His name is Jim Collins. He’s tall. He’s taken to the U-bass like a duck to water. And we’re happy to have him. No, we’re not telling you about our band issues, plus, like any decent rock undertaking, we’re saving all of it for speculation by friends of the band in the Behind the Music Special. What you can make up is so much more dramatic than anything that’s true, so we’re going to let you do that.
Now, we’re dealing with the complications of having two Jims in the band by calling Jim the Founder “Original Jim” and Jim the bass player “JTwo” or sometimes, “Jim Collins.” We’ve played three gigs together, Folklife, Urban Coffee Lounge, and a private party. We’re feeling solid these days, and we’re ready to start Getting Out There.
But there’s a speedbump. We’ve lost our favorite venue — the Feedback Lounge closed its doors. We got in a last round with the bar’s prime minister/janitor, Jeff Gilbert, and now, we’re feeling a little bit at sea. Where are we going to find a place where we feel that at home, that understood, that welcomed? What a great rock and roll venue! They had wicked cocktails, good chow, sweet as pie but still badass staff, and we loved the way it felt to play that place. We’re going to miss it something fierce.
We’re on the hunt for new venues, getting to work on new music, breaking in JTwo (Not musically, he’s good there, but have you met us? We take some getting used to…) and rumors of our disappearance have been greatly exaggerated.
Oh, hey. Sorry to keep you waiting like that. We had some things we needed to figure out. In the process, Mark, our bass player, went off to wine school, and that’s taking all his time. We’re all grateful for his tireless work mixing our CDs, editing our videos, and doing our taxes. And, oh, yeah, holding down the fat low end on the funky rubber strings. We wish him luck as he pursues the fruit of the vine. Cheers, Mark, and thank you so much for everything.
But we’re happy to have found our new bass player, Phil. He joined us in the rehearsal studio about a month ago and we’ve decided to keep him. We’re all impressed by the way he’s transferred his mad bass skillz to the U-bass in what feels like no time, and we like that his questions about the Castaways are somewhat thematic. A few examples:
Why aren’t we playing AC/DC?
Why aren’t we playing Metallica?
I love that Dee-Lite song. Why aren’t we playing that Dee-Lite song?
I don’t understand why we’re not playing AC/DC. When are we going to play some AC/DC?
We think he’ll work out just fine. We can’t wait for you to hear him play with us.
Here’s the truth: We don’t know what’s happening with the band. We only know we’re putting it on hold for a while.
We’re all confused by this.
But two out of five Castaways keep their spouses in a foreign country. And they’re not sure how long they’re going to run their marriages offshore.
Outsourcing is complicated.
Finding subs is complicated too. Imagine the Craig’s List ad:
Seattle Area Cover Band Seeks Subs
Must love classic rock. Must be deeply passionate about the importance of grammar and/or quality graphic design. Should have encyclopedic knowledge of rock and roll history and/or a decade of experience with social media. You’ll have to show up on time, haul your own gear, tolerate and/or contribute to a lot of bad jokes. Must be free from ego (no princesses, male or female, though you may be issued a tiara), understand that a vintage diner is a “must stop” location, and be the kind of person that cheers for the underdog.
Not required, but bonus points if you’re over 6’3” or under 5’3”.
Oh, yeah, also, must shred mad ukulele. That.
That’s not what Jim’s original ad said, but we’ve evolved since the band was founded in 2010.
So while we figure out what’s next, we’re taking some time off. Pam will be in Austria, Ed will be in Australia, only one of those places has kangaroos, please don’t get them mixed up. Mark’s studying wine. Pete said something about a spending more time with a fine 24 year old German…automobile. And Jim will be explaining to that Other Band where he’s been the whole time.
Other Band: You’ve been doing what?
Jim: Playing classic rock on the ukulele. It’s going really well.
Other Band: That’s ridiculous. What have you REALLY been doing? It’s okay, you can tell us.
We’re lucky. We’re hitting pause before declining into our Fleetwood Mac Rumors years. (Yes, understanding that reference is a requirement for being in the Castaways.)
We don’t know what’s next. We just know that we can’t believe the ride we’ve had.
When we last left Seattle’s Loudest Ukulele Band, they were being punked by Mark’s family for their April Fool’s joke. And while they’ve — we’ve — been quieter on the web lately, we’ve been crazy loud on stage. Our summer of rock has us buzzing all over Puget Sound, it seems, and we’ve been having a grand time of it.
We kicked off the summer with a show at one of our favorite local bars, the Feedback Lounge in West Seattle. This place is starting to feel like home to us, we love the badass waitstaff and we love that Jeff Gilbert gets us. We also love that every time we play there, the biggest problem is poster theft. Keep up the good work, Castaways friends, but hey, do Jeff a favor and see if you can’t wait until the night of the show to steal the art. Alternatively, if you do steal the art pre-show, order an extra round to put some money back into Jeff’s printing budget, okay?
