Mad Caddies Carry On After 20 Years of Eclectic Ska Punk

Mad Caddies Carry On After 20 Years of Eclectic Ska Punk
Tom Judah

Most bands humbly started with house-party gigs. For Mad Caddies, that would've been a considerable step up.

"The first gig we did was a keg party at a barn in high school," singer Chuck Robertson recalls, trying to hold in laughter. "We had nine or 10 songs we could play at the time, and we played them three or four times that night. There were 40 people in that barn, and here we are now."

Now in their third decade as a band, the Solvang natives broke out of the barn circuit long ago with their mixture of ska, punk and reggae that has won them fans up and down the coast and beyond.

Before 2014's Dirty Rice, the band had a seven-year gap between records, one that Robertson credits to the band figuring things out internally.

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Though he's coy about the particulars, Robertson says Mad Caddies have begun working on their seventh studio album. They've gotten together over the past month to rehearse for their upcoming string of dates that are primarily in Europe, as well as to hash out the ideas they've been developing for that record.

"It's been a while since the end of the last album cycle," the singer explains. "Everyone took a break and had some rest. Now we're excited to get back in there."

The writing process this time around is more inclusive and collaborative, Robertson says, with band members sending ideas back and forth electronically—anything from snippets recorded on iPhones to electronic voice memos. It's a big change from their early days at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in the mid-'90s, when they'd discuss a particular idea, then vote on the spot.

"Doing a lot of this type of songwriting is great," Robertson says. "It's a much more mature process since you want a song at the end that everyone likes, will make people happy, and will evoke an emotion in your fan and your listener. The whole 'who wrote it' doesn't matter now. It's more like, 'Oh, that's cool' or 'Eh, that's all right' and 'Maybe that's for your solo project.'"

For the first time in their career, Mad Caddies are striking out on their own. They've been associated with and signed to Fat Wreck Chords since their inception, and the arrangement was so strong between them and label boss Fat Mike that they had a handshake agreement with the NOFX front man. Now they're armed with a new management team that has encouraged them to self-produce and self-release their music since they "can afford to give their fans a better price." That also includes the release of B-sides, remixes and unreleased material.

With their goal to release the new album next spring, the band have decided to let go of a lot of their old baggage, something that would have previously caused unnecessary rifts. "Being here now after 20 years is surreal," Robertson says. "At the same time, all of us can look back at our career and see how we all grew up together. Some of us stayed in the band, some of us moved on, some of us came back, and there are some fresh, younger guys in the band, which is good, too. We're still here, and we actually still like one another and enjoy one another's company most of the time. And we still have fun doing this."

Mad Caddies perform with Karate In the Garage at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana. (714) 957-0600; Fri., 8 p.m. $5. All ages.

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