Orange County, California is known for many, many things. Beautiful landscapes, flawless weather, gorgeous beaches, and fun in the sun are at the top of the list. The OC is also known as a mecca for great original music. Home to The Righteous Brothers, Social Distortion, The Vandals, and The Offspring, the OC was also the launching pad for Third Wave Ska-punk. In 2023, it is origin of the next big export to come out of the OC: Bite Me Bambi.
Sure, the OC represents a place where bands like No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, and The Aquabats exploded during the ‘90s. Like anything in life, everything comes and goes and if you are lucky, it comes back into style. Such is the case for the world of ska.
I know, I know. Some ask, “What is ska? Is it a form of music that developed from reggae?” That’s an easy answer; the answer is no. Ska came to us courtesy of legends from Jamaica like Prince Buster and The Skatalites. These cats developed the precursor to reggae known as ska. So like the age-old question: “Which came first – the chicken or the egg?” Answer: Ska came before reggae and rocksteady.
Since then, two-tone ‘80s bands The Specials, Madness, English Beat, Selecter, and Bad Manners brought life back into the genre. Icons like Pauline Black of The Selecter brought a dynamic vocal sound with style and onstage persona to the genre.
The Bodysnatchers Rhoda Dakar also contributed to this new wave of music that paved the way for genre female lead singers such as Gwen Stefani of No Doubt. OC was poised to make waves, Third Wave that is.
Photo by Christina De La Tore
BMB 3:10 – What Was Will Be Again
In the present day, The Interrupters have brought ska back to the forefront of the music world. Their lead singer, Aimee Interrupter has brought a dynamic we have all fallen in love with.
For the OC, Bite Me Bambi has a sound and lead singer that just might herald a new worldwide era of OC ska greatness with their crooner, Tahlena Chikami. Just like her predecessors, Pauline, Rhoda, Gwen, and Aimee, ska fans know her just as “TAHLENA.”
Bite Me Bambi recently released a single that is doing extremely well with their fans, and industry insiders are paying attention. The video for the song called “Let Me Love You” was released last week and it is blowing up.
It has come to a point in the development of this band that a certain conversation can be had. Not “if” they will be the next big thing; but more appropriately “when” will they become the next big thing.
For that conversation, we need to take a quick look at Bite Me Bambi to give context to our chat with Chikami. Bite Me Bambi was formed in 2018, and are from Fullerton, California. The band consists of members of several bands who have all made names for themselves in their previous incarnations. That’s the thing about this band; they do not rest on the laurels of their past accomplishments, yet nobody would blame them if they did. Nope, they focus on the here and now, and not what they did in the past.
For the OC, fans know a legit band when they see one; they will also let you know when anyone is not being true to the genre. For that reason alone, BMB has earned the respect of the OC ska community and beyond. Equally, they have earned the respect of musicians worldwide.
With that as the backdrop, BMB took its first splash in the ska pool with a song titled “Strippers on a Sunday.” As you would expect, the single did exceptionally well.
They followed up with a string of instant hits; “I Don’t Wanna Be,” “Hot Lava,” “Video Games,” and “Red Flags.”
They have also put out some great covers; “Our Lips Are Sealed” (The Go-Go’s), “Gangsters” (The Specials), “One Step Beyond” (Madness), “Song 2” (Blur), and “Police and Thieves,” by the Clash.
What seemed to start off as a Twitch song turned into a fan favorite everywhere. Their cover of The Offspring’s “Want You Bad” has become a great hook for those checking out the band for the first time.
What’s equally impressive are the names that have worked with them in putting out their sonic signature. Last year the band released a remix of their hit “Crazy,” but this remixed version was produced by genre icon, Lee “Scratch” Perry.
As you would expect, this project is setting them apart from the pack.
Now that you have the background, we caught up with Chikami to discuss music, ska, BMB, and life in general.
I mentioned to her that I could tell that she, along with every member of the band, was not new to the world of ska. In fact, BMB is well versed in its history and often pay homage to the greats of the past. She said that it’s important to her to know the history of the genre because the genre has done so much for her over her career. BMB always wants to pay respect to the icons of the genre, and often do so by playing covers at their shows. As Chikami says, “You have to give credit where credit is due!”
What everyone notices immediately about Chikami is not only does she have a fantastic voice, but she is an engaging entertainer, and she plays a mean guitar. Each skill alone is impressive, but it is very difficult to put all three together! She is also an actress, which helped prepare her for the number of projects BMB has going on.
I asked Chikami about the outreach to their fans. She said it is very important to them that they show their fans just how much they appreciate them, and I believe this comes through at shows all the time.
The pandemic was obviously a challenge for everyone, and bands that were on the cusp of blowing up still haven’t recovered. But BMB took to the internet and developed a very popular Twitch show. The show airs Tuesday mornings (7-8 a.m.) and Sundays (2-4 p.m.) local time. Chikami says it is an excellent way to meet and stay in touch with people all over the planet. For BMB, it is a way to keep people entertained when entertainment was really needed.
We discussed the band itself, and she said she feels honored to be performing alongside such a talented band. BMB of today also features Brian Mashburn (guitar), T-Bone Willy (trombone), Mike Berault (keys), Ryan Brown (bass), Edgar Guadiana (sax), and Dan Evans (drums.) This group is collectively sonically electrifying – and beyond – when you see them live. Aside the great music, having a great visual element to any band performance separates a good band from a great one; and BMB is very aware of this… and it shows.
That’s the thing about BMB; you see and hear the passion in their music, their performances, and the way they interact with their fans makes them a band to watch out for in 2023 and beyond.
As for the new single, “Let Me Love You,” it was produced by the maestro, Cameron Webb. If that name sounds familiar, it may be because he is also behind the sound of Dirty Heads. The video is doing extremely well, and it was produced by Chris Graue, who also creates videos for some of the biggest names in the world of ska. Take a look at this one – it’s funny and it is an outstanding song.
So what’s next? You can catch Bite Me Bambi at the Supernova International Ska Festival in September. With as much as BMB has going on, it would be prudent to look for more shows to be announced, and maybe, just maybe… more music? Let’s cross our fingers for that.
Bottom line, there’s a certain kind of poetry involved when a band can sell out shows and still get together to put out a regular performance on Twitch for their fans. For BMB, their music dictates that the sky really is the limit. And as for Chikami, based on current trajectory, she just might soon be christened as the next Queen of Ska.