Ska music might have fallen out of the public eye since its mid-’90s heyday when The Mighty Mighty Bosstones briefly flirted with mainstream success and No Doubt’s ska-adjacent songs dominated radio, but Oklahoma City outfit Sunny Side Up is working to make sure the last horn hasn’t sounded.
While the sextet started out simply trying to re-create what countless ska bands had done before, its members have their eyes set on resurrecting the dead into a new kind of monster.
“We want to not only play ska music, but also evolve the genre by putting more modern spins on what had been done before,” said bassist-lyricist Garland Moore. “Those old influences that are dead or tired-out can be used in a modern way and become something brand-new.”
Sunny Side Up began as a Facebook post in 2010 with Moore casually asking if anyone wanted to be in a band.
“At the time, I was deeply in a ska phase,” Moore said. “I was listening to so much of it, and I thought it would be such a fun band to be a part of.”
The lineup has changed since that time, now solidified with Moore, guitarist Tanner Smith, singer Lance Godfrey, drummer Jake Jones, trumpeter Taylor Doak and trombonist Austin Meyer.
The group quickly became a live favorite, carving out a local niche along with The Last Slice and Classy San Diego, both of whom open Saturday’s album-release show at The Conservatory.
“Ska doesn’t have much of a mainstream following anymore, but … there’s potential there,” Moore said. “A lot of my friends didn’t even know what ska was before I started the band. Sunny Side Up became an entry point for them.”
The band released a debut EP of purist tunes, tried and true to every ska tenet. But just one year later, Sunny Side Up didn’t feel so bright.
“Doing the same thing that people have done in the past … it stagnates,” Moore said. “That wasn’t how we wanted to spend our time.”
So when it came time to write Sunny Side Up’s first full-length album, Paradise in the Sky, the guys brought in new, complementing influences — classical guitar, 8-bit pop, early Weezer — which they see as a step forward for the genre.
“It has this reputation of being dead, and that everything that was ever produced sounds the same. We wanted to change the very definition of ska and what that influence can lead to. It’s resulted in some very fun music,” Moore said.
Added Smith, “It’s mind-blowing. We feel like we’ve given ska something new to call its own, and we want to continue to push and do that moving forward.”
To be celebrated at Saturday’s show (with promises of lasers and other surprises), Paradise is a concept album of sorts, thematically tied to achieving one’s dreams.
For Sunny Side Up, that means forging a viable path forward for ska as a whole.
not a bunch of songs on a CD. These songs were written for each other.”
Moore said. “It’s a singular idea. There was this idea to have a
philosophical goal behind them. We wanted our songs to reach a new level
within ska and give it a new place to go.”
Even for its lofty ambitions, Paradise doesn’t
overlook the band’s original goal: music as fun to listen to as it was
to play. For its efforts, Sunny Side Up has been rewarded with a
national distribution deal to beam it to big-box stores, indie record
shops and online outlets alike. The group has been asked to create the
soundtrack for a racing arcade game due later this year.
“We try to make songs that are fun and catchy,” Smith said. “We want to make something that is widely appealing.”
Moore, “It’s not like we are pandering or anything. If we wanted to be
hugely popular, we wouldn’t be in a ska band in the first place.”
Paradise is more than music alone; each copy comes with an eight-page comic book.
reached out to London artist Jenna Brown. The disc’s comic is merely a
prologue; the first edition of a full, four-part graphic novel is due
later this year.
you just want to listen to an album, you’ve got the CD and you’re good
to go. If you want something different, something more enveloping, the
songs build into the comics that will follow,” Moore said. “It’s a
sci-fi, neo-modern version of our own city of Oklahoma City … in the
sky floating above everything. The songs are about trying to get to that
place, that paradise in the sky. It’s about achieving one’s ambitions
and having your art recognized, and so is the comic.”
not necessarily groundbreaking, the multimedia package is a rather
ambitious undertaking for such a relatively young band. “Our music is
part of something bigger than an album,” Smith said. “It’s part of
something more tangible. It’s something people can enjoy in a different
“It’s going to be one big, awesome — I hope — communicative effort to
create something that is distinctly Oklahoma-based. It’s going to be
something we can show to the rest of the world how well we work
together, despite being from different backgrounds or genres. All the
walls that divide artists, we want to help bring those down.”