When you walk into Delilah’s and see the band Deal’s Gone Bad, it’s clear why their live shows are so fun. They make their way with ease through the club, greeting old friends over cigarette smoke and songs played a little too loudly. And from the moment they walk in, high fives are flying, people are smiling and the tempo of the room picks up. This is why lead singer Todd Hembrook likes to describe their live shows as a party.
With a ska-soul blend that makes it nigh-impossible not to dance, the band draws as much from Sam Cooke as the Skatalites. They update these styles in the songwriting process, “sliding more contemporary songwriting into those musical styles,” according to drummer Mike Corcoran. “I don’t think many other bands in our genre do,” added saxophone player Aaron Hammes. This ensures that Deal’s Gone Bad, unlike some contemporaries, is never derivative or formulaic. The mix of styles and disparate influences that each member brings to the band are often in conflict, and the songs on their most recent album, The Ramblers, “are pretty different from one to the next for exactly that reason,” Hammes said.
This is mostly due to their unique song-writing process. “We’re not a band that sits down and jams,” Hammes said. “People bring in songs. Then it goes through the machine.” Although it may seem strange to refer to a band as a machine, it has acted as one since guitarist Dave Simon started Deal’s Gone Bad fourteen years ago. In that time, the band has watched singers, sax players and nearly everyone else come and go, but the group has remained Deal’s Gone Bad, honing their craft and practically perfecting the sound of a party.
“We’ll stop being Deal’s Gone Bad when we’re sick of hearing ‘Pirates’ [a fan favorite from 1998’s Large and In Charge] for the nine-millionth time,” said original member Corcoran. As that hasn’t happened yet, chances are Chicago can expect Deal’s Gone Bad to stick around for awhile to come.
Convinced? Deal’s Gone Bad will be playing Nov. 18th at Riot Fest at the Congress Theatre, followed by both the Midwest Ska Fest at the Metro on December 27th and a New Year’s Eve show at Reggie’s Rock Club with Flatfoot 56.