Saturday, June 7, 2008

Canada's Answer To The Village People - Well Kinda

The Skatt Bros. hailed from Ontario, Canada and came to the attention of disco music producers Ian Guenther and Willi Morrison during 1979. The lineup for the Skatt Bros. at that time was Sean Delaney (keyboards), Pieter Sweval (bass), Richard Martin-Ross (guitar), David Andez (guitar), Richie Fontana (drums/guitar) and Craig Krampf (drums). Each of the members were contributing songwriters and had diverse and eclectic backgrounds in music encompassing dance, R&B, country and Rock ‘N Roll.

They released their debut album ‘Strange Spirits’ in late 1979 and the first single to be lifted was ‘Life At The Outpost’. The song was a weird hybrid of country-rock and disco but ultimately delivered a very catchy musical amalgam. The accompanying video clip was extremely cringe-worthy and featured the band lineup doing their collective best impression of the cowboy character from the Village People. That component to the band’s image was promoted, more than likely with the intent to increase attention in the then highly competitive disco/dance market. As mentioned in one bio on the band, they were seen as the “straight” answer to Village People (not that there’s anything wrong with that as Seinfeld would say). Regardless the surface image did little to represent the greater depth musically that the Skatt Bros. possessed.

‘Life At The Outpost’ failed to register in the U.S. but did find a market in Australia particularly, charting for 29 weeks during 1980 and peaking at #13. The album ‘Strange Spirits’ (OZ#71) did showcase some of the Skatt Bros. other musical leanings, but the second single ‘Walk The Night’ surged up the disco/dance charts, reaching #9 on the U.S. Billboard Club Play chart, and charting well throughout Europe.

But like the Gibson Brothers (see previous post), the Skatt Bros. assault upon the disco market came during the closing chapters of that genres dominance on the charts. By 1981 the word disco was suddenly taboo for many record execs. The Skatt Bros. experienced a lineup change around that time reducing to a five piece with Delaney, Sweval, Martin-Ross and Fontana being joined by new guitarist Danny Brant. To coincide with this their old record company Casablanca was absorbed by Polygram and the prospects of a follow up album among the throng of new wave and post-punk songs seemed remote.

The Skatt Bros. did release a second album in 1981 titled ‘Rico & The Ravens’ but the album was only distributed in Australia and New Zealand, possibly on the basis of the success of ‘Life At The Outpost’ in those markets. The album did offer a better representation of the band members musical roots, featuring a clearer rock based sound. The band also had the honour of having the up and coming Men At Work open for them on an Australian tour during 1981.
Sean Delaney had worked with, among others, KISS and Gene Simmons during his career, but sadly passed away in 2003. Former member Craig Krampf worked with the likes of Alabama, Joan Armatrading and The Motels. Another Skatt Bros. alumni Richie Fontana worked with KISS, Laura Branigan and Billy Squier.

Most of the information about the individual group members (post Skatt Bros.) was obtained via an article on the website.

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