Come December, prepare to witness the magic as the Ska Nation stage lights up with ska’s finest talents including the infectious rhythms of the Mad Caddies from California.
Chuck Robertson chokes up, lifting his glasses and wiping tears from his eyes. He has a swig of his beer. He has just finished explaining how everything his band, Mad Caddies, does is for the fans.
“I’ve really realised that since coming back on the road and spending a lot more time this year on the three tours we’ve done this far, connecting with the fans and just standing at the merch after the show and talking to people – and there’s so many middle-aged people our age now bringing their nine to 15-year-old kids to the show and I love signing the kids stuff and taking pictures with the families – ”, Chuck Robertson pauses for a moment.
“But I’ve heard so many stories about mental health. It’s hard for me to talk about. I get emotional… but I’ve realised how much our music has helped people through some really shitty times. That’s the greatest part about my job, is when I get to hear those stories.”
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Mad Caddies bassist, Jon Gazi, and I offer empathetic half-smiles across the Brady Bunch-tiled zoom screen, the only form of comfort we can muster as we desperately attempt to tighten the faucet on our tear ducts; the realisation of the cyclical impact of music and community bearing down on us.
Across 30 minutes, both Robertson and Gazi continue to commend their fans, along with divulging the inner workings of Mad Caddies, sharing laughs over stories, unpacking sad divorce songs set to upbeat reggae rhythms, and holding a candle to the sacrality of ska. But it’s evident that the conversational clamps holding the Caddies’ outfit together is their community.
The band have been around since 1995 however with a rotating door of talent stepping onto the Caddies course, 34 core and touring musicians total, Robertson the only mainstay remaining. Last year an overhaul of the band saw the lineup induct Sean Sellers on drums and Brandon Landelius; a band now equipped to provide the best show for their live audience.
“After Covid, there was a lot of restructuring. People decided they wanted to do other things with their lives – you know, family members were sick, new family members were born, the cycle of life and the ones that wanted to keep going got together earlier this year to record an album and get three tours under our belt. I don’t know if Jon agrees with me but I think it’s the best the band has sounded at least for a decade. There’s a youthful energy and we’re all smiling and the crowd loves it and we love it. It doesn’t feel like work right now,” Robertson explains.
Gazi echoes, “It transpires to that symbiotic connection of the people; to the people in the crowd and to the people that are on stage. And everybody’s just really, really happy and excited to be up there on the stage these days where we really connect. And I think it really just flows right out to everybody.”
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They will be bringing this revitalisation to Australia in December for a national tour and a headline appearance at the ska-specific festival, Ska Nation, in what will be their first drink from the Down Under waters in 10 years.
However, first Mad Caddies are due to release their eighth studio album. A follow-up from the self-described 2020 sad divorce EP, House of Fire, and the punk-reimagining covers album Punk Rocksteady in 2018, the lads have already been teasing tracks, with fan-dedicated single ‘Run’ leading their encore.
“There’s tear-jerker horns lines and a few songs that dig at you. It’s certainly Caddies by this guy right here – it’s Chuck pouring his heart out. It’s very special and everyone is going to get it and they’re going to love it,” explains Gazi.
“It’s a very personal record. We lost our jobs for two and a half years and I went into the woodshed and I wrote over 100 songs…but this one is a Mad Caddies record with definitely two or three country Americana twinge songs, but with rad horns,” adds Robertson.
“There are two sad songs, one is called ‘Run’ and I wrote it for the fans. It’s about everyone disappearing and I’m asking ‘Where did they run to?’. But I try to at least put inspirational, uplifting messages that will pick people up because that’s the most important thing about what we do.”
Just like the latter half of their name, Mad Caddies have become a beacon of music moral support throughout their career, carrying the stories of their community with them and beaming brightly both on and off the stage. Their ears will be open to hearing more after their Ska Nation and Corner Hotel appearances, on 16, 17 and 19 December respectively.
“We’ll hang out and chat to people until everyone is gone,” Robertson assures.
Ska Nation Music Festival goes down at the Colac Show Grounds on December 16-17 2023. You can get your tickets here.