The history of ska and reggae in Rhode Island runs deep.
The 2000s had acts like Lemon Lime Tennis Shoes and Zox putting their own spin on the style. These days, you can check out Natural Element bringing authentic sounds to The Parlour in Providence every Monday, and South County has it going on with acts like The Indestructibles and James & The Giants playing on a regular basis.
Cranston has a connection to the music as well, with city native Matt DiChiara fronting The Copacetics on vocals and trombone. For over a decade, the band has been a must-see live act all over the Ocean State.
“I was maybe 14 or 15 when I was first exposed to ska, which was around 1991 or 1992,” DiChiara said of how he became a fan of the music. “My interest in the genre grew steadily until I couldn’t enjoy it enough, so I decided to play it. I then learned the trombone specifically to play ska. It was the horns that first attracted me to it, especially the baritone saxophone and the trombone. Turns out a student model trombone is way cheaper than a baritone saxophone, so that’s why I picked that instrument.”
When The Copacetics were first starting out, they made it a goal to capture ska’s roots while keeping their sound original. Along with incorporating other musical elements, that approach has helped them stand out from their local contemporaries.
“The music that the foundation of the band’s sound is based on goes even further back than the two-tone era of ska,” DiChiara said. “Everyone in the band is pretty much in love with ska as it originated in Jamaica in the 1960s, and the same goes with rocksteady and early reggae. On top of that, we add in some soul, doo-wop, jazz, Latin and swing.”
DiChiara is always paying attention to how ska is evolving, especially with the genre experiencing a resurgence over the past few years.
“I’ve got my finger on the pulse,” he said. “I buy ska albums from bands located all across the world over the course of the year. I have lots of great stuff from Germany, Japan, Italy and Venezuela. You’d be surprised by how much is released, although the classics are always in heavy rotation in my playlists and CD player.”
Summer is always a busy time for a band, and it’s no different for The Copacetics.
“We are booked pretty solid for weddings, private parties and beach club gigs,” DiChiara said. “The summer is always busy with that kind of stuff. During the autumn, we have plans for songwriting and a short tour to Chicago and back. People can catch us this Saturday, July 6, at the Proof Prohibition Era Style Pub in Narragansett.”