This Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of Mad Bomber Society, and the band is celebrating the milestone by playing a free show in its hometown. Well, except it kinda-sorta isn’t, guitarist/vocalist Rich Liukko is quick to point out.
“It’s not 20 years! I don’t know who started the rumour,” Liukko laughs. “It’s only been 19 years; we started in 1997. But it is my birthday.”
Nineteen years ago, Mad Bomber Society formed with a slightly different lineup, a different singer and a fast-growing reputation as one of the best live acts to come out of Edmonton. Playing a brand of up-tempo ska more beholden to the two-tone era of late ’70s Britain than the third-wave ska revival of the mid-’90s, the band referenced classic British television with odes to The Avengers‘ Emma Peel, as well as covering The Young Ones theme song. The group also legendarily covered the Bauhaus’ post-punk classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and headlined North Country Fair. Some band members moonlighted as hair-metal glammers Mad Banger Society. The group released two albums and toured the country coast-to-coast.
So how did Liukko deal with trying to keep the band going over the last 19 years?
“By rippin’ my frickin’ hair out! Clawing and grinding and yelling and sometimes just rolling my eyes way back into my head and saying ‘OK,'” he says. “Sometimes the music business is so weird you just have to go along with it. But it’s been super fun.”
Mad Bomber Society endured a brief hiatus for about three years in the mid-2000s as the members sought more stability after years of sacrificing for the band. Though they drifted away from the group, Liukko maintains that the band members all stayed friendly and still got together to hang out, barbecue and spitball ideas from time to time.
“It kind of sucked to take a break as a band, but I think it worked out better that way, because when we got back together we all had firm foundations,” Liukko says. “So that means you end up with a stable lineup. Before that we had guys working at rent-a-cars and being servers and doing whatever they could to scrounge money, and then everyone landed decent jobs.”
After 20—excuse me—19 years, Mad Bomber Society is happy to play a few memorable shows a year, to keep the fire stoked and to play for the fans that have supported the band over the years—and perhaps to convert some more to the cause. These days, Mad Bomber Society is piecing together new material when time and proximity allows.
“Trying to get stuff scheduled when you have a six-piece live band and a seven- or eight-piece studio band, trying to get everyone to coordinate is just about impossible. But we’re lucky enough to be kind of a retirement band—I think we were a retirement band when we started,” Liukko laughs. “It’s just a fun band that can get together and play when we have the opportunity to and have a great time.”