The members of Sweet Leaf have been jamming together for a while, but they only recently recorded their first album Stress Leave earlier this year.
“We rented some office space in Esquimalt and sound proofed it then just party and record, party and record, lather and repeat, you know?” says Chris Jones, guitar and vocalist.
Victoria-based Sweet Leaf includes Zak Knippel on bass, Mike Luis on drums, Spencer Lee on trombone, Jason Ramalho on sax, Nick Brandle on percussion and backing vocals, Tyson Crabb on trumpet and Nick Taylor on backup vocals.
“We could have another if the keyboard player ever showed up,” deadpans Jones.
Knippel and Ramalho started the band some four years ago and Jones joined after answering an online ad.
They’ve lasted through five drummers and Taylor was added after the album was recorded to help fill out their sound, says Jones.
Band members’ musical interests vary from metal to punk and reggae and some of the guys are “not into ska” at all, but they play like they love it.
“Victoria has a good scene. People come out and skank it up at a ska show,” says Jones.
The Sweet Leaf sound is not straight up ska, he adds. “We cross a bunch of different barriers. We’re not just ska or ska influenced. We rock, reggae, we play funk too. We play some pretty funky riffs and genres will change in the middle of a song. There’s hip hop influence in some beats, jazz.”
This is the third year in a row Sweet Leaf will hit the stage at the Ska and Reggae Festival which runs July 1 to 5 at a variety of locations.
“It’s super fun. And we get to play with some of our favourite ska bands – that’s kinda why we do it. You don’t make a lot of money as a band but the payoff is meeting these super talented and influential artists.”
Sweet Leaf plays at Sugar Nightclub July 1. See the full Ska and Reggae Festival lineup at victoriaskafest.ca