Hailing from St. Louis, The Driftaways are one of the midwest’s hottest rising reggae/ska bands. Its seven members meld a variety of musical backgrounds into an up-tempo, horn-driven, feel-good party. We caught up with alto saxophonist Zaq Nunley before the band traveled to Springfield, Mo. for a dock concert at Tie & Timber Beer Co.
How did The Driftaways form to play reggae music in Missouri?
Going way back, the core members used to be in a hardcore punk band, were always into ska and fell in love with Jamaican reggae: Greensleeves Records. They actually decided to start a reggae band after seeing Josh Heinrichs at one of the old Schwagstock Festivals. Seven years ago, they got tired of everybody being [angry] in a hardcore band, and wanted to play more positive music. The blend between reggae and funk is really what did it and gave us our sound.
When did you join the band and were you always drawn to play reggae/ska?
I joined five years ago, and for me it wasn’t until after I joined the band that I realized how influential reggae music is to me and to music in general. Plus, it’s just a ton of fun to play. There are so many colors and textures you can fit into an arrangement with seven guys.
And it’s fun for audiences, from the stage it’s probably hard to beat a lot of smiles and dancing …
(Reggae) brings people together, it crosses boundaries and generation gaps. There are not a lot of people who can’t groove to reggae music. It’s transcendent music.
Do you have any upcoming plans to release a record?
We actually just finished recording a new album, hoping to have it out by July. We recorded it at Shock City Studios in St. Louis
What’s it called?
Having a seven-piece band without a van to travel together means a good chunk of pay goes straight to gas money, trying to get where we’re going. I think it also reflects our light-hearted style. We try not to take ourselves too seriously.
Hypothetical: You’ve got time for just one reggae album, what piece of wax do you put on?
I would have to say True Democracy by Steel Pulse. It’s such a good album. It’s going to get people moving, it’s got the highs, got the lows, that British reggae … everybody in the band would have a different answer to that.
Anything to tell the people of Springfield before the show at Tie & Timber?
Bring your dancing shoes!