History of a 2-Tone Monster
“Bizarrely this 8 piece has remained one of the USA's hidden ska gems over the years as across 5 excellent album releases they have built up a great catalogue of cracking 2 tone material. This trend certainly continues on Umbrella Bed's fab new "Refill" EP on German label Black Butcher Records with 5 more great tunes! If you are a 2 tone fan looking for something new & enjoyable, give these guys & gals a listen! Not to be missed............. “ -- Do The Dog Music - May 2015.
Picking up on a 2-Tone ska sound might have seemed like a strange choice in the summer of 1995 when Umbrella Bed first assembled itself into existence. After all, the 2-Tone ska sound was a very short-lived period 15-years earlier and, without a doubt, in '95 the newly reborn ska genre “third wave” was creating a much harder-edged ska sound.
Third-wave ska was very much guided by the rise of the alternative music scene and infused ska with a more punk/grunge bent. It moved the “ska sound” pretty far away from 2-Tone’s inherent pop roots.
But, 2-Tone’s shorter life had also left a lot of room to explore.
And explore Umbrella Bed has.
Six full-length releases, hundreds of wildly energetic shows and two European tours later, doing anything but build on 2-Tone’s legacy would have been a tragic loss.
By taking the alternative-minded but accessible framework the 2-Tone sound offered and infusing it with its’ own diverse sensibilities and influences, “UB” discovered a unique blend which resonates as “something different” in the alternative music realm and also something with mass appeal.
Starting in 1995 UB experienced a very quick ascent and a large local following was built in its home base of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. The area’s top music rag, The City Pages, voted UB one of the “Best New Bands” of 1997, a nod to its' reputation of astoundingly energetic manic live shows and quality musicianship.
As it thrived locally, Umbrella Bed established a solid reputation nationally and internationally by appearing on numerous compilations both geared specifically for the ska scene and for the broader music world.
Simultaneously the band also independently released full-length albums in 1996 (King Size) and 1998 (Monkey’s and Rivets). Distributed by OarFin Records, both were solid sellers.
In 2003 a relationship with German-based label Mad Butcher Records marked a new phase of work. UB has since released four albums: 2003’s “Last Band Standing”, 2005’s “One Small Skank…” , 2008’s “GO” and 2018's "Rotate" on the independent internationally distributed anti-racist and socially conscious label. The band also released the EP "Refill" in the spring of 2013.
Each album is wrapped beautifully in a 2-Tone framework while infusing swing, punk, reggae, Latin, new wave and good old school Jamaican sounds. Lyrically UB’s sardonic take on love and politics are the brilliantly layered finishing touches.
The band's new label alliance expanded its live presence abroad and UB toured in Europe in support of “One Small…” in 2005 and “GO” in 2008 with highly successful sold-out shows in France as well as very successful outings in Germany, Serbia, Austria, The CzechRepublic and Hungry.
Adding a visual component has also become an Umbrella Bed hallmark. Videos for "Two-Tone Monster" (Refill), "Always on the Rebound" (Rotate), "3-Twenty-Seven" (Rotate), "Kamchatka" (One Small Skank..), "Rotate" (Rotate), "Gone Away" (Refill), "Pant Load" (Last Band Standing) and "Wish That It Would Stop" (Refill) are all available through Youtube.com and related sites.
As a live act UB has also played a support role to a who’s who in the ska/reggae world including The Skatalites, The Specials, English Beat, The Toasters, Mustard Plug, King Chango, MU330, Mad Sin, The Selector, Lee Rocker, Neville Staples and many others.
The band’s primary line up has rotated some over the years but has remained largely intact. Lead vocalist Hellrocket, drummer Mitch Thompson, trombonist Al Teagarden and ska’s (if not rock and roll’s) premier French Horn player Eva Washburn have been around from day one. Trombonist Joy Judge and saxophonist Scott Wilcox have been with the band nearly a decade completing the “Horns of Mass Destruction”. Francisco Guerra on bass and Kabel Lefto on guitar joined Umbrella Bed in recent years, adding a new youth movement to a band on the tail end of its second decade proving there is a lot more history to come.