By Dj Dave Hoffenberg
Badfish is bringing their show and brand new beer to the Pickle Barrel this Friday 8 p.m. Most bands only get to do a CD release party, yet Badfish is doing a beer release party and then launching a CD next year. Badfish has been around for 18 years. I remember when I first brought them to Killington in 2003 at the Wobbly Barn. Things have changed a bit since but the band is still rocking along. (In case you didn’t know, Badfish is the number one Sublime tribute band in the country.)
I had the pleasure of talking to bassist Joel Hanks. Hanks said of their long run, “The band is just totally kickass.”
Joining Hanks are Pat Downes on guitar/vocals, Scott Begin on drums and Dorian Duffy on keys/guitar.
“The interesting thing about Sublime is it hits a lot of different audiences, with the reggae, the ska, the punk and the hip-hop,” said Hanks. “One of the cool things is even if people don’t know us or who Sublime is, the music is still very enjoyable.”
What’s also going to be enjoyable is Badfish Blood Orange Pale Ale made by Foolproof Brewing Company. The band got their start in Rhode Island and that’s where Foolproof is based so Hanks said it’s a great match. He added, “We figured it was time to expand the brand some and wanted to partner with someone who was also interested in expanding.” They hope to eventually bring the beer nationwide.
Hanks said that working with Foolproof has been really easy and the people have been very professional. “It all happened very fast. The beer came out great. It’s definitely a cool thing to say we have a beer. It’s exciting,” said Hanks. Foolproof describes the beer as “delicious, dank and flavorful; a craft beer that will leave you feeling sublime.”
The idea for Badfish was hatched after Hanks was in a touring punk/ska band that was breaking up. Hanks, his brother and the first lead singer, Dave Ladin, came up with the idea in 1998 when Hanks was just starting college at University of Rhode Island.
Hanks said, “We thought we should just play some Sublime songs, everyone around that time loved Sublime.”
So they bought a Sublime book that showed how to play the songs. It was a helpful guide for them. Hanks said, “We had a few rehearsals and thought it wasn’t that good. I didn’t want to miss out on college, parties and girlfriends to be in a band traveling around. I just did that.”
Hanks’ brother and Ladin started a punk rock band, M-80, and they started touring around.
Fast forward four years.
He said, “That band was in the same position as my other band. Do they take it seriously, quit some jobs and go for it, or quit?” The latter happened while Hanks met Begin, whose band was also breaking up and he pitched the Sublime idea. He agreed to try it and that’s how Badfish came to be.
Hanks remembered the weeks leading up to their first show, rehearsing every day. That was at the Ocean Mist in Rhode Island where they just played the other day. Hanks said of that first show, “It went really well, couple hundred people. It was better than anything we’d ever done in any of our other bands.”
It wasn’t easy. They were still in college, learning the business and learning how to get gigs. It took some time.
Hanks added, “The one thing we did that no one is going to do again, or very few, is really get out there and tour. Establish fans and blend your market and business throughout the whole country. We were young, we were at the right time. We didn’t care if we made money or not, we were going to do that two week tour. There’s been an explosion of tribute bands and we’re part of the reason that happened. Who’s going to do what we did? Timing in life is a big part of things.”
One disadvantage to being a Sublime tribute band is there is only so much material but fortunately a lot of hits. Hanks said, “One thing we do as we travel the country is to try and give people a slightly different show, not just repeating the same show every year.” They will be releasing their first album in 2020, a live recording that Hanks said will get them in the Spotify world which they’ve never been a part of.
Hanks loves being a part of Badfish and said, “It doesn’t matter what song you’re playing, it’s fun to be an entertainer when there’s a good crowd and people are into it. What we do the most is travel and there’s obviously great parts like meeting people, I met my wife on the road.” They met in Georgia, got married 12 years ago and she moved to Rhode Island, he explained. “There’s so many awesome life changing things but now at 18 years, I’m going away from my wife and kids and missing out on soccer games and stuff. With anything in life, there’s positives and negatives but as far as playing these Sublime songs, we’ve been so lucky with the support we get and the crowds we get to play in front of. It’s been an amazing career.”