The Spank Band
The Spank Band comprises five talented Bahamian male musicians. The personalities: Ira Storr, band leader and lead guitarist; Kirkland Bodie (KB), lead vocal and rhythm key board; Eliakim Johnson, bass guitarist; Byron Thompson, key board; and Basil Lightbourn, drums and vocals.
If you have been but a casual observer of Bahamian music and or entertainment over the last decade or so you would likely recognize at least some of the aforementioned musicians. That’s because each member of the band has “been around,” so to speak – with tremendous success.
Perhaps you are aware that two of them, Ira and Kirkland (KB), are recording artists, having each made a number of recordings.
Then there is Basil who hits the studio next year. It’s likely that you’re wondering how a group of talented musicians such as those of The Spank Band work together. We’ll get to that later.
Now, let’s analyze their name. A band by any other name is still a band. So whence the name The Spank Band? The word “spank,” offers Kirkland, is a reference to or symbol of the action of beating the goatskin drum.
As the goatskin drum is the heart of much Bahamian music, you’re correct to surmise that the men of the band are socially conscious, for the name bespeaks their endeavour to promote Bahamian music and Bahamianness – at home and abroad.
“Our first thing when we travel is to express who we are and where we are from,” says Kirkland. “We go out there to represent The Bahamas, Bahamians.”
Ira adds that the group’s “main objective is to represent The Bahamas.” Due to the members’ versatility, they maintain an extensive repertoire. According to Byron, they “do a little of everything – socca, calypso, junkanoo, light jazz, contemporary, rock ‘n roll.
“We do a lot of work for Spring Break also. So we change to rock and reggae – classic reggae, the hard stuff.”
It’s no wonder then that their fans are of varied musical persuasion. Even if you were skeptical about the band’s talent, no doubt you’re now a “believer”, having glimpsed their repertoire.
A testimony to their growing popularity is the frequency of airplay given to their remake of Tony McKay’s “The Obeah Man” on all four local radio stations since this past summer. (The group’s only other recording is a remake of Elton John’s “Sun going down on me.”)
Their recording of “The Obeah Man,” in the junkanoo mode is a promotional “project” of their sound, their Bahamian sound as a band. They aim to be the band chosen to back top Bahamian artists. At this time they are not concerned about making records.
They contend that although they may be well known as individuals, they are trying to spread the word of The Spank Band.
Among the top Bahamian artists with whom they have worked are Sweet Emily, Funky D, Tony Seymour, and Eugene Davis. They also back Ira and KB as artists; that is, as individual performers – and not as band members. Now just over three years old, the group boasts of its ability to put the band’s concerns before individual taste or fancy.
“The bottom line,” says Ira, “is that we have to work together. If there’s a problem, you deal with it when it comes. But you have to be professional enough to deal with it and get the job done.”
That is the method used by the band members to deal with each other. They all contend that frankness within the group contributes to their success; suppression of feelings and opinions could be disastrous. They agree that criticisms should be respectfully made and each individual’s input should be thoughtfully examined.
“Someone will always take the initiative,” says Kirkland. “Most of the times (for example), I call the song. But someone else may say, ‘let’s try this’. We need five individuals giving of themselves, doing their thing.”
Another reason for the group’s success is their sharing of responsibilities off stage. Byron, for instance, is in charge of public relations, Eliakim for ensuring that everyone arrives to rehearsal on time, and Basil for attire.
“I try to coordinate the colours of our attire,” jokes Basil, “so that we could look like we belong to a group.”
The band members’ organizational skills have allowed them to work not only in New Providence and the Family Islands, but in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Florida as well.
In Nassau, you can see them every Saturday night at Club 601, 601 East Bay Street, where they have been appearing for the past two years. Of course, from time to time you may see them performing elsewhere – just as a group or backing local artists.
As a Christmas treat you can see them from December 22 to Christmas day at the Crown Ballroom of the Radisson Cable Beach Hotel, where they will open for Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.
Among the group’s plans for the near future are trips to Florida and Los Angeles. A peek into The Spank Band’s world reveals that the group is supremely confident. This results from a combination of factors, including their talent, hard work, and experience. When they perform, you know that despite their individual gifts and despite the group’s successes, they ultimately look beyond themselves; they look at “the Bahamian thing.” Their message is organic – it’s in their name; it’s who they are.