OPINION: The Supervillains and how not to write about them

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  • Blame the economy, blame modern technology, blame high costs in advertising, you can place the blame on a number of things for the demise of the newspaper industry. It’s a topic that’s discussed everywhere from cable news shows to blogs and forums. People may buy a newspaper out of habit, but a lot of times most people will just read one section and one section only, two at the most. Because of the decline, one thing that doesn’t get any mainstream coverage is the decline of the writing. While people are writing, reporting, and investigating, a lot of times it seems that not enough of it is being done, and it’s bad when it comes from people you know are good writers but get caught up in trying to meet a deadline.
  • That is the case with an article about a band from Florida named The Supervillains, an indie rock band with reggae and ska overtones in the vein of 311, Sublime, and Linkin Park. The Supervillains are performing locally at a nightclub next week, and the headline in the Tri-City Herald article is that they are a reggae band. One look at their photo tells me that they’re not a reggae band. It’s not because they are all lighter in complexion than the average reggae band, but even if they were, they don’t look like a band that’s strictly reggae. If they were a reggae band, they looked more like a group that combined ska and rock, like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. To me, they didn’t even look like a ska/rock band. Hell, one of the guys looks like Pick Boy (played by actor Jeff Sutphen) from the old Nickelodeon show U-Pick Live.

    Then it was the actual headline that did it for me: Ehh, brah. I’m from Hawai’i, to me that could mean one of two things:
    1) These guys are a Jawaiian (Hawaiian reggae) band from Hawai’i
    2) These guys are from California, where saying “eh, bra” (which translates to “how are you, my brother?”, “sir, how are you today?” or “howdy, friend”) is a part of the surfing community lingo.

    The article, written by journalist Dori O’Neal, says that the term, which is a part of the name of their album, Ehh Brah, Party, “is a familiar greeting used throughout the world of reggae music.”

    Um, since when? For as long as I can remember, I’ve always heard a greeting from Jamaica, the island nation which gave the world ska and reggae, as being “ey mon”, as in “hey, man”, same as “how are you, my brother”, “howdy, friend”, or “wassup, bra”. Now, go to Africa, Japan, Hong Kong, India, Australia, or throughout the Pacific Rim. Go to any place where reggae music is a personal favorite, and despite the different accents and language barriers, you will always hear someone saying the word “mon”. “Good music? No problem, mon.” In other words, “ehh brah” is not a familiar greeting amongst the world of reggae music, unless you are part of the surfing communities of California, Hawai’i, Australia, and New Zealand. Now, they are from Florida, where there are a number of surfing communities across the state (Kelly Slayer is from the Cocoa Beach area), so it’s quite possible that the guys in the brand might talk surfer lingo, but they’re also closer to the source of reggae than anyone West of Florida is, and they more than anyone would know that it’s “mon” and not “bra”, or the incorrectly spelled “brah”. Even Jeff Spicoli would say “that’s bogus.”

  • O’Neal’s article does go on to say that they include rock and punk rock with their sound, so right there, that means that they are not just a reggae band. It’s false advertising, and while I hope most people would sense that, I would hate to think that someone expecting some nice roots reggae end up at a show that’s a bit wilder in nature.
  • As for the article referring to vocalist Dom Maresco being off-color with some of his on-stage comments, fans can decide whether or not that is of value. That should be a dead giveaway too, but it was hard to say if that was addressed because of any alleged comments Maresco had made in the past, or because dancehall reggae can occasionally be lyrically offensive. By being what they are, do they think they can get away with saying these things? I honestly don’t know.
  • But how is their music? It’s not too bad. It’s not out of the ordinary for a punk band to dip into reggae or share their love of ska, that has been underway since The Clash, Madness, and TheSpecials did it, even Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols has admitted to be a long time fan of ska and reggae, and managed to incorporate it a number of times with Public Image Ltd..
  • Nonetheless, the article seemed like it was extracted from a press release and assembled to make it look half decent. Of course, most newspapers aren’t trying to be investigative about any thing related to music, but give the reader a reason to want to spend 5, 10, or 20 dollars at a concert, give them a reason they should stop playing Farmville and have a good time with a Florida band who has been around for a few years.

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