a Conversation with John Roy

January 26, 2022 by Rachael Contreras
It’s time to shake what your mama gave ya and skank your heart out to some great new ska tunes from one of San Diego’s favorite bands, Unsteady.
Just like Buck-O-Nine, Unsteady has been rocking their way into the hearts of their loyal fans since the early ‘90s as a strong, local source of the third wave ska scene.
Included in over 29 compilations throughout the years, Unsteady has a plethora of albums and experience, and they are excited about the release their 2021 album, “Third Times the Charm.”
The new release is through Mixed Tape Records. The upbeat opening track, “Liar,” could easily fit on a movie soundtrack. “Bed Bug” brings home the rocksteady sound. Closing song “Minimum Wage” has beautiful female background vocals. Despite the title, this is not their third record, but it has so much to offer everyone.

Front-man John Roy has been working on multiple musical projects that kept him busy over the COVID times and led Unsteady to finally finish tracking the many songs they have been working on over the years. Many of their new songs have been played live, but never recorded. Seven years ago, they started to record some but never picked it back up. Flash forward to 2021 when everyone had some time on their hands and they knew that was a sign to get this album tracked.
They took their time and did their homework on studios and producers. Roy told us, “We wanted to go to someone that could make us sound like Madness or The Specials in the ‘80s. Turns out that (Madness producer) Steve Churchyard moved here from England and he already had the familiarity with what we’re wanting to accomplish.”
In a tangible artistic expression of the music, bands have been able to create vinyl records in fun colors and designs recently. Unsteady chose to do their vinyl in a Coca-Cola bottle green. Roy explained, “My mother always had telegraph insulators on the kitchen counter and I was fascinated by the way they looked. So, I thought, let’s make this old school, like it could be turn of the 20th century and make the album look older. The images are in sepia tone, too.”

Roy has been working a lot with his side project, Smoke + Mirrors Soundsystem, which is expecting to press vinyl this April. Roy calls himself “the mill at a water wheel,” where he needs to keep working to keep him musically happy. During the quarantine, he reached out to people he has known since the early 2000s and got them to do a little something on this new Smoke + Mirrors album. He said, “I made the songs myself with many instruments… then I send the person my part and a ‘karaoke’ version for them to recreate the part they are recording.”
He confessed to often working 14 hours a day over the year to perfect this project. Roy said the guests he’s been able to solicit for this Smoke + Mirrors album is nothing short of amazing.
About 10 years ago Roy was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He’s had issues with his right hand, but he doesn’t let that stop him from doing what he loves. Like all legends, if there’s ever a note he can’t hit because of this limitation, he’ll work on it until he can hit that note. After all, the difference between being good at anything in life and being great at it is the effort you put into it.



Roy and Unsteady have proven they are a steady influence in the music world and continue to pump out creative and well-thought through music. Unsteady features John Roy on sax & vocals, Kevin Hewitt on organ, Doug Shaffer on trumpet, David Butterfield on drums, and Brent Ford on bass. The rest of the band is like hired guns depending on what the task of the day is. Seriously, if you love TwoTone and ska-punk, you’ll love Unsteady, trust me!
Check out their new tunes on Mixed Tape Records. While you’re at it, take a look at their music catalog while you’re at it… it will give you the happy feet.





ocmn 2022


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