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The Pietasters, a ska revival band, were founded in Washington D.C. in 1990 by singer/songwriter Stephen Jackson. In 1992, the group got their first big break when they were chosen as the opening act for a tour by the British ska band Bad Manners. Their first album, The Pietasters, was released by Moon Ska Records in 1993. Oolooloo followed on May 22, 1995. Strapped Live! was issued on April 30, 1996. In 1997, the Pietasters signed to Hellcat/Epitaph, with which they released two albums, Willis (October 7, 1997) and Awesome Mix Tape, Vol. 6 (August 3, 1999). They switched to the Fueled by Ramen label for Turbo (August 6, 2002). All Day was released by Indication Records on August 21, 2007. By that time, the lineup for the group, which had changed throughout its history, was: Jackson, Toby Hansen (guitar and vocals), Jon Darby (keyboards), Jorge Pezzimenti (bass, songwriter), Rob Steward (drums), Carlos Linares (trumpet), Jeremy Roberts (trombone), and Alan Makranczy (saxophone).
The Pietasters are a seven-piece ska/soul band hailing from Washington, D.C., with additional members from Maryland and Virginia.
In 1990, a group of friends were attending college at Virginia Tech in the mountains of Virginia. Among them were Stephen Jackson and Chris Watt who had previously dabbled in playing punk rock covers.
Soon after, a mutual friend, Tal Bayer, began attending nearby Radford University. He was very much into ska, reggae and rugby and suggested that they form a ska band. After recruiting a high school friend, Tom Goodin, and an Architecture classmate, Ben Gauslin, The Slugs were born. Soon, they were skipping classes, melding ska, reggae, R & B and punk rock while practicing for hours to learn songs by Madness, The Specials, Bad Manners, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Burial, The Skatalites, The Business, The Four Skins and others. Unfortunately, the name The Slugs was already taken and the band needed a new name. For a few months, the name was changed to the Dancehall Crashers. It was too similar to another ska band out west so the search for a new name continued. Some British neighbors used to refer to the heftier guys in the band as Pietasters, which is British slang for "fat guys", chanting "They'll eat your pies, they'll tell you lies, you won't believe the bastards' size! The Pietasters!" This was part of a British football chant, and was probably based on the Macc Lads tune Fat Bastard, the original lyrics being "He'll eat your pies, he'll tell you lies, You wouldn't believe that fat bastard's size". Continuing the Macc Lads theme, the bands name may also have been based on the Macc Lads single, Pietaster. One way or the other, the name stuck and The Pietasters were born.
While in the midst of the name change, the newly formed Pietasters managed to convince the local college booking agency to fly in their heroes Bad Manners from England to perform at the school auditorium at Virginia Tech, with themselves conveniently as the opening act. This was their first official performance, their prior performances mostly relegated to the living room of Chris and Steve's rental house, where they had built a stage in the living room and threw shows on the weekends. The two bands eventually became close friends and later toured the U.S. and Europe together.
In the early 90's, a similar band from the DC area, The Skunks, asked The Pietasters to play a local ska night at a bar in Georgetown. The Pietasters were still rough around the edges. Soon, they were playing every dive bar in DC, Maryland and Virginia. The manager of one such bar, Nick Nichols, befriended the band and helped them record their first record, The Pietasters, more commonly known as Piestomp.
In the summer of 1993, The Pietasters set out on their first national tour in a used school bus they'd bought for $900. The tour was haphazard with stops in Ohio, Oregon, Kansas and even many in Canada. By the end of the tour, almost all of the original members quit the band. To this day, only trumpeter Carlos Linares and lead singer Steve Jackson remain as original members.
The Pietasters auditioned many players and decided on Jeremy Roberts, Toby Hansen and Alan Makranczy as their horn players, Rob Steward (Covington) on drums, and Paul Ackerman on keys. Tom Goodin remained on guitar. The new line-up continued to tour whenever possible, and soon attracted the attention of Bucket Hingley, front man of The Toasters and owner of Moon Ska Records. He asked if The Pietasters wanted to be a part of a tour package called, "Skavoovie 94". The Pietasters accepted and were soon touring with The Toasters and The Scofflaws, and performed with a variety of other artists, including No Doubt, the (original) Dance Hall Crashers, Hepcat, Let's Go Bowling, and the Skatalites. The tour was much more organized than their last outing and proved to be very educational. By the end of the tour, The Pietasters were scheduled to record "Oolooloo" on Moon Ska with Victor Rice producing.
