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Boning up on the headliner

The Voodoo Glow Skulls have spent 20 years crystallizing California street music – their hellbroth of hardcore with super-tight ska and devilish horns.

The result, officially: “Southern California Street Music,” the album, which the band released last autumn.

“It’s an accurate representation of where the band is at today and now,” said lead singer Frank Casillas. “Every record that we come out with seems to be a representation of what we’re doing at that point in time … kind of like a chapter in a book.”



The Glow Skulls are headlining Friday’s CD release party for South Shore rockers Lavish Green at Whiskey Dick’s. Casillas manages the other band on the ticket, Knock-Out, a three-piece punk outfit that also hails from the Glow Skulls’ hometown of Riverside.

“It’s very cool that we’re not only able to go there for a show but to be a part of what’s going on locally,” Casillas said. “It means a lot to us.”



The Voodoo Glow Skulls have played Whiskey Dick’s and Tahoe before, but not in the past few years. The band is a favorite from Brazil to Japan, dropped “Southern California Street Music” between two tours of Europe, and has returned to California since then. From the new album, three songs are emerging as crowd favorites: the opening jam, “Exorcism,” “Fire in the Dancehall,” which is gaining momentum on Sirius satellite radio, and the pirate-y jam “The Ballad of Froggy McNasty.” But fittingly for a band that formed in 1998 and has attracted a dedicated cult following, audiences go for the old stuff as well.

“Believe it or not, one of our most popular songs is a Spanish song called ‘El Coo Cooi” — an ode to the bogeyman of Mexican folk myth. “When you’re a Mexican kid growing up, your mom always threatens you with the Cucuy,” Casillas said. “Whenever we play it, whether it’s Japan or Australia or the U.K., people always go crazy for that song.”

The Spanish-language vocals aren’t there just for laughs, though: The Casillas brothers — Frank on vocals, Eddie on guitar and Jorge on bass, along with Brodie Johnson on trombone and Eric Fazzini on sax — don’t shy away from their Riverside roots or their heritage.

“Obviously, I think that’s one of the secrets why we’re still around, the fact that we’ve been able to kind of somewhat cross musical and international boundaries at the same time,” Frank Casillas said. “We just started playing songs in Spanish because it was a natural thing.”

One of the knocks on the so-called Third Wave of ska, whose heyday coincided in time and place with the Voodoo Glow Skulls’ beginnings, was authenticity: Why were so many bands from sunny Southern California trying to sound like oppressed Jamaicans or working-class Brits? The Casillases’ Mexican roots, on the other hand, provided the Glow Skulls with authenticity some of their brethren lacked, as did their family ties.

“I think that the combination of us being Latino and the three brothers and all that has kind of given us the trademark authentic style that we’re known for,” Frank Casillas said. “We stand out. Very few bands can last this long because they can’t tolerate each other.”

“It means the world, man. Honestly, if we weren’t brothers, we probably wouldn’t be around right now.”

Contemporaries, and even followers, ascended to higher levels of fame, but the Glow Skulls have outlived some and outlasted many others.

“We’ve played with some of the big ones. We played with No Doubt before they were Gwen Stefani,” Casillas said. “A lot of ’em have come and gone, and a lot of ’em have gone by the wayside.

“It’s not that we feel indestructible, but we’ve created our own thing.”

Twenty years later, the Glow Skulls are still intact, as is their sense of humor. Frank Casillas likened their show to a bunch of 6-foot-plus metalheads crashing a quinceañera party.

“We’ve accomplished what we’ve accomplished, and now we’re just having fun,” he said. “I’m glad to say Voodoo Glow Skulls still have a career, and we still do what we do, and we have fun every night.”

“It’s not for everybody, but somehow we manage to keep people’s attention.”

Voodoo Glow Skulls with Knock-Out

Where: Whiskey Dick’s Saloon

When: 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18

Tickets: $12 advance, $15 at the door


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