Get to know Melbourne Ska Orchestra!

Melbourne Ska Orchestra

Get ready to witness the Blues on Broadbeach stage be taken over, literally, by the massively impressive Melbourne Ska Orchestra!

20 years young and led by the enigmatic Nicky Bomba, the band is bringing its 20th anniversary celebration show to Broadbeach from 18-21 May. With two ARIA awards under their belt solidifying their reputation as one of Australia’s best live acts, Nicky explains how the band started, their love for ska and blues, and just how much fun it is to tour with upwards of 20 people!


What does blues mean to you?


We play a traditional style of music, which is aligned very much with blues. Blues is a combination of music that’s mixed in with traditional music. That’s exactly what Ska is, it’s music from the states mixed in with traditional Jamaican music. Blues for me is about the feeling, and roots music. When I think blues, I think roots and that’s why I think we’re connected with Blues on Broadbeach.


Is there a song that you’re most excited to perform for the Blues on Broadbeach crowd?


We’ve got a new single out called ‘Something Strong’, it’s about the 20 year lifespan of the band. We’re going to be playing it for the first time on this tour, so when you have a new song out and it’s getting a good reaction, it’s pretty exciting to play that.

Speaking of your ‘20 Years Young’ tour, do you see the Melbourne Ska Orchestra going further and being bigger in the next 20 years?


Absolutely, I really mean it when I say 20 years young. Because we’ve got amazing songwriters in the band, lots of beautiful energy, and the band has gone this long because of the love of the music, of the genre and the style. It’s a real family vibe. We all love being creative, and there’s lots of things we’ve still got to do. A short film, a televised live performance, more albums, more collaborations. It’s kind of unending. The possibilities are endless really. We still feel very energised by it.


Your ARIA winning ‘One Year of Ska’ album, what was the behind the scenes process of that like and releasing a song every week for a full year?


When we decided to do it, we thought ‘oh that’s a fanciful idea’, and the process at the start was quite easy. We had good catering, a nice studio, everyone had a bit of free time to have it all worked out. But then as we were halfway through, we were really starting to feel the pinch in it. We ran out of money to record at the normal studios, so we had to set up another studio in the middle of Melbourne, we had to call in all favours. The nice meals and the cushy environment turned into a studio in the middle of Brunswick with 4am souvlakis and $1 coffees from Seven Eleven.


At the end it was mayhem, it was crazy. But in many ways when we finished it, in the weeks after we thought “I know that was crazy but we all kind of miss it”. It was just a creative, energised bubble and you can get a lot of joy out of that. Creativity and fun go hand in hand. So it was kind of easy in many ways for us to come together and do it, but the logistics of it was a nightmare in the end. Thankfully we all had a good sense of humour and the love for the music, and we just thought this too shall pass… and it did. And we won an ARIA for it so it worked out in the end.

Melbourne Ska Orchestra

Can you tell us more about the idea behind Melbourne Ska Orchestra, what’s it like touring with this many people?


The band came together because of the love for the music. We were celebrating the 40th anniversary of ska in 2003. Everybody gets that it’s not a normal band, the success that this band has had is more success than half the band members have ever been associated with. Half the members have never received an award before, half the members have never gone overseas before. All these things have happened in the context of a band this size, so you get this vibe that there is something special here, we’ve actually got a niche that people are connecting with.


There’s an inherent respect for the fact that the band exists in the first place, and because of that, it might seem like it’s a logistical nightmare but when it’s done with love and happiness and a good energy, people are not going to complain. There are a couple that do complain, quietly, but generally everyone is on the same page, and gets it. The hardest thing is trying to work out who’s going to sleep with who because there’s snorers and there’s non-snorers.


How do you find your rhythm?


As far as finding our rhythm, we always like to get into a group and give thanks. But more so just say ‘hey, we know our craft, you know your songs, and the essence here is let’s just have fun’. The fun dictates it, we’re all smiling and there’s lots of love there, and all of us understand the style very well. If something goes left of centre, okay let’s just follow Nicky, he knows what he’s doing and we’ll go along with that energy. So that’s just the essence of the band. Once we get into the red bulls before we get on stage, we’re going to start really fast.


Get a taste of what Melbourne Ska Orchestra will bring to the stage this May below!

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