Sunday, The Boathouse Waterway Bar & Grill hosts Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime as part of its 2017 Summer Concert Series.
Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime has been active since 2001, dedicated to playing the music of Sublime and building an impressive fan base along the way – some of which never got the chance to see Sublime.
Just two months after Sublime frontman Bradley Nowell’s untimely death from a heroin overdose in 1996, the band experienced considerable success with its third album, Sublime. That album hit number 13 on the Billboard 200, and the song, “What I Got,” became a number one hit single – and other well-known songs like “Santeria” and “Wrong Way” came from that album as well.
But without the presence of its lead singer, guitarist and songwriter, the writing was on the wall. Sublime was to be Sublime’s final album.
Badfish, not to be confused with the Southern California-based band of the same name, has been channeling the spirit of Sublime since its inception in Rhode Island 16 years ago, with no sign of letting up.
Badfish drummer and co-founder Scott Begin spoke with The Sun News by telephone last week.
Q: Do you guys still live in Rhode Island?
A: The bass player [Joel Hanks] and I live in Rhode Island. The singer [Pat Downes] lives in Hawaii. Dorian Duffy [keys, guitars, samples] lives in Chicago. We’re kind of all over the place, but as much as we have a home base, Rhode Island is it.
Q: I read that you were computer science majors at the University of Rhode Island. Can you give us a rundown on this? How did Badfish come together?
A: Just [Joel Hanks] and myself were the computer nerds. He and I met in classes right here at the University of Rhode Island. It was the type of thing where – not to generalize, but I think a lot of the people in those majors or fields of study tend to be less inclined to so something like play music. They’re pretty much in front of a computer screen.
Joel and I were more like, “yeah, this is cool and we like the computer stuff,” but we also were musicians too and this was a passion of ours – so we realized that we had that in common. We just started to develop the idea of trying to put together a Sublime tribute show – which is really all it was at the inception of this whole thing – and see how it goes.
We loved Sublime. All of our friends loved Sublime, and there were no bands doing that then. We put on a show at our local beach bar here, and it went really well – and then we said why don’t we keep doing this once a month or here or there – and try to branch out.
Between 2001 and 2003, things started to snowball, and the next thing you know, we’re graduating. I worked for maybe a year in the programming field until Joel and I said we can keep ourselves busy enough to continue to keep this ball rolling – and maybe I am playing drums now for a living instead of sitting in front of a computer screen.
And that’s how it all went down.
Q: How do you capture the essence of Sublime?
A: We never got a chance to see Sublime – but just being so in touch with them by playing their music over the years, we always try to bring a show that we feel has the energy and the vibe of that a Sublime show would have been.
There are cover bands all around the country that play other people’s music. To any music fan, it’s clear when a band is sort of phoning it in. You can tell. But the songs themselves are not difficult. It’s not like we are playing progressive rock – so what you have to do then is not to just play the chords and sing the lyrics, but you need to project a vibe that feels authentic. By way of enjoying Sublime’s music so much – and having the crowd sing all of the words back to you – it’s a really cool synergy in a show. We feel like it’s a really cool, authentic experience.
And it’s honest, what we play. It has enabled us to keep going. We really have a passion for it.
Q: You guys are playing up and Eastern Seaboard until September, with some interesting stops, including The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J., and something called the Garden Grove Festival in Southwick, Mass. The festival seems like an anchor for Badfish. What is that all about?
A: A few years back, we had done a few of those Garden Grove Festivals. We’re trying to kind of build the festival. It’s sort of Sublime-themed, with bands that we are friends with and kind of have a Sublime vibe to them.
The idea sort of got shelved for a little bit, but we’re trying to resurrect it right now. There have been some new bands that we played with since then that just really incredible bands – part of a really great scene, and we really want to get this idea kicking again.
Q: Is this your first Boathouse show?
A: We have done at least twice already at The Boathouse. Maybe we have even done three. We will do House of Blues at different times of the year. The Boathouse is always a free show, it’s always on a Sunday, and it’s a really cool hang right there. It’s always a really, really fun gig.
Q: Are you actively involved in the bookings anymore?
A: We work in conjunction with a booking agency out of L.A., but we are pretty hands-on when it comes to the booking stuff. It’s not so much that we just say go ahead and book us a tour. We’re actively involved in making decisions about how often we play, where we play – and how long we are away from home.
Q: Since you have been at House of Blues Myrtle Beach and The Boathouse, you are no strangers to the Grand Strand. Do you guys have a rabid fan base here?
A: I think that we do.
Q: So you are well-received down here?
A: Yeah. I think we started playing at House of Blues 10 years ago at least. Maybe even 12 years ago. We played a couple of smaller spots around town, but it’s been pretty consistent with people coming out to check us out. We see a lot of familiar faces when we are out there – people that have been coming for years and years, so there has definitely been that good core of rabid fans, I guess. And you always meet some people who say, “this is the first time we saw you, and we really enjoyed it” – so that’s encouraging as well.
Q I am sure you have the superfans too – the ones who know more about Badfish than you do.
A: Oh yeah – we do. Sometimes it’s pretty surprising. People tell me where we are going to be playing in four months – and I’m like, “I’m glad you know because I don’t.” It’s wonderful to have fans like that.
Q: Did you get a chance to poke around here and experience the fabled Southern Hospitality? Or do you just stick and move?
A lot of times, it’s, in town – do the show – and get out of town. I’d say more than Myrtle Beach, we probably spent a little more time in Charleston. I feel like we’ve had a few days off there where we’ve been able to kind of get out – walk around – get some good food. That’s one of our favorite spots too, and it’s got that kind of vibe – that southern hospitality kind of vibe.
[Badfish is scheduled to play The Windjammer in Isle of Palms with Sun Dried Vibes on June 26.]
Q: What about the younger fans –the people that didn’t get a chance to see Sublime? Does it surprise you to see young faces at the show?
A: It doesn’t surprise me in the sense that we do. I feel like it’s more spread out now than it was when the band started. When it started, it was just college-aged kids – like people that were fans of Sublime. But now those people – myself included – have gotten older, and what’s happening with Sublime is that it has sort of gotten passed down through the generations – or through the generation, I guess.
We see a larger spread of ages now, and it’s really cool to see how the legacy of Sublime has sort of meandered through the fandom to really illustrate what kind of a band Sublime was. They had this unique thing going on. I can liken it to kind of a Grateful Dead thing where they have a cult following. They might have had a couple of radio hits, but they still have a following that gets passed down as younger people get turned on to it. It keeps us busy.
Q: The mantle has kind of fallen on you guys now, 16 years in.
A: We have been lucky enough to get sort of the unofficial blessing from people that were involved with Sublime. Bradley’s wife was at a show in Anaheim – and she was onstage, rocking out with us. A couple of the horn players that have played with Sublime have sat in with us and have even done little tours with us.
I feel that we have always tried to be respectful to Sublime’s legacy. We try to bring the best show we can bring. If people consider that we are kind of carrying the torch, we don’t want to let them down.
Q: What are future plans for the band?
A: The plan is just kind of just keep it trucking. We’re working on a few different things with these outdoor festivals that we are going to try to build. A few of those that we have done for many years have done well, but we’d like to try to make a couple more big events happen. Otherwise, we have our spots that we love to go to and that love having us back – like Myrtle Beach and so many other places between here and there and around the country. We’re just going to stay the course and keep going for it.
I look forward to being at the Boathouse and doing some day drinking.