Most bands sweat and toil for months over the perfect name. A seven-member ska-pop band from Connecticut thought it had it made when it came up with Spring Heeled Jack.
They cruised up and down the East Coast, scoring legions of fans. Then one day their worst fears were confirmed: They learned there was a similarly named band in England.
“That was frustrating,” drummer Dave Karcich said recently. “We had heard things about it, but it really started hitting home when they started releasing records and someone said, ‘You guys are in Spin magazine.’ I got a copy of Spin and it said Spring Heel Jack and I thought they just spelled it wrong, but then I opened it up and it’s two friggin’ guys, an ambient-dub-drum-and-bass thing.
“I’ve heard that 300 ska kids showed up in Boston for one of their shows, thinking it was us. Eventually, we talked to them. It wasn’t a big problem. We added USA to the end of our name just to avoid confusion, and apparently they added UK to theirs. If it had to come down to a brawl for the name, we have seven guys and they only have two.”
Spring Heeled Jack has come a long way from its 1996 independent album, “Static World View.” It honed its sound while opening for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies before cutting its debut Ignition Records album, “Songs From Suburbia” (released July 21).
“We decided that with each record we’re going to try to make it better than the last one and record in a better place,” Karcich said. “The last one we did ourselves; we paid for the whole recording ourselves, and it was pretty much an independent project.
“I remember at least three or four times during that first record us running out of money and having to stop the recording, go out and play, get some more money back in and record again. It’s frustrating to record under those conditions, and this record was real nice, Ignition was real good to us. They put us in a real good studio, and they just said, ‘Do your thing.’ I really do think we succeeded in making a better record than the first one.”
Spring Heeled Jack – Karcich, singer-guitarist Mike Pellegrino, guitarist Ron Ragona, bassist Rick Omonte, trombonist Tyler Jones and saxophonist Pete Wasilewski – is a throwback to Madness, the feel-good band of the 1980s. In particular, the first single, “Jolene,” is a pop delight.
“We just don’t want to be a ska band, not that that’s bad,” Karcich said. “We have so many different influences and things we like, that we really wanted it to come out in the music.
“Madness had a lot of different influences. Bands like that, we kind of take that as a framework for this band. They did some ska stuff and had some horns, but that wasn’t what they were all about.”
BWF (before we forget): Karcich died April 5, 2002, of a brain aneurysm, just four days before the self-titled debut album from his new band, Avoid One Thing, was to be released.