I was fully stoked to have a sit-down with Joel Hanks of Badfish — a bassist extraordinaire who shares his story of his band and his brothers. And, when I say ‘brothers’, I mean Scott Begin on drums, Pat Downs on lead vocals and guitar, and Danny on horns.
This is their journey to (40 oz. to) freedom.
It was the first weekend the band had off when we spoke in a place where they call home — South Kingstown, Rhode Island. They grew up into a place with a pretty cool scene and great friendships that changed their course forever. This band is not just some tribute band that loves Sublime… They are representing the legacy that Bradley Nowell left behind. They share the same love and admiration that Sublime has brought to so many of us in this lifetime. So many memories we all have from these songs… they really hit home to this day! Here’s what Joel said on upholding this quintessential band’s legacy in the modern-day reggae rock scene and more.
Hey Joel, How’s the road been treating ya!?
- JH: Well, this was our first weekend off this summer. I decided to go out to a show the other night… to the place we first played, actually. It is a great spot — super local, great venue. My friend was going to the Ocean Mist; I was like ‘who the fuck is he going to see at the Ocean Mist?’! I found out Ballyhoo! and Artikal Sound System were playing, my friends from the road! So, I ended up at the Ocean Mist, hanging out and drinking more than I usually do at my own shows. It’s such a small world.
It is called the Ocean Mist?
- Yeah, it’s such a sweet venue right on the beach in Rhode Island. It is so fun, man! It’s like 350 caps with a good stage and good sound. Just perfect.
What comes to mind when someone asks ‘when did you start your music life’?
- My first band was when I was 18 years old. It was called Racketball. I did take it seriously, but it was clear we were reaching a point where we were not going to be a band anymore. So me, my brother and the original lead singer of Badfish got together to jam some Sublime songs. The drum playing was not up to par, so we tabled the idea. I decided I wasn’t going to be in a band and my brother and the original lead singer started a new band. But, this was the first time we had tried to play Sublime songs together.
- So, then they started a punk band and it was awesome! They were really good! Four years later, I’m in Computer Science class and one of my classmates happened to be a drummer in a band. I was like ‘WTF man, are you kidding me?!’ So, I decided to get the guys and this dude to do a rehearsal. And, this drummer was awesome! So, we booked a show at the Ocean Mist. I was a super mega Sublime fan, so pretty much knew most of the songs… however, not everyone else was. But, we were all fans. We were all so busy in life, [there was] not a lot of time to learn all the songs. So, we practiced our asses off. We did it and it was a great show! I think there was a video recording somewhere of this show, lol. We were so young!
I heard your son is now jamming out, too!
- My son is literally playing a Sublime song right now. I just left the house and he was playing with a friend. I’m like, ‘wtf is going on in my life??’ Lol!
He could totally be in your band one day!
- Oh, definitely! He can take over for me one day!
You will be like ‘OK, son, here is the tour date, make sure you do this there…’
- The thing about being in a band and being on tour, even if you do it for a little while or just a year or two, it is such an amazing experience! It gets old at some point with the amount of travel… the monotony of it all. But, also the best thing in the world! Traveling to new places, meeting new people and seeing clubs for the first time. Some good experiences and some bad experiences; some great people and some assholes! You experience so much. It is hard to really explain. When you go home, you are just sitting there. Doing nothing every day… go to the grocery store, make myself dinner, make some coffee…
- The day before you’re exhausted, talking to many people, driving, playing, hanging out. I swear it is like a party every day. And, you know what? It’s OUR PARTY.
Hell yeah! What is your biggest crowd to date and how did that feel?
- The biggest was about 20,000 people in Buffalo, New York with Reel Big Fish, actually! It was part of a concert series; they were having a lot of success with it. Usually around 5,000 to 7,000 were showing up. But, for whatever reason, our show ended up in the double digits! I remember being super nervous at first. There were so many people. You look to the left, you look to the right, and as far back as you can see, there were humans. On the first three songs, my eyes did not leave the stage. I didn’t want to look up at all! I was trying to remember how to play songs that I’ve been playing for 15 years! I think the smaller venues are my favorite, when I can see someone right next to the stage singing the songs.
You guys also did the Range Festival in this summer! It looked sick! You were with Roots of Creation and others…?
- We were excited about it — we LOVE doing outdoor events! I think the COVID situation changed a lot of the shows, where so many people would rather go to outdoor concerts. It has always been more fun!
- The only downside is when it rains. This one show was raining sideways and we just kept going. We were going to keep playing until our shit gets electrocuted! Meanwhile, the crowd is getting rained on and probably not as excited. We love it!
It is just the four of you guys right now? I know you guys add musicians in the mix sometimes…
- Yea, we have a saxophone player from Slightly Stoopid. When he isn’t on tour with them, he jumps in with us for shows. It’s super fun and keeps it interesting… makes it fresh and new for us, playing the songs a little bit differently with different solos.
Are you guys going to tour nonstop next year also?
- Well, we are never NOT doing shows. We are always doing shows… mostly indoor early in the year, but adding more outdoor shows next year [from] Spring onward.
What is the best spot on tour for you guys?
- Jannus Live is so special! It’s over in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is such a great venue! Usually, we go over there around March. The weather is perfect!
Did you get to go to the beach ?
- Usually, there isn’t a lot of time when you’re touring. But, we did make it out and there was a shark out there! The water was so clear and you could see it! I decided I definitely was not going near that mofo!
What’s your thoughts on the reggae rock scene now?
- It feels like it has shifted and the tides have turned — the east coast bands are starting to blow up now. For a while, it has been the California bands taking off, but now, it really feels like the east coast is hitting it hard.
- This past weekend, Ballyhoo! sold out that show in my hometown! It was so awesome! Like for example Little Stranger… man, they are taking off for sure! It is so inspiring being a part of all of this!
You guys have inspired a lot of people and myself to keep going.
- It’s just so nice to be doing something that brings joy to people! Like, A LOT OF JOY. You can see the smiles on their faces and talk to them after a show. I think that is the most rewarding part about what we do.
- Every show is like always the first show for us. That feeling never stops. We have a few stops in Florida coming up this year again.
I can’t wait!
- It is amazing to still be doing it after over 20 years later.
You guys are highly respected and people are probably coming to you for advice on this gnarly music road.
- We are like grandpas, LMAO!
Anything you want to add?
- PLEASE KEEP SUPPORTING MUSIC. Go to live shows. Get out of your house and go to shows. People need to get off their phones, quit trolling, quit wasting time and enjoy life. Smoke a little weed, go to a show and the world will be a lot better for everyone!
This interview revived my soul and gave me more purpose. Getting that east coast vibe with that longevity continues to last and last. I feel more inspired by this, because of the realness that is coming from them. This band of brothers are on the road making the magic happen, since the beginning! Badfish has nothing but love for this scene and love for their FREEDOM to share their endless happiness in the name of music.
Photography by Boards House Productions