By Raiza Giorgi
Chuck Robertson remembers writing “World Tour” in the dust on his bandmate’s car as the students drove to Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, where their first show was during lunch.
“I remember that day really clearly, and if I knew we would end up still playing music more than 22 years later I don’t know if I would have believed it. I feel really lucky to be able to be a full-time musician,” Robertson said.
He is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for Mad Caddies, a ska band that was formed in 1995 by Robertson, Sascha Lazor, Todd Rosenberg and Carter Benson. Benson has since left the band, and it has added Keith Douglas, Ed Hernandez, Dustin Lanker and Graham Palmer.
Now Robertson and the band have real world tours to talk about.
Robertson and Palmer gave an exclusive interview to the Star recently to announce an album that will debut this spring. In a first for the band, they are producing a concept album that includes four EPs with five songs each. The tracks on each of the four EP (extended-play) recordings will be united by an emotion: fear, pain, enlightenment and closure.
The band will also be releasing an album that covers songs by punk rock bands throughout the years but done with a reggae sound, produced by the legendary Fat Mike of Fat Wreck Chords.
“We just got back from San Francisco where we have been recording, and it’s such a different sound which we hope everyone will like,” Robertson said.
Robertson has been singing since he was a young child. His parents were always playing music, mostly classic rock. Then he attended a camp in northern California where his counselor was playing guitar, and it piqued his interest.
“My mom and cousin took me to my first concert of Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt at the Santa Barbara Bowl, and when I went to a Fishbone concert a while later in Santa Barbara, that was when my mind was opened to ska and punk music,” Robertson said.
Ska, a style of pop music with a heavy beat, was a forerunner of reggae. It appealed to him because it was upbeat and everyone could dance to it. The mid-1990s were the heyday of grunge and metal music and the height of Mohawk haircuts and mosh pits.
“I’d say our music is happy escapism. We want people to have a good time and forget about the problems of the world for a few hours,” he said.
Palmer also grew up in the valley. His parents were music teachers and he was playing several instruments at a young age.
He had a different road into the band, though. He was playing with another local artist, Wil Ridge, when the Mad Caddies asked him to do a tour in Europe with them in 2008. When their bassist left for another project, they asked Palmer to join the band and he hasn’t looked back.
“I listen to it all, classical, rock, hip hop, punk, country. The blanket statement of ‘I hate certain music’ is stupid to me because you can get so much from different styles. It has shaped and influenced my life, and I like to try new styles to intertwine it into our music. I think that’s how we differ,” Palmer said.
The Mad Caddies love playing all around the world. Some of their favorite places have been the Southside Festival in Germany and shows in Leeds, England.
“We got to record live songs that were broadcast at BBC Radio where the Beetles once recorded, and that was an epic feeling,” Palmer said.
The band has played shows in front of thousands of people, but they say they feel the most nervous playing shows at home.
“I can rock out in front of anyone, but when I play at the Mav (The Maverick Saloon) it’s the most nerve-wracking because it’s home turf and my friends that I’ve played with and in front of my whole life are there,” Robertson said.
Robertson and Palmer both love being out on the road and describe the feeling as a “band of brothers” because they are in close proximity for weeks and months at a time.
“We know the most intimate details of one another and you really have to communicate and try to work any issues out. That’s the main reason bands break up, when they can’t communicate,” Palmer said.
Robertson said he’s talked with members of other bands such Lagwagon, also from Santa Barbara area, and they get a feeling of “post-tour syndrome” because while on tour every minute of their life is mapped out.
Their daily lives away from tour involve practicing, coming up with new music, and playing shows closer to home. Some also have jobs outside of the band.
They are also growing the next generation of musicians. Several members have children, including Robertson’s son Charlie.
“My son came out tapping his toes because I was always singing to him in the womb. He’s already picking up the drums. He’s such an awesome kid. Hopefully our kids will take over and continue the Mad Caddies,” Robertson said with a laugh.
The band members have no intention of stopping anytime soon.
“Our fans are the most amazing people and we love performing. Some fans are die-hard and we love hearing how our music impacts their lives. One fan said our music got her through a tough time in her life, which was really touching to hear. Another fan has my face tattooed on his calf and, well, that’s nice too,” Robertson added.
For more information on the Mad Caddies’ music, log onto www.madcaddies.com.
The Mad Caddies will play at Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara on Dec. 22 and at The Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez on Dec. 23.