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San Jose’s Them Rude Boys Evolve Sound, Showcase Hometown in New Video

In Music
Them Rude Boys play South First Billiards Thursday, and Johnny V's St. Patrick's Day show Saturday.

Them Rude Boys play South First Billiards Thursday, and Johnny V's St. Patrick's Day show Saturday.

“I’m really into ska, but a very specific kind of ska,” says Kevin Castout, lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for San Jose’s Them Rude Boys. “I’m not into the ska where it sounds like I should be on a cruise.”

In other words, Castout never had much use for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish or the rest of the genre’s third wave. Growing up, he found his way back from Rancid to the Specials, Bad Brains, the Clash and beyond, all of which inspired the alt-reggae-ska-punk sound of his band.

“The roots reggae and roots ska from Jamaica, and especially 2-tone ska that came out in the 70s, and punk ska—man, it really gets me,” he says.

He couldn’t have found a better symbol for his dislike of ska’s goofy side than the name of the group. Though most people outside the scene don’t know the phrase anymore (beyond its use in Rihanna’s pick-up song of the same name), “rude boys” were once the most dangerous and controversial element of Jamaican music. They were the snappily dressed, heavily armed youth of West Kingston. Unemployed, often living in squatter camps, and always ready for a fight, they were basically the original gangstas, and a whole generation of Jamaican artists lined up to claim them or shame them.

In the early 80s, the 2-tone movement brought the phrase back. “The rude boys are dancing to some heavy, heavy ska” sang the Ruts in 1980’s “Staring at the Rude Boys” (most recently covered by Gallows).

With the Ruts’ call for punk-ska unity blazing a trail for bands like Them Rude Boys, the name has yet another layer of meaning for Castout’s band. But ironically, it didn’t click with him when the band first got together in the summer of 2010, and it was suggested by the Boys’ former drummer, Armando “Mando” Cardenas, best known for his time in Insolence.

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