Oolooloo came out in the summer of 1995, after which bassist Chris Watt left the Pietasters to perform with Eastern Standard Time, and Todd Eckhart moved from rhythm guitar to bass. The Pietasters continued to tour the country, and even managed to record "Strapped Live!" between stops in the Cat's Cradle in Raleigh, NC and The Black Cat in Washington, DC. "Strapped Live!" was released in 1996 and quickly became a fan favorite and the closest thing to a live Pietasters show. Throughout this period, The Pietasters had been recording new songs, re-recording older ones, and recording some covers. The results ended up as a new/compilation album, "Comply", and the song selection foreshadowed their next release.
Meanwhile, the band filmed their first video in 1996, a live video filmed at the Scooter Rally and F'n Rock Party they produced at an old outdoor soul venue called Wilmer's Alley in Brandywine, Maryland. The video was filmed by Burning Toast Productions and featured scenes of the festival and live performance of the Pietasters playing their Jimmy Holiday cover, The New Breed.
While touring with The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, the band made a stop in Los Angeles. Backstage at the show, Tim Armstrong, originally from Operation Ivy and current guitarist for the band, Rancid and his business partner, Chris "the Wix" Qualiana (who can be seen in a wig on the cover of a few Slackers albums), approached the band and asked if they'd like to be a part of a new label they were putting together, Hellcat Records. The Slackers, Hepcat and Dropkick Murphys were already committed and they wanted The Pietasters on board.
After clearing such a move with Moon Ska, The Pietasters signed with Hellcat, a subsidiary of Epitaph Records, and their next album, Willis was recorded and released in 1997, and produced by Brett Gurewitz, owner of Epitaph Records and guitarist for Bad Religion. The Pietasters recorded their second video, Stone Feeling, to support this album, another live video with the assistance of Burning Toast Productions, and filmed at a venue in Washington, D.C., and another video for Out All Night, also filmed in Washington, D.C. and directed by Grady Cooper. A tour of the US soon followed as well as their first ever tour of Europe. The Pietasters also made appearances on the Warped Tour and opened or headlined for such acts as The Reverend Horton Heat, the Ramones, the Cherry Poppin Daddies, Bad Brains, Ozomatli, The Bouncing Souls, Dropkick Murphy's, Murphy's Law, Fugazi, They Might Be Giants, H20, the Skatalites and Flogging Molly.
Their song "Out All Night," was featured in the videogames Street Sk8er for the PlayStation, and NCAA Football 06.
By 1999, The Pietasters were in the studio again to record Awesome Mix Tape No. 6 for Epitaph's Hellcat Records, once again recorded and produced by Brett Gurewitz, with portions of the album recorded at Tim Armstrong's house. The album was named after the mix-tape from Boogie Nights. The Pietasters recorded their next video, Yesterday's Over, to support the album. They finished the album and set out on the road again touring Europe with the Warped Tour, then the US again with the Pilfers and Spring Heeled Jack, and closing out 1999 with an opening stint for the legendary Joe Strummer. Years of touring finally took its toll on Paul Ackerman and Tom Goodin, who amicably left the band. Bassist Todd Eckhardt also left the band and was replaced by Jorge Pezzimenti of Virginia band, The Decepticonz. Erick Morgan, formerly of The Skunks, took over keys, and Toby Hansen replaced Tom Goodin on guitar.
In late 2001, The Pietasters were well into recording their next album when they learned that former bassist, Todd Eckhardt, had died in his sleep. The news was extremely hard on The Pietasters and their fans. The Pietasters released a new album in 2002 titled Turbo, a nickname of Todd's. The new album's blend of Jamaican riddims and Northern Soul won praise from fans and critics alike. It even caught the attention of James Brown who asked The Pietasters to be his backing band at a sold-out concert in Washington DC in December 2002.
In the following year, 2003, The Pietasters released their first live video DVD, Live at The 9:30 Club.
In 2006, The Pietasters played the International Ska Circus in Las Vegas.
On August 21, 2007, seventeen years after their inception, The Pietasters released a new studio album entitled, All Day.
In 2010, the Pietasters performed at the 9:30 Clubs 30th Anniversary in Washington D.C., and were introduced by Henry Rollins.
In November 2011, Connecticut's Asbestos Records and Chicago, IL's Underground Communiqué Records launched a fundraiser together on Kickstarter to release "Oolooloo" on vinyl, among other third-wave ska classics from Pilfers, Edna's Goldfish, and Suburban Legends. If the funding goal is met by January 18, 2012, the records should be out Spring 2012.