A look at USF ska band The Ambassy

[image-1]At one of their shows at Market on 7th in Ybor City, Roger Hughes, the owner of a recording studio, sat and watched The Ambassy jam out in a relaxed concert.  It was enough to make him give them a call and offer the band a chance to record a few of their songs.

“They really know how to get a crowd going and they have a great stage presence,” said Hughes, who spoke fondly of his own days in a ska band.

The Ambassy played four of their original songs that night, plus one cover of T.I’s top 40 hit, "You Can Have Whatever you Like." One of their songs, "Bottles," “captures the essence of college partying — a bunch of guys living together and having fun,” said Brant.

Their sound has slowly evolved.  “The maturity of our writing has matured with us,” said Macdonald.

“When I first started playing with the band [in 2008] the sound was more ska and punk. It has relaxed a lot and become more of an alternative reggae style over the years,” said Darrin Gobble, a USF sophomore majoring in environmental science. He is the newest addition to the band.

Besides Market on 7th, The Ambassy has performed at such local venues as the State Theatre, the Crowbar, Pegasus Lounge off of 50th street, Jaycee’s in Melbourne, Neptune Lounge and Bulls Lounge off Fowler and a few other local hot spots.

The west coast has a large ska scene and “I think they are about to break into it,” said Hughes.

Ska is a growing trend among USF students, said Kim Farber, a  senior majoring in environmental science. “Ska is so full of contradictions — I can't tell you how many songs there are that sound happy and bouncy but are about the saddest subjects and stories you can think of. Besides, I love horns!”

The music genre has created a culture of its own. Take, for instance, the dance dubbed skanking. “Skanking is the closest thing to dancing that I can manage,” said Farber. "You always wind up out of breath and smiling. It's kind of a controlled flail involving opposite arms and legs, and it's more fun than I can describe.”

Even though the band loves to perform, it's not about hitting it big; playing music is something they love to do. “This band has been a big part of our lives for four years. It’s a passion,” said Vinny Defranceso, a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism.

From band geeks to local lackeys this dynamic quintet plans to continue jamming out, getting better and defining themselves both as individuals and as a band.

The Ambassy will be performing on February 27th at the Orpheum in Ybor City at PM.

Rachel Kaylor is a junior at USF majoring in broadcast journalism. She'll be writing about USF topics for the Daily Loaf, including the music scene.

The deafening sound of the stereo being turned up, the banter of instruments, the first note of the song and the concert begins. This scene attracted four USF students back in 2007 when they took their backgrounds as band geeks and started a ska band.

The four boys were in band together at Satellite Beach High School in Satellite, Florida. In 2007, when they were juniors, they started to think about starting a band of their own. Elliot Dickinson, now a USF sophomore majoring in music performance, said, “We wanted something less formal, we all excelled at music and we hung out all the time anyway.”

Dickinson said the idea for the name came from a shirt he got while visiting his sister in Japan. "The shirt said 'The Ambassy Want You' and we liked that it didn’t make sense.” With a name in place, the only thing left was the music.

“We really had to figure it out, listening to different bands and creating our own sound with different ideas,” said Dickinson. The band started out covering the band Reel Big Fish, and as they got better they started to define their own style, said Will Brant, a sophomore at USF  majoring in music composition.

The music comes straight from their heads to their hands and is quickly written on paper. “Most of the time we just sit around with an acoustic guitar and write down melodies," said Dickinson.

The boys collaborate to make a final product that sounds good to them. “A lot of songs are inspired by our life situations or things that have happened to us,” said John Macdonald, a sophomore majoring in music performance.

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