Catbite are ska champions. Combining the jumping energy of UK two-tone with the high-power attack of third wave ska, the Philly band has been rapidly expanding their fan base and serving as standard bearers for the 2020’s ska revival. Their most recent album, Nice One (released by neo-ska icons BadTime Records) was massively well received, having gained praise from Rolling Stone, Brooklyn Vegan, Punknews… and even M&Ms!
I sat down with Tim, Brit and Ben to talk about their first musical experiences, how the band got together and the making of “Nice One”
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CMM- What was the first music that really made an impact on you as a kid and what artist or band did you enjoy the most?
TIM: the first band I really got into on my own was Linkin Park when I was like 10 years old. Nu metal really got me goin
BRIT: As a kid I realllllly loved *NSYNC! But as I got a little older I fell in love with pop punk and I became obsessed (still am) with Paramore.
BEN: I grew up in a musical household where we had the stereo on throughout the day. There’s a home video from when I was maybe 3 years old bashing on a piano and singing Tim McGraw’s “I Like It, I Love It”, and I was obsessed with Neal McCoy after seeing him play at a festival in Lancaster, PA. The first song I remember listening to and thinking, “I’d like to learn how to do that” was probably “Almost” by Bowling For Soup, but in the years in between I was listening to an awful lot of Eminem and top 40 radio.
CMM-When did you first start playing instruments and eventually playing in bands and how did you all meet and start Catbite?
TIM: I started playing guitar a month before I turned 18 because I got grounded for smoking weed lol. I joined my high school ska band and played and toured all over the US in that for 9 years. Our bass player Ben also played in this band for a decent amount of year. We’d play to no one a lot, but made a lot of friends in the ska scene. I quit the band because it was going in a different direction, so then me and Brit decided to start a new ska band and call it Catbite. Eventually we convinced our friend Chris into playing drums even though he told us no at first because he was so busy.
BRIT: I started playing guitar in high school. My brother taught me a few chords and I went from there. I was never that great at it. I’ve been singing my whole life. That is my strongest instrument I would say. I ended up going to school for music and getting my degree in jazz voice performance!
BEN: I learned to play the flute in grade school just like everyone does. I started playing bass at 12 years old when my brother and a friend of ours decided they wanted to start a band, and they needed a bass player. We played together throughout our school years, and one-by-one that group got kind of folded into Tim’s ska band that he mentioned earlier. I joined Catbite about a year after the band started, initially as just a weekend sub after the original bass player left.
CMM-You all have produced a pretty amazing discography in a rather short period of time. What’s the band’s approach to songwriting and what was the recording process like when you all went in the studio to make “Nice One”?
TIM: the first album was basically just me and Brit writing almost the complete songs. We recorded the album after only being together for about 6 months and only playing about 6 or 7 shows. The second album had a lot more thought put into it. The basic skeleton of the songs were still written by me and Brit, but then they were crafted into Catbite songs after bringing it to the rest of the band to work on. This album was not supposed to happen when it did, we barely had any songs written, but when the world shut down for covid we decided it was time to make a record and we booked 10 days in the studio with our friend Davey Warsop. And we gave ourselves a tight deadline of 4 months to write the whole record before going into the studio. We work well under pressure.
CMM-If the band could do a score for any film director who would it be and what would the film be about?
TIM: I’m not a huge film person, but I’d love to score the sequel to the classic Disney Channel original movie, “Brink”.
BRIT: I think I’d like to do the score for an animated film! My brother is going back to school for animation and I’d like to score a film that he created!
BEN: We wrote a little jingle for a short animation for our buddy Sam Grinberg, who works on The Simpsons and other cool stuff. If he ever does a longer form project I hope he taps us for the music.
CMM-You all are out on the road with Bouncing Souls and 7 Seconds and have a show in my town of Norfolk Virginia this coming Friday 12/8. What’s your favorite part about touring? Got a fun tour story you can share?
TIM: touring has always been my favorite part of being in a band. I’ve been doing it since I was like 18 or 19 (I’m 32 now). I’ve seen it all and have slept in the wildest places in the weirdest conditions. Ever since I was a kid I loved to travel, we couldn’t really afford to fly everywhere so we’d always drive on really long trips, so I’m just used to being in the car looking out the window (I’m 99% of the time the driver on tour). A tour story that always sticks out for me is the one time where my old band was promised a place to sleep after a show in Baltimore. After the show we get there and it’s a giant warehouse with no heat (it’s January) and there is a freakin metal band practicing in the same room where we are supposed to sleep. We were young and had no money and no other options, so we just “slept” in the corner all night. I’m glad Catbite can afford hotels now.
BEN: Naturally the best part of touring is playing the set. We’ve gone through an awful lot -long drives, early mornings after late nights, making meals out of chips and crackers, not necessarily knowing if there’s a place to stay the night, or when the next time you’ll be able to shower will be, yadda yadda -but it’s always worth it to get on stage and do the thing we came all this way to do. We always make it. Once on a drive from Miami to Gainesville with Tim’s and my old band, we blew a rear tire on the van on I95 just outside of Miami. We just stood on the roadside getting bit up by fire ants for a couple hours while the roadside assistance guy wailed on the bumper with a crowbar to get access to the spare tire. On a dry-rotted, under-inflated donut, we drove 45mph for 300 miles to pull up to the venue just as our set time was starting. We played the damn thing, and passed around a hubcap for donations to get a junkyard tire the next day. Smart? No. Worth it? You bet.
CMM-What do you all have coming up next? Any new recordings/shows?
TIM: we are writing new music, I’m very excited about it! Gonna be taking it easy next year while we focus on that, though we do have a UK tour announced for next March with Hot Water Music.