Originalites make music top priority

The Originalites' show calendar is not only booked on the band's website, but also in members' minds.

"We already know which shows we're going to play, so that's money already made," said drummer Peter Fontes, 22.

Booking as many shows as possible is part of the Originalites' method to make it in the music business.

The Originalites started in 2008 when Fontes, bassist Tim Frankeny, 22, and guitarist/vocalist Daniel Tello, 22, were told by their friend Eric Scoralle that they should start a ska band. Shortly thereafter, at their first gig at African Corner in Fountain Valley, they met Mike Belk, who would become the band's saxophonist.

Scoralle died last year, and the Originalites continue to play in his memory.

"When I get really tired while playing, and I need strength to keep going, I usually call on Eric to give me some strength," Fontes said. "He usually comes through."

Since its formation, the Originalites have put music in front of everything else, including school and jobs. But according to the Huntington Beach band, they don't need jobs because music is their paid profession.

"[All the band members] had a choice between going to school, and having to cancel booked shows and not make any money or get our music out there," Fontes said. "We're so lucky and blessed because we figured out how to make money off of music. People always say it's not about the money. But if it's not about the money, then you're going to have to get a job and you won't be able to play music."

Despite ska not being the mainstream, Fontes said because it is relative enough to popular music today, it may make a comeback.

"I think ska is making a comeback because it has the most popular beat right now," he said. "It has the electronic dance music beat. That, I think, is partially why we chose to play ska because we're playing dance music, but we're doing it old and new school. We want to bring the musicianship back to music."

The Originalites have performed with popular ska bands like the English Beat, Fishbone, Tribal Seeds and the Toasters.

"The English Beat is my parents' favorite band," Fontes said. "So, if I'm playing with their favorite band, that means that I've accomplished something more than I may have accomplished if I had gone to college."

Fontes said the Originalites regularly play with the English Beat whenever they come to Southern California.

"[The English Beat] were stoked after our first show with them, and told us they would play with us any time," he said. "We find out when they're playing in SoCal and just hit up the venue and tell them to ask the English Beat if the Originalites can get on the bill. And the English Beat always says yes."

While the band plays ska, the members said they didn't grow up listening to it.

"I actually hate a lot of ska," Frankeny said. "I don't like all the happy, poppy third-wave [music]. To me, I'm into more of the heavier minor key music. It has more feeling than an 'everything's OK' message."

Instead of ska, the members of the Originalites said they draw a lot of influence from classic rock, jazz and punk bands. That versatility shows in the Originalites' music, which blends smooth jazz beats with faster punk and reggae.

The Originalites hold a weekly Monday residency at Gallaghers Pub and Grill, 300 Pacific Coast Hwy., in downtown Huntington Beach, and are also prepping for a fall tour, including in Arizona, Texas, Florida, Utah and Las Vegas.

"This is the first tour we've done around the country," Belk said. "I'm excited. You have to start somewhere. We have new CDs, a new van and new merchandise for the tour."

For more information, visit theoriginalites.com.


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