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Island All-Stars, Dope Soda

Band made of members of other prominent Island bands make Victoria Ska Fest debut.
Island all-star ska band Dope Soda is making its Victoria Ska Fest debut, Fri., July 13.


If you’re thirsty for music that’s both dangerous and danceable, check out Island all-star ska band Dope Soda, Fri., July 13 at Ship Point.

Made up of members of Current Swell, Rocky Mountain Rebel Music, Bananafish Dance Orchestra, The Kiltlifters, and Kings Without, the individual bandmates certainly don’t lack festival experience, but this is actually the band’s Victoria Ska Fest debut.

Dope Soda is Dave St. Jean (trombone and vocals), Andrew Rollins (drums), Anatol McGinnis (bass), Greg Szabo (Vocals, guitar), Matt Carter (keys, synth, baritone sax and vocals) and Phil Hamlin (trumpet).

“Dope Soda is brand spanking new, we started in November,” says St. Jean, who also plays with Current Swell and Jon and Roy. “Ska Fest will be the second festival ever played.”

The group just returned from the Tall Tree Music Festival in Port Renfrew, where they made their first festival appearance, but nothing can quite compare to the excitement of playing Ska Fest.

“This is like my Christmas,” says St. Jean. “I love the warmth of the air, the people and the music. It all just comes together, and when I get my first beer from the beer garden and the first band comes on and I look around and there’s all my friends sitting there just stoked about what’s going to happen for the next four days, it’s like I don’t need to do anything else in life.”

The six musicians that make up Dope Soda are all graduates of a university jazz program, but jazz isn’t their only influence.

“Our sound is a mash of lots of other sounds,” says St. Jean. “It’s very put together but very improvisational, and very professional but fun. There’s a lot of parts where we improvise, playing jazz solos and groovy funk stuff over top of ska and rock. Everyone in the band went to jazz school and have musical backgrounds, but we’re all pretty heavy dudes. Sometimes it sounds like it’s been rehearsed for weeks and a lot of the time it’s just natural on the spot.”

The band is led by a three-piece horn section, headed up by St. Jean on trumpet. “At times it can blast away an audience and hopefully gives off a big feeling of energy and excitement. Bring a change of underwear.”

Afternoon Free Show, Fri., July 13 from noon to 3pm, at Ship Point in the Inner Harbour. Featuring Dope Soda (Nanaimo) and Heads Hang Heavy (Vancouver). M