The Rock City archives: 2015

Suburban Legends, Rock City Basement

  • Friday 10th April 2015


Buddies since high school, third wave ska vets Suburban Legends are here with more of their distinct blend of fizzy ska and sugary pop, with accents of disco and funk.  The Orange County-based group’s latest EP, Dreams Aren’t Real But These Songs Are (Rock Ridge Music), is a reverently played and imaginatively arranged collection of Disney classics.

Suburban Legends’ story basically begins in the early 2000s at the Disneyland theme park. For years, the guys held a semi-regular gig performing covers and originals, winning patrons’ hearts with boundless musicality and an unflinchingly positive live show that boasts dazzling choreography. This era coincided with height of the Cali ska scene that launched the careers of No Doubt, Goldfinger, and Reel Big Fish. Suburban Legends distinguished themselves from the pack by favoring sleek pop grooves that playfully and ingeniously recalled late ’90s Top 40.

Over its career, the band has released five albums, six EPs, and two DVDs. Suburban Legends have built an impressive live profile playing multiple tours throughout the US, UK, Europe, and Canada, undertaking successful runs with big names like Reel Big Fish, Less Then Jake, Bowling for Soup, and Goldfinger. Suburban Legends is Vincent Walker (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, and trumpet), Aaron Bertram (trumpet, vocals), Brian Robertson (trombone, backing vocals), Brian Klemm (lead guitar, vocals), Brad Polidori (bass), Chris Lucca (Trumpet), and Ed Larsen (Drums, Percussion, and Piano). 

The group recently garnered acclaim and accolades for its versions of children’s movie evergreens “Under The Sea” from The Little Mermaid and “Just Can’t Wait To Be King” from The Lion King on its previous album. Exploring those well-crafted classics reinvigorated the band’s creativity and earned them widespread exposure, thus beginning a new era of fevered inspiration for the long-running ska institution.

Dreams Aren’t Real But These Songs Are is a majestic EP of popular Disney covers with lavish instrumental ornamentation, euphoric ska-flavored grooves, and powerful vocals. On it, the group navigates intricate songs like “A Dream Is A Wish” from Cinderella and “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” from Toy Story with grace and pizzazz. Each of the EP’s 6 songs links Suburban Legends' unique ska lineage with time-honored Tin Pan Alley songcraft. The EP standout is the Legends’ sun-soaked, rocksteady rendition of “Beauty And The Beast”—a gorgeously subtle reminder of the group’s refreshingly unique musicality.

Delving into this canon has been inspiring for the band as it heads in to write and record its upcoming full length. “With these classic songs, you hear them once and you’re humming them for weeks," lead Legend Vincent Walker reveals.  "I learned so much about songwriting. There’s an effective simplicity here that will definitely impact us on this next album.”

It’s been an epic tale for these ska innovators: a couple of high school chums who’ve stuck together for the music through touring van fires and robberies, and tragically losing a bandmate.  “What keeps us motivated is that we believe in what we do," Walker says.  "We have fun making music, and we love sharing it with other people. It’s such a positive thing.  We want to continue making as many people happy as possible.”