In Defense of Ska Ep. 12: Leanor Ortega Till of Five Iron Frenzy


A decade ago, the idea of crowd-funding a record was still somewhat novel. One of the earliest successes was, in 2011, when Christian ska band Five Iron Frenzy used Kickstarter to raise over $200,000 for a new album—their goal was $30,000. For a lot of people, this seemed out of nowhere. Who was still listening to—not just ska—but Christian ska? A lot of people were.

But Five Iron Frenzy was not just part of some specific, niche Christian ska scene. They’d built a loyal, hardcore fanbase by operating entirely in their own sphere. Rather than choose between the insular Christian world and the non-Christian ska scene, they utilized both, and anywhere in-between. They created a space that made weirdo, outcast punk rock Christians, and lovers of ska feel like they had somewhere they belonged.

Our guest today is Five Iron Frenzy’s saxophonist Leanor Ortega Till, who has played with the group since its formation in 1995. We talk about what it was like to be the only Christian band on the Ska Against Racism tour. We also talk about her role as producer on the film Pick It Up! - Ska in The 90s. The conversation gets pretty deep, and Leanor explains how she and the group have been, and are at odds with the current mainstream Christian Conservative movement. She says that this group only represents a small segment of Christians in this country. And she gives a pretty compelling argument of why other Christians fed up with the bigotry and polarization happening in mainstream Christian conservatism shouldn’t abandon their faith.

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