Casting a spell

Voodoo Glow Skulls bring ska-punk to Oddbody’s

By Gary Spencer

The first time Californian ska-punk band Voodoo Glow Skulls came to play in Dayton was 1992. The location was Brookwood Hall, a popular spot to be rented out for DIY punk and metal shows in town. It was an all day, outdoor music festival. As evening approached, the clouds started rolling in and the wind started picking up—a storm was definitely coming. When the time came for VGS to play, things were starting to get nasty. The decision was made to move the band into the rental hall where the band set up on the floor of the humid, un-air-conditioned room and blasted through a hurried 25-minute set featuring pulse-quickening hardcore punk drum rhythms, razor sharp guitars and catchy-as-f–k horn melodies that had all in attendance forgetting about the storm and dancing around like maniacs. They ran through one song after the next in a frenzy of heat and sweat in what I recall as one of the most fun performances I ever saw at that building.

Fast-forward to 2016, and the Voodoo Glow Skulls no longer have to set up their gear on floors of dingy rental halls in the middle of nowhere. The band became very popular on the indie circuit during the mid- to late- 1990s as the fusion of hardcore punk and ska became a national trend, and big time punk labels like Epitaph and Victory Records put out several of their albums over the next decade. And while ska-punk is no longer trendy, VGS has quietly stayed together with the Casillas brothers at its core and continued to make records and tour all around the globe. Voodoo Glow Skulls will be making their triumphant return to Dayton for the first time in over 20 years next Tuesday at Oddbody’s, and judging by a listen to their most recent album Break the Spell, the band hasn’t slowed down a bit. Dayton City Paper recently spoke with lead vocalist Frank Casillas about everything VGS and their return to the Gem City.

Give me a little background on the history of the band.

Frank Casillas: The band unofficially started right around 1988 in Riverside, California, as a four-piece with my two younger siblings, Eddie and Jorge. We signed to Dr. Strange Records in 1991 and released our first album, Who Is This Is. That album opened doors for us in the punk scene. That was probably the biggest achievement of our career.

Some people might be surprised to know that VGS didn’t always have a horn section …

FC: But we were always ska fans! Mainly the British, two-tone era. We never really planned on adding horns until we heard what Fishbone was doing with punk and ska. It influenced us to incorporate horns into our music.

It appears that VGS have been around for almost 30 years. Why have you kept VGS going for so long? 

FC: I think that the fact that three of us are brothers keeps us together. As long as people are still wanting to hear and see the band, we will continue as long as we physically can. It amazes me that our music has carried us this far after decades of musical trends.

Who makes up your audience in 2016?

FC: The overall demographic hasn’t really changed. It’s great to see people who grew up listening to the music still following us and handing down the music to the younger generation. We get families at our shows now! It’s neat to see a whole family wearing our T-shirts!

I know you’re self-producing your own recordings these days. Why did VGS go this route versus trying to get signed to a new, recognized label? 

FC: After our run with Epitaph, things were starting to turn towards the digital age with music, and it pretty much killed the retail music industry. Like a lot of bands at the time, we didn’t really know to how perceive all of that. So, we did a deal with Victory Records just to keep us out there. All that really did was keep us active, and it just seemed like we were on our own anyway. So after we fulfilled our commitment with Victory, we just moved on to do things more DIY, like when we first started.

Tell me about your live show. 

FC: We have always been known for our energetic live show. The musicianship has definitely gotten better, and this is the best line-up of players that we have had in quite some time.

VGS hasn’t played in Dayton in roughly 20 years. Do you have any particular fondness for our city?

FC: Back in the early days, we had to actually write letters and send demos to promoters for a gig. Dayton was one of the first places outside of California that would promote our shows. I remember it always being a small, but close-knit scene. I’m looking forward to coming back after all these years!

Voodoo Glow Skulls will perform on Tuesday, April 12 at Oddbody’s, 5418 Burkhardt Rd. in Dayton. Duderus, The Raging Nathans and New Regrets are also on the bill. Tickets are $10 in advance. Show is open to patrons 18 and over. Doors open at 7 p.m., and show is at 8 p.m. For more information, please visit oddbodys.com.

Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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