Ames band serves up ska-flavored potatoes
by Sam Johnson
Daily Staff Writer
Embracing a strong Christian message, an upbeat ska sound and a fascination with potatoes, Bolsa de Papas is the latest band to emerge from the vastly growing Ames music scene.
Two cups of ska, a half cup of punk, a quarter cup of swing and a teaspoon of hardcore is the band's recipe for success.
"We like to play around with a lot of different things to create our sound," guitarist Adam Clarke said. "We like to play all kinds of different styles and sounds."
The band is made up of 10 musicians, including a full horn section, two guitarists, a bassist, drummer and two vocalists.
One of the most compelling aspects of the band is its sense of teamwork. No one member is the "leader of the band." Together, the band works to achieve its common goal.
"We wanted to keep the integrity of ska," Clarke said. "We're not out to revolutionize the industry with some sort of breakthrough sound; we just want to have fun and to praise God."
Lead guitarist Ben Bradley cited religion as being a major part of the group's music.
"We love it when our music causes others to praise God," Bradley said. "Be that through our lyrics or just plain dancing. We love it when people dance."
Bolsa de Papas got its start in the fall of 1997, and just as every other new band, began with a search for identity.
Starting out dabbling in the hardcore genre, the band experimented with several different ideas until settling with a ska sound.
"Before I joined the band I had never even really heard ska apart from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones," bassist John Gruber said. "Adam was really the one who got us all going on the whole ska thing."
Contrary to what his fellow bandmates may think, Clarke does not recall ever playing hardcore.
"I don't know what you guys are talking about with that whole punk/hardcore thing," Clarke laughed. "I thought that we were ska from the beginning, weren't we?"
Hardcore roots or not, Bolsa de Papas has added a couple new members this semester and is striving to settle into a ska groove.
"We added Kyle [Davis] on bari sax," Bradley said. "He's awesome, and he's really gonna fit in, I think."
Other new members include the recently engaged couple Andy Meschke and Erin Olsen on vocals.
Band members laughed when they were asked what the name Bolsa de Papas means.
"At first we didn't even have a general clue what our name meant," Bradley said, laughing. "We were just sitting at food service one day and Scott [Larsen, percussionist] looks at us totally serious and says, 'How about Bolsa de Papas?' We all started laughing hysterically. I guess it means 'bag of potatoes' in Spanish, or something."
As time went on, the band has assigned meaning to the once silly name. Although they may debate over the meaning of its name, band members have found a common purpose.
"OK, you see, the potatoes represent each one of us as people," Bradley said jokingly.
"We're all buried under the ground in sin until God picks us out of the ground and cleans us off and cuts off all of our warts and stuff. The Bolsa represents the church, holding us all together, or something."
With several performances behind them and several more in the near future, Bolsa de Papas is pleased with the response it has received about its music and message.
"We played Togetherfest last year, and that went really good," Clarke said. "We've got a lot of energy, and crowds seem to like us. We like it when we play in front of new crowds because we like to see what happens.
"We like to have fun on stage, and if people want to have fun with us, that's great. If not, oh well. No one has ever stood up and said 'You guys suck' or anything. We just want to play," Clarke added. "We'd love to play with some local bands like Mr. Plow, Grubbie Ernie and the Mediocre Superheros. Ska Against Racism would be pretty cool, too."
Bolsa de Papas brings it's gospel-based skankin' style to The Maintenance Shop for Cafe Au Lait on Tuesday.
The multicultural event allows students and faculty from different ethnic backgrounds to showcase their talents in poetry, storytelling, music and dance.
The show starts at 7 p.m., and admission is free.
This article was published on Thursday, October 22, 1998.
Copyright 1998 by the Iowa State Daily Publications Board. All rights reserved.