Los Albertos are a six-piece ensemble of ska-dance protagonists who’ve been transmitting their hi-energy tunes to the nation since their formation in 2002. Christened by the barmaid at their debut gig in the legendary Prince Albert, their fistful of grinning 2-tone skank with a twist of funk, punk, Klezmer, rock and dub has drawn attention from far beyond the pebbled beaches of their hometown Brighton.
With three albums under their belts, they are about to unleash a new vinyl and download only EP, This Is A Serious Party, featuring three brass-powered floor stompers that have never seen the light of day, as well as a brilliant cover of ‘Sweet Dreams’. It’s dance music, Jim. But not as we know it.
Legendary might be an overused word, bandied about towards many undeserving of such accolades, but in the case of Los Albertos, it is fully deserved. Very much an underground, word-of-mouth band, for those who know, know. They know what a brilliant live band they are; one who has forged a truly unique sound, that combined with an ability to write memorable, dance-floor friendly songs has ensured they will remain in the hearts of many of those who have seen and heard them. And with a history that includes street performance/busking and the sponsorship of a local Sunday League football team (called appropriately enough, Los Albertos) they have endeared themselves to tens of thousands, maybe more. And yet, they are like a best kept secret…
Part of a loose 2000s alt-festival scene that included the likes of Babyhead, Zen Hussies and Don Bradmans, Los Albertos were (and are) an in-demand band because of the energy and fun-loving spirit they are able to deliver on stage, so infectious at times that their gigs often turn into hugely animated affairs that has seen many a stage invasion. They literally lived and breathed the music they made, playing hard and working hard as they went along. As one reviewer put it at the time: “The perfect, “Fuck art, lets dance!” festival band.”
“I believe November 2002,” says founder member, guitarist and singer Mark Crawford, ” about the time of the formation of the band, with their first gig at the equally legendary Prince Albert pub in Brighton, “I believe that is the party line,” he says, the passing of time obviously casting a fog on the ole’ memory cells. “We didn’t have a band name, and we were playing the Albert pub and I think we decided to call ourselves The Alberts. One of the bar staff wrote Los Albertos on the board outside and it stuck. The problem with band names is that you inevitably hate them,” he muses. Whatever the case, the name was in keeping with their less-than-serious music. Nic Tribe (bass), Tom Livingstone (trumpet, melodica, sousaphone), Martin Andrews (drums), Tim Herman (sax) and Mark comprised the original five-piece band, that lent more on jazz swing at the beginning, before they really found their feet with songs such as the dub-ska brilliance of Beer Panic, a song that remans an integral part of their set, one of their many signature tunes, as well as tracks such as Cheeky Rascal, Bossman, and Mr Chip, blueprints for their brass powered seaside ska sonics, and featured on their 2004 debut album, Los Bop. As one wag put it, Los Albertos have… “more good vibes than a dancing monkey handing out tequila shots.”
Just as important to their sound is their singing. All but one of the band sing on stage, with up to four of the band alternating lead vocal duties, whilst their harmonies provide further glorious uplifts to the invariably infectious rhythms. “We all sing, except the drummer,” says Mark. If you know Martin it’s very important he’s not given a microphone,” he deadpans. “He’s alright at singing, it’s more what he says is the problem. He would be the first person to admit that,” he laughs.
The departure of Tom Livingstone in 2005 paved the way for the band to extend their brass section by recruiting both Des Crawley (of the equally infamous Tragic Roundabout) and Chez Harper-Grimble, a talented sax player. And the six-piece Los Albertos Mk II was born, the band releasing the Information Overload album in 2006 (which featured enduring favourites such as ‘Friends’ and ‘Scientist’) and their third album, Dish It Up in 2009, with the Levellers producer Al Scott at the helm, which cemented their reputation as one of the best and most original dance-ska bands around, and a ferociously good-time party band on the live stage. Indeed, they’ve played almost any festival worth their salt: regulars at the likes of Glastonbury, Secret Garden, Boomtown, Bestival, Beautiful Days and Shambala, the band continued on their merry way until calling it day in September 2012, with a final appearance at the Playgroup Festival in Kent. “We had planned to finish,” insists Mark. “We didn’t implode on stage,” alluding to the fact that the band were tired of the constant touring in a van, and were beginning to suffer from the lifestyles that they documented on some of their songs such as ‘Sleep’ and ‘Carry On (Regardless)’. But rather than irrevocably fall out, they decided it was best for both their physical and mental well-being to call it a day, and go out on a high, so to speak… As Mark had previously said: “It’s impossible to have a band practice that doesn’t turn into a social. We have a practice on Tuesday, and call in sick on the Wednesday…” So for him, “It had been a long time, it had been a good run.”
Fast forward to 2014, and a message went out asking them to play a surprise birthday party for their long-suffering manager… “We decided to get back together again for money,” says Mark, deadpan again. “No, no money at all! An old friend of ours had a birthday, and we got back together as a surprise, and then out of that some other offers came in for festival gigs. Boomtown got in contact and offered us a great slot (“that was a lovely gig,” says their current bassist Adam Moog).
“We were also approached about putting out some new material, and we’ve got this EP coming out.” Recorded at 811 Studios in Cowfold, This Is A Serious Party is the result, a four-track vinyl and download only offering that showcases what they do so well; full-on party music, as the title implies. From the unlikely sounding klezmer meets ska-punk animal spirits of ‘Fall From Grace’ and the gently bouncy ska flavours of ‘Itchy Feet’ (“I say it’s better to live than just be alive,” sings Des Crawley), and to the mardi gras-klezmer-carnival-funk vibes of ‘Money’ and current fan favourite, their interpretation of The Eurthymics ‘Sweet Dreams’, the EP continues where Dish It Up left off, a band who still have a big spring in their step when it comes to music making. “It’s funky, ska-ey, get your knees up, and have a laugh music,” says Adam. “It’s not Trojany ska, and it’s not Rancid,” says Mark. “It’s trumpet-punk,” says Adam, an accomplished skater with Pig City, and who has helped out with the writing on the EP, having co-written ‘Money’, and a line on ‘Fall From Grace’: “The bit about socks,” he clarifies, before proceeding to show off his whiter than white socks. “He’s professional like that,” says Mark. “That’s why he is in the band.” “It’s this outlook of mine that has got me far,” chimes Adam. “All the songs have been in the set for a while but we never got the chance to record them,” says Mark. We think they are all strong songs.”
With the new EP and a new lease of life, maybe this best kept secret will remain no more…