Scene and Heard: Duppies
Duppies is a seven-piece ensemble that has established themselves as major proponents of Gainesville’s ska scene. Original bass player and founding member, UF alumni Juan Cardenas, created the group with the the idea of starting a (trad)itional ska band while still in college. Hill gathered the members by spending his nights conversing with strangers at local bars, and also recruited like-minded artists through social media sites such as Facebook. Hill organized the first practice at a local Gainesville home. Although he has since graduated, Duppies remains strong and intact with 10 years of music behind their belt.
The group now boasts seven members and refers to themselves as “Duppies,” the plural form of the word duppy, which is taken from Jamaican folklore and defined as “an unruly spirit risen from a consecrated grave.” Together the group produces a unique sound that falls under the combined genre of rocksteady ska reggae, or Americana Jamaican rock ‘n’ roll.
The astrological signs of the band members parallel with perfectly their personality traits. It is no surprise that the versatile artistic talent that is commonly associated with the Pisces sign is brought to the group by both Jose Pineiro (saxophone, harmonica, backing vocals) and Patrick Oberlin (trumpet, trombone, backing vocals). Brian Hiebel, who is responsible for management of the band, unleashes the traditional bull-headed trait of the Taurus with his boisterous vocals and ebullient percussion skills. The band also hosts Tony Farah on bass guitar, Blaine Garvin as lead guitarist, keyboardist Ryan Bonner and Daniel Kinney on the drums.
Although the Duppies’ sound is influenced by groups such as The Skatalites, Alton Ellis, The Specials and The Slackers, the group is inspired by all genres of music.
“Stylistically as members we are influenced by artist across board. Metal, rap, country, Salsa, you name it I’m sure one of us would say ‘Oooh Shit! That’s the Bomb!’ about most stuff,” Hiebel explained. “We love most music. It’s hard to hate on stuff when you can find the humor in it.”
Song to Know
Hiebel recommended ‘Ghost of San Juan Hill’ as the band’s ‘song to know,’ which came out on the 2008 album ‘Throw One Punch.”
“After all, a duppy is a ghost,” said Hiebel. “I think that ‘Ghost of San Juan Hill’ is the most fun for all of us to perform live.”
In the past, Duppies have played with talented reggae heavyweights such as Slightly Stoopid and The Slackers. As of lately, Duppies has been on a state-wide tour, conjuring fits of dancing of fury all over Florida.
The group is now taking the rest of the year off to continue working on their third LP, titled “What A Shame.” The album includes fourteen songs of varying style and sound, one of which is a new rendition of ‘What A Shame’ that was previously released on their ‘Bad Guy’ EP. The album is expected to be produced by April 2015.
“We just reached our tenth year as a band in May. The evolution has included a lot of ups and downs with members leaving or joining the band. Some good stuff and some bad things have stalled us at times but we keep on keepin’ on and have a lot of fun doing it,” Hiebel said.
Duppies was featured at The JAM’s last and final public show. They kept the party going when they took over the intimate indoor stage late last Friday night. They were the fourth and final band to play at the venue’s “last hurrah” before closing down, which was a coveted and honorable set time.
The septet took their places behind a motley crew wielding various instruments, unleashing a rousing performance that invoked a non-stop Jamaican-style movement among the crowd. It was difficult to decide which member to focus on, due to the extensive amount of instruments and constant motion and dedication on stage. The attention-grabbing rhythm is heavily complemented by melodic horns, thus juxtaposing the ska and rocksteady genres.
The members of the group matched the jive and excitement of the crowd, each breaking out his own personal dance moves while simultaneously expertly stroking an instrument. Lead-vocalist Hiebel alternated between singing and throwing around his limbs in such a way that seemed curiously natural. Ryan Bonner’s dreads bounced the beat while he slammed and synthesized on the keyboard. The trumpet took over, sending the entire venue into a frenzy.
Future of Duppies
Duppies hope that one day in the future, they will be able to use their musical talents to make a living. Although making a living is all they really ask, their ideal goal is to make enough to provide for their family and friends as well. When asked about plans for the future, it seems that Duppies are just riding the wave as it comes.
Hiebel stated that fans can expect to see “more out of state trips, some new merch stuff, a totally bangin’ light show and many, many more albums to come. Joking about the light show.”
Featured photo courtesy of: Alexandria Clark