Slow Gherkin: A conversation with the underrated 90s ska band


Santa Cruz, California is best known for its primo surf spots and as the location of the classic 80s horror-comedy The Lost Boys. You can still hear reverberations of “sexy sax man” Tim Cappello singing “I still believe” right there on the outdoor stage at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. But during the 90s, ask any local what band best defined the city, and they would without a doubt say Slow Gherkin.

Though they never reach a large national audience, Slow Gherkin were local legends. Even when they throw together reunion shows, you can be assured they will pack the largest venues in the city. But it’s a shame the rest of the world never had Slow Gherkin fever in quite the same way. The group was one of the most original mid-90s ska bands out there, a time when many people felt that ska was oversaturating the market. Gherkin mixed New Wave hooks, syncopated Fugazi breakdowns, and sad indie rock laments with some of the most fun, cathartic ska of its era.

In this episode of In Defense of Ska, Adam and I talk to three members of Gherkin: James Rickman, A.J. Marquez, and Phil Boutelle. We chat about their early days in Santa Cruz, the time John Avila (Oingo Boingo) approached them in New York to work on some tunes, and debate whether their 2002 album Run Screaming was a deliberate move away from ska or not.

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