David McWane has no problem being honest. And as frontman of beloved Boston ska band Big D and the Kids Table, he has the music business pretty well figured out.
“About ten years ago, we noticed that we were getting more and more popular but only because all of the other ska bands were breaking up," he said.
Big D, which emerged as a fledgling band in the midst of the '90s ska craze, is one of the few bands that managed remain relevant in a ska scene that went underground. And while relevant is relative, when I caught up with McWane, the band had just returned from an exhausting tour of China and Japan, and had a few down days before embarking on an extensive trek across the United States.
“We’ve found our niche," McWane said. "We’re not huge but where we are works for us and we like it.”
McWane is aware that some the band’s work hasn’t always pleased die-hard fans.
“We caught so much shit for [their breakthrough fifth album] Strictly Rude, even more than when we released Fluent In Stroll [the band’s sixth]. We just follow our instincts. To rehash the past would be to cheat our fans and to cheat ourselves. We’re musicians before we’re in a band. We just wanna write songs.”
While Big D’s sound has mutated from ska-punk to punk to dub and back, the band has watched the music scene around them mutate as well.
“Back in the day," McWane said. "All kinds of bands played together on the same bill. Hardcore bands played with ska bands and punk bands, and everyone was cool with it. Underground music was more united. Now I feel like there is so much division between subgenres. Kids just need to relax and have more fun.”
Aside from silly scene politics, McWane also remembers a more exciting time for touring bands.
“I miss the romanticism of the underground scene. I loved all the fliers and stickers and promos, but now everything is just internet spam. Ads on MySpace, or now Facebook, seem more obnoxious than intriguing. We used to get this zine called “Book Your Own Fucking Life,” and it had a listing of venues, promoters and pay phones across the country. Touring was a freaking adventure.”
Having paid their dues as a struggling touring band in the pre-Napster world, Big D is enjoying their role as a popular (albeit by default) ska-punk band.
“Had we not worked so hard in the past, we probably wouldn’t be having as much fun as we are now. The past two years have been the most fun out of our whole career.”