That same weekend we closed the ukulele showcase at Folklife. It’s our third year there — this year, we were preceded by the lovely ukulele songwriter Molly Lewis. She’s funny and gracious and whip smart and we adore her, you should totally check her out.
The stage was huge with stacks of monitors but the stage managers were so nice that I had to refrain from jumping off them into the crowd. I did ask first, I think that was my mistake. Jim was rattled by the fact that someone laughed when we closed our set with Nirvana’s All Apologies, but Pete explained it perfectly…
“Jim, people laughed because we just played Nirvana’s All Apologies ON THE UKULELE. You get that’s crazy, right?”
“Oh. I guess you have a point.”
Since Folklife, we’ve been working our way around Puget Sound. We played a birthday party in Kirkland, we went back to Urban Coffee Lounge — another place that makes us feel like family. We played the jazz stage at the Taste of Tacoma and the sound guy there, Glenn, was freaking fantastic, plus, we love that he said, “You guys, that was fun, that’s the music of my generation!” If you follow us on Facebook, you’ll know that at the Taste of Tacoma we had what Ed called our “Spinal Tap Moment” — if you don’t, well, here. We played another party in the north end where our number one fan (no, literally, she’s the first official non-family fan) owned the cowbell like no one else. We were back in the south end the following weekend for a 4th of July party on the beach on Fox Island, so lovely was the location that we thought we might never leave, plus, there was a Bloody Mary bar.
In between all of this, Mark was in Iceland, Ed was in Australia, Pete was on the East Coast, Jim was in a World Music class, and I went to Arizona. We also added Chris, the occasional sound guy, and we’re so grateful to have him as part of our crew. He’s reduced our set up and break down times to record minimums, and oh, yeah, he makes us sound better, too.
So far, Summer of Rock Three, Puget Sound Edition, is shaping up nicely. We hope your summer is grand, too, and we hope that not only will you come see us at a show, but that you’ll stick around to say hello. Wear sunscreen, kids, and rock on.
“Hey, looking forward to seeing you guys at Urban Coffee Lounge. I’ve got great news for the band.”
None of us knew Heidi or what news she could have. So when she told us we’d been voted Best Band on the East Side by 425 Magazine’s readers, we were floored. We’ve had to keep it under wraps until now but when the latest issue dropped into my (very much 206 based) mailbox on Saturday, I figured it was okay to post the news.
We remain completely in the dark on how this happened. By the time we found out, the voting had closed, so we weren’t able to pester our fans, friends, and family to vote for us. We don’t know who nominated us, we never saw the ballot, we have no idea who we were up against. We didn’t really believe it, to be honest, and now that the issue is in our hands, I’m still not sure we believe it. We are honored and so surprised and we have no idea who to thank, so we’ll thank you.
We love the spread — and it shows off Peter West Carey‘s great photo of us in a Georgetown back lot. Fun fact? When we were shooting our American Idiot video, we’d scoped out that same site but were chased off by rent-a-cops. “Bands keep showing up to take pictures here — and it’s a private lot.”
We love that you fell for it because it means you think it’s a thing that could happen. Just like last year with our faux Hawaii tour, you believed we’d booked that thing and were off to the islands. It’s something we’d love to do, just like we’d love to score a national TV appearance. Our take on April Fool’s is to use it as an excuse to think about what we’d like to do, and then, just act like it’s a thing that could, you know, TOTALLY HAPPEN.
So we posted about our Ellen show audition, and you believed it and then, just a few days later Ellen had a film crew in Seattle.
We kind of flipped out.
People who thought we were making a dumb joke asked us if we were maybe *not* making a dumb joke. People who took the bait asked us what was going to happen. A friend of the band asked if perhaps we could write next’s years April Fool’s post stating that he’d won the lottery, given our clairvoyance.
Nothing happened, we weren’t able to connect with Ellen’s crew, but it wasn’t over. At our April Urban Coffee Lounge show, Mark’s sister asked if she could make an announcement before our second set, she had a surprise for us.
“We were pretty sure the April Fool’s thing was a joke,” said Michelle, “but we checked in with Ellen, and she sent us this.”
Pete’s jaw dropped. I turned bright red. Mark, Ed, and Jim just stared. Then Mark’s mom started to laugh and laugh and laugh. Apparently, that family has a long history of April Fool’s jokes. They play to win.
“You don’t understand,” Mark said, later that night. “I had to set up an auto-reply in my email about our Hawaii tour.”
“I’d get ready for next year,” said Pete.
“The gloves are off,” said Ed.
“OH, IT IS ON,” I said.
“I’ve never been in a band where I get punked by the fans,” said Pete.
Seattle’s loudest ukulele band, The Seattle Castaways, are excited to announce they are pursuing an audition to be the house band for the Ellen DeGeneres Show. As longtime fans of Ellen’s show, the band is humbled by this announcement and is ready for the challenge.
