SKA’S NOT DEAD: AN INTERVIEW WITH SKATUNE NETWORK (JER, WE ARE THE UNION)

Ska is fucking awesome. Trumpets and punk? What’s not to love?

Where many are waiting for the next wave of the genre, Jer Hunter, a musical YouTuber, is making an exceptional case for how it never left.

Along with being a member of the popular ska group, We Are The Union, the Florida-based artist is unapologetic and creative as hell through their YouTube channel, Skatune Network.

With nearly 180,000 subscribers, there’s everything from covers, to original music, to a fucking vegan ska cooking show

All of this considered, I was pumped to ask Jer a few questions on everything from politics to D.I.Y!

Steven: You’re unapologetic with your willingness to promote political and/or social causes while so many musicians stay apolitical to avoid controversy. As a black, non-binary, punk musician, do you feel a responsibility to speak up for the voiceless within the scene? 

Jer: Sometimes, I feel like I have to be a voice for the voiceless in the scene. Punk was something I gravitated toward because it offered a space where I felt I could be myself. Punk shows were a place where the people around me shouting these lyrics in a sweaty D.I.Y space say they have my back and are my family. 

But when push comes to shove, and people like me are victims of violence for being who we are, these same punks stay quiet. They value their comfort more than they value their black, brown, and queer friends. To see bands who built their life off messages of anti-racism stay silent during a month straight of racial injustice was just heartbreaking, and shows that these people are performative, and don’t want to even take the time to listen to these voices. There are