The Pietasters have managed to be one of the few bands to weather the rise and fall of the ska genre in the late 90’s. This is because the band was never a gimmick. They play passionate music inspired by real life; they have a timeless sound that is relevant in any era.
Vocalist Stephen Jackson attributes the band's mandate to rock to a cohesive mindset, part of which involves taking pride in stirring up a frenzy at all of their shows. The band’s unofficial motto "It's not a good show unless somebody bleeds" while rough, is the product of the band's punk rock roots. Having grown up in DC during its punk heyday, the Pietasters were weaned on the old school greats. Jackson and his cohorts regularly attended shows by bands like Minor Threat, the Meatmen and Scream.
It was around this time that they discovered ska. Inspired by British vets such as Bad Manners and the Specials, the Pietasters found a home in the local D.C. ska scene. But ska wasn't the only genre that would inspire the band. While a smattering of ska still exists in the band's platter du jour, your first mistake would be to assume that this group is strictly a ska outfit. It's not unlikely that one will hear shades of Spencer Davis, Otis Redding, Alton Ellis and Bob Marley while the band is rocketing through their repertoire. Jackson says of the band's eclectic output, "It comes from hanging out in old, stinky record stores. You'd pick up a Specials record, find that there were six covers on it, and then you'd buy those records. You start exploring the subcultures and looking for their origins trying to find the authentic stuff."
In 1995 the Pietasters released the “Oolooloo” LP on Moon Records. It was well received, and the band looked to the record as a vehicle for hitting the road. The next few years saw the group through an endless touring agenda - winding through cities from Boston to Seattle with bands such as the Violent Femmes, No Doubt and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. But it wasn't until the spring of 1997 that they pulled the lucky card. Tim Armstrong, who had been religiously cranking their record on Rancid's tour bus, and Epitaph Records' head honcho Brett Gurewitz caught the band at a milestone show at Los Angeles' Palace. In no time the Pietasters signed with Armstrong's fledgling Hellcat label and Gurewitz himself produced their first record. Recording had previously proven to be a frustrating experience, recording did not pack the cathartic rush playing live offered them. Gurewitz understood that above all a Pietasters record needed to reflect what he and Armstrong had seen at the Palace. The result was a record called “Willis.”
The album was the first Pietasters studio LP to righteously harness the band's spirit, portraying their live energy while putting across some great songs. “Willis” also caught the attention of the music press. Spin magazine called the long player, "An equal opportunity dancehall crasher - part '60s keg rock, part 2 Tone and part Motown groove." CMJ said, "This is what the Jam was aiming for at the end of its life, but where that band only came within hailing distance, the Pietasters have found the spot marked X." ”Willis” afforded the Pietasters more road time playing almost non-stop for 2 years with bands like the Reverend Horton Heat, the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and Ozomatli. By February 1999, the group had amassed enough new tunes to jump back into the studio. Another love-labored re-visitation by Gurewitz and a commitment to make a record even more focused on the band's intrinsic sound than the last resulted in “Awesome Mix Tape #6.” Where “Willis” was a throwdown packing its fair share of punk rock pounce, “Awesome” sported an impressive mixed bag of smart pop songs. The band then toured the country with the legendary Joe Strummer & The Mescalaros. Tragedy struck in 2001, when founding bassist Todd Eckhart passed away.
Knowing it was what Todd would have wanted, the band soldiered on, tapping local guitar virtuoso Jorge Pezzimenti as his replacement. After conversations with old friend Vinnie (co-owner of Fueled By Ramen and drummer for Less Than Jake) the band found a new home at his record label. Shortly after the release of “Turbo”, in 2002, the Pietasters hit the road for a string of dates with Less Than Jake. The following spring they again appeared with Less Than Jake for a month of sold out dates throughout the U.K. Recently James Brown enlisted the Pietasters to be his backing band at WHFS’s Holiday Nutcracker Ball. Playing “Sex Machine” and “I Feel Good” with The Godfather of Soul in front of 25,000 people was yet another high point for the band.
The Pietasters just finished their first new album in five years, “ALL DAY”, to be released August 21, 2007 through Indication Records / Red Eye Distribution.