“Ellen’s show is fun, quirky, and full of surprises.” said Pete Harris, the band’s obtrusive percussionist. “That’s a great fit for what we do. Ellen surprises people all the time, and in the same way, we surprise people with our crazy ukulele rock and roll.”
The band will audition as a permanent replacement for Ellen’s former resident DJ, Tony Okungbowa, who left the show in September 2013 to pursue his acting career.
Multimedia producer and director of The Castaways’ latest video, Jamie Gower says, “the Castaways are a perfect match for Ellen’s good humored style. They’re fun, a little unexpected, and audiences love them – just like Ellen.”
“We’re ready,” said Pam Mandel, “As the lone female voice of The Castaways, I can tell you that we are sooooo ready! Our record, Miniature Horses, is out in the wild and we’ve been searching for our next challenge. Our 2013 Hawaii tour was exhausting so this year we want to settle down with a project that will keep us a more grounded. Ellen’s wit and charm are a perfect match for what we do. And we can’t wait to have her and her guests sit in with our band on ukulele! I call dibs on teaching Neil deGrasse Tyson the chords in Galileo.”
To keep tabs on The Castaways’ progress throughout the audition process and more, subscribe to the band’s newsletter, or become a fan of their Facebook page. Additional information about the band, including bios, audio clips, and pictures, is available at https://theseattlecastaways.com/.
It seems we should be able to come up with something better than, “OMG YOU GUYS!!!!!!!!” But that’s how we feel after the exciting launch of our 2014 season.
Here were are, the kind of people who are irrationally proud of our ability to use correct grammar, yet our ability to express ourselves has been degraded to drunk text message levels.
Overuse of exclamation points.
OMG YOU GUYS!!!!!!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!
In case we haven’t talked your ear off about it, we released our new CD — Miniature Horses, get it here — in January. To celebrate we had a standing room only release party at West Seattle’s Feedback Lounge. We had lasers — a ukulele band with lasers, that’s ridiculous! — and Dave, our video guy was there, and our friends from Petal Songs came up from Portland to work the merch table, and that guy from the Murphtones, the one who loaned us his badass car for the video, was there, and, wow, what a night.
“More bodies than seats!” said Jeff Gilbert, the guy who runs the place (and wrote our liner notes). One of my favorite moments from that show (and there were so many) was watching Jeff come into his bar and seeing his face break out into a huge smile at the sight of the crowd.
That crowd, that was you, buying rounds of Smashed Ukuleles, the drink the bartender concocted just for us, you standing three deep at the merch table to buy our music, you singing along and dancing and cheering for us. Some of you were the kind of people who Don’t Get Out to This Kind of Thing Much, and there you were, and we could not have been happier to see you. If we didn’t cover you in sloppy kisses at the time, it’s because we were all shouted out and overwhelmed and a little dehydrated, to be honest, but we owe you. You might want to carry around a tarp, just in case.
Two weeks later, we headed up to Bellingham where we were welcomed by the good people of the Bellingham Ukulele Group (BUG). Future hosts and venues? If you find our expectations seem a little unrealistic, it’s not our fault, you have BUG to blame. They made us a Cake in the Shape of a Ukulele with the Band Logo on it in Fondant. It was gorgeous. And delicious.
There were a lot of other delicious things too, including a ripe, sweet pineapple — this is February in the Pacific Northwest, friends, those things don’t grow on trees. (Literally, they don’t, and figuratively too, see, we still observe proper definitions.) So hey, we’re trying to keep it real, but this kind of treatment, let’s just say the bar has been raised, friends, the bar has been raised.
Pam: LOOK AT THAT CAKE! I CAN’T STOP LOOKING AT IT! Pete: I KNOW!
BUG had booked us into the Encore Room at the Mount Baker Theater and someone might have sneezed out little clouds of glitter when she saw the band’s name in lights on the theater marquee. Inside, the room was filled to capacity and we could not have hoped to play for a nicer bunch — we met music teachers and uke builders and the kind of people who hang out with the kind of people who play the ukulele. We would happily have pulled up stakes to live in Bellingham, so immediately welcome and at home did we feel there. We are all about diplomacy with our northern neighbors forged in a common love for ukuleles and cake. (We might have a little crush on Bellingham. Quit teasing us.)
Given all of that, you can see why it’s easy to get stuck on, “OMG YOU GUYS!!!!!!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!”
It’s been an amazing start to the year, so amazing that some of us lie awake at night after the shows because they can’t believe how amazing it’s been, and because they can’t sleep, they go look up synonyms for amazing because underneath all of it, they’re still kind of nerdy and they figure they should try to do better than “Everything is amazing!” and “OMG YOU GUYS!!!!!!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!”
Sometimes, “”OMG YOU GUYS!!!!!!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!”” is exactly what you want to say.