’m sure it’s always there, people are always listening to good ska and reggae. But then there’s maybe like a break in a generation and a new group of people or generation take it on and try and interpret it their way and that probably then creates a new wave,” Baker theorized. “So, The Interrupters are just doing their thing and doing ska the way they’ve listened to it and grown up around it. We’re doing the same thing. If you’ve got guys in New Zealand doing it, if you get enough people, then suddenly there’s a bit of a new wave coming through.
“I guess it’s always there, but it seems at the moment there is a little bit of a buzz about it, which is great,” he continued. “Hopefully it can push on and get stronger and stronger.”
The band is doing its part and has made some good inroads, as indicated by the current tour with Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Buster Shuffle formed in 2007 and built an established audience overseas with its first albums, 2010’s Our Night Out and Do Nothing and Naked, which followed thereafter. Those albums helped draw attention from ska stalwarts and earned the band touring gigs with some idols, like Madness, The Blockheads and The Beat. So, it’s not entirely unfamiliar with hitting the road with veteran acts like Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
“I guess we’re very lucky to be doing it with such a great band and the Bosstones giving us this opportunity, we’re super grateful,” Baker noted. “I guess those guys picked up on us one way or another and liked what we’re doing with the British sound. “
That sound is definitely homegrown and it's embraced in the music. Songs like “I’ll Be in Peckham” and “Devon” evoke very English places and moods.
“For years we just played pubs in East London, any pub with a sound system, we’d just go and play and build it and build it. That’s really our roots,” Baker said. He said about half the band’s existence was playing those pub shows, growing slowly into a band that felt comfortable in bigger music venues.
“It felt fine, it felt right, we wanted to build it up from just doing pubs into something bigger and when that organically happened it was like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool, that’s what we wanted.’ I guess if we’d thought like even five years ago that we’d be touring the States with the Bosstones we would have pinched ourselves. It has come a long way for Buster Shuffle but it’s been slow and steady. It wasn’t like we were spotted in the first six months and then going on tour.”
The U.S. is catching on now. Baker said the band had a solid turn at this year’s Punk Rock Bowling festival in Las Vegas where “lots of people come up to us after, we sold lots of merchandise, people coming and chatting, so it was a positive reaction and we hope we can just carry that on and build a bit of an American fan base. We want to play gigs wherever we can, we’re a hardworking band, we’ve been going for 10 years.”
These days, you don’t have to see a live show to come to love a band. We tell Baker we became Buster Shuffle fans by watching their entertaining music videos.
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“We definitely try to make fun videos and try to get across the spirit of the band and what we do. We’ve used different friends and filmmakers along the way. In the past we’ve had ideas where we’ve had stories and things and then these last couple of videos, for like ‘I Don’t Trust A Word You Say,’ just capture the energy of the song and kind of that Britishness as well,” Baker said.
That element isn’t understated in Buster Shuffle’s brand. It’s showcased, and for good reason, as Baker sees it.
“Certainly, we’ve grown up, all of us, in a very multi-cultural city, London,” he said of the band. “If you’ve been there, you’ve seen the pubs, you’ve seen how it rolls. Everyone’s welcomed, just get on with it as long as you’re not being a dick, you’re welcomed in London, and it doesn’t matter what your faith, your color, your religion, what your beliefs are, your sexuality - no one cares, ‘cause we just want to get on and have a good time, have a few beers in a few pubs and listen to some music. It’s pretty simple stuff. That’s influenced us and hopefully it’s in the music that will translate to the crowds and the people that we play to when we see you in a couple of weeks’ time in Texas.”
Buster Shuffle makes its Houston debut – and hopes to keep cool — this Friday, July 6, in support of Mighty Mighty Bosstones at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline. Doors at 7 p.m., $25, all ages.