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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 20 years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, and B-movies. Part time ninja. Kicked cancer’s ass. My memoir, ChemBro, is out now!
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Bite Me Bambi – Orange County Ska with a Side of Smirnoff Ice
Friday, April 03, 2020

In these trying times we could all use a little fun – something to make us dance in the sweats we’ve been wearing for a week straight, and joyously bounce off the walls we’re currently confined within.

Bite Me Bambi is the answer to our isolation prayers.

The Orange County, CA-based ska band features both fresh faces, and veterans – the latter from such legendary bands as My Superhero, Save Ferris, and Starpool – and they’ve been making a name for themselves with their raucous live shows.

The group’s current plan is to release an EP after releasing a video for every song that will be on the project, with “Hot Lava” being the latest.

I caught up with Bite Me Bambi frontwoman Tahlena Chikami, who discussed the band’s video for “Hot Lava,” the ska support system in Orange County, and how the seven member band is handling creating music while also practicing social distancing. Chikami also revealed the role the movie Josie and the Pussycats has played in her life, and a band prank involving Smirnoff Ice.

The first question I have is a little unfair – we are in trying times right now, can ska save the world?

Oh gosh. I wish it could, but I feel like listening to the CDC is what’s gonna save the world at the moment, but a close second is definitely ska music.

If you were to set the advice of the CDC to ska music …

Maybe that’s the secret! That’s what the next hit is gonna be.

Hold on, I gotta go. I gotta write this down. I’ll be back. {laughs}

Let’s talk about the new single, “Hot Lava.” How did you decide on a public library as the setting for the video?

We had been tossing around a lot of ideas. When you have seven people in a band there’s a lot of ideas going around, and we’d been working on this video for quite a while. Then we got the director, Chris Graue, involved, and he was helping us kinda sort through everything.

We were all at dinner one night, and we were just like, “We don’t know what we’re gonna do.” Out of nowhere I was like, “I should be in a library dancing on a table.” Everyone was like OK, that’s fun. Then I went like, “What if I was Cupid?” It came out of nowhere. It was divine intervention I guess. I just blurted it out and Chris ran with it, and he created that whole script.

After a lifetime of being shushed in libraries, had it always been a dream to rock out in one?

I really really wanted to dance on a table, that was like my dream. We couldn’t make it happen, but that’s OK, it was still fun to run around.

And I have to be honest, it’s not actually a library, it’s this really great local bookstore called Bookman, in Orange. They were super nice, and they let us just wreak havoc, and ska all over that store. We had a really great time.

Between this video, and your video for “Strippers on a Sunday,” it’s clear you have a lot of fun. This makes me wonder, what’s a night out like with Bite Me Bambi? What kind of trouble might I get into if I hang out with you guys?

Oooh, that’s a good question.

Well, you’ll definitely get iced, which is when you surprise somebody by hiding a Smirnoff Ice, and when they find it they have to get down on one knee and immediately chug it. We like to do that to each other, especially to our bass player, Ryan (Brown), who can be seen doing it in all of our music videos.

I was about to ask about about that, because I noticed it in both “Hot Lava” and “Strippers on a Sunday.”

I don’t even remember how it started, but it just became a thing, and Ryan’s a really good sport about it, because it’s usually him, and people have done it to him from the audience, and we’ve done it to each other at restaurants.

So you’ll definitely get iced if you’re out with Bite Me Bambi, and you may see some strippers, so get your dollar bills ready.

You released a Japanese version of “Hot Lava.” How did you know there’d be an audience for this?

There’s a huge ska scene in Japan, and we’re lucky enough to know some people who are involved in that scene. There are great bands, legends like Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, and other bands like Oreskaband, and MAYSON’s PARTY. There’s tons and tons of bands out there.

Since we know some of these people we thought this might be kind of a fun thing, and I’m half Japanese, not that I speak a lick of it, but we got some friends to help us out, help teach me, and translate our song.

We thought it would just be a fun thing to do, and to try and reach some people out there, because the scene is super fun and vibrant in Japan.

Have you toured there?

We have not. We’re hoping to get out to Japan in the next maybe year or so, depending on how long this (virus situation) lasts.

There’s a lot of cool bands out there, and people are really supportive of live music in Japan. They still have Tower Records, people still buy CDs, and the ska scene is super alive. Even the street fashion – the rude boy / rude girl fashion – is still really alive there, so it’s definitely a place we have our sights set on. They have some really cool ska festivals, too.

“Hot Lava” – Japanese version

There’s quite a lineage of great bands from The O.C. I know you have a unique perspective, having both new, and veteran, artists in Bite Me Bambi, but what’s the relationship like between the veterans of the scene and the new faces making a name for themselves?

That’s a really interesting question.

I feel like the veterans of the scene have always been really really supportive of new, up and coming bands. Because if you don’t get new blood in your scene, your scene dies.

So everybody, especially the guys in Starpool, who were formerly in Save Ferris, some of which are in Bite Me Bambi, they were always putting on one really big ska show a year called the Ska Luau. That’s how I met them as my first band, they asked us to play, they let us open for them, which is always really helpful.

There are a lot of people reaching down. The guys in Codename: Rocky are always trying to put younger bands on their shows.

We’re really lucky in Orange County, our scene is super supportive. Everybody is always trying to help each other out, always trying to get the word out for everybody else. Even in times like this, crazy times like this, I’ve seen ska people helping each other out with non-ska necessities, and things that people need right now, and cheering people up, and checking on each other. I feel like we’re really lucky to have such a great scene here.

You mentioned how we’re in crazy times. You’d been building your fan base through touring. How are you dealing with tours temporarily having come to a halt?

We’re holding out some hope that some of the things further down in the future that we have planned, that we might be able to keep those dates.

Other than that, right now we’re just trying to help entertain people at home. We asked people for a bunch of cover requests, so we’ve been working on trying to do some of those for everybody, and do little videos, and just let people know we’re still here, we’re still cookin', we’re still writing new music, and once all this is clear we’ll be right back out there pounding the pavement.

It’s gotta be tough to be a seven member band and play together while also practicing social distancing.

Well, that’s the thing – we can’t.

Brian Mashburn and I have been working on the covers, so they will probably be mostly acoustic. We might be able to throw some keys or bass on there.

We’re trying to think of ways to include everybody so everyone out there gets to see all of our smiling faces. Maybe we’ll ice Ryan from afar. I don’t know. I should call his wife and see if she can get a Smirnoff Ice for him. {laughs}

Have Grubhub bring one.

There we go! I’m gonna blame it on you. {laughs}

You’re complicit now!

Ha! I can accept that! When it comes to your group’s history, Bite Me Bambi was founded in 2018, but a number of members were previously in other, very successful, bands. What were your initial jam sessions like? What was the excitement level?

We were really excited. Putting the band together was kind of an interesting challenge – finding the right people, and people who mesh together – and I think we have a really great group of people who really get along, and work well creatively together.

When Brian and I sat down to start writing some of the music we were really excited to show it to everybody, and everybody was able to put their own spin on their parts.

There’s a lot of crazy schedules, and people are playing in other projects, but once we sat down and were able to work together it was super fun, and it still is. We still all really have a good time. We wouldn’t do it if we weren’t having fun. I mean, we play ska music, you can’t take it that seriously.

Finally, how did you come up with the name Bite Me Bambi?

{laughs} That’s a funny one.

We couldn’t come up with a name, and it was frustrating. Tbone (Willy) and Brian had been in a band called Wild Wild Monsters previously, and they’d had a hard time naming that band. I remember T-Bone had said that he started reading Star Wars scripts trying to find phrases that could be the band name. We were so frustrated that I was like, “I’m gonna start reading a movie script.”

Josie and the Pussycats, the movie from the early 2000s, was the movie that made me want to be in a band as a child, so I started reading it, and one of the characters goes, “Oh bite me, Bambi,” and I was like BITE ME BAMBI! Everyone was like yeah, we like that, that’s cool. So that’s where we got that.

It’s funny because I never thought anybody would trace it back to that movie, but several people have come up to me, or written us messages going, “Is this from Josie and the Pussycats?”

If I recall correctly, that movie bombed pretty hard, so I’m surprised anyone remembers it.

It has its own little cult following out there, me being part of it for sure.

When I was 10 it was everything to me. It was the first PG-13 movie I was allowed to see. I went with my friend Sarah. Her parents took us, but my parents had to listen to me sing all of the songs at the top of my lungs through my karaoke machine when I got home.

Was the soundtrack part of your drive to school?

Oh yeah, it was part of a lot of things.

The CD was purple with leopard print on it, which, if anybody knows me, I’m a big leopard print fan.

It all comes back to Josie and the Pussycats. {laughs}

Your origin story is very rooted in this film.

Yes. My lore is all Josie and the Pussycats.

But it was cool – three powerful chicks, and they were rockin’ musicians, and I was like, “I want to be that person! How do I be that person?”

For more Bite Me Bambi, follow them on Facebook and Instagram.


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:00 AM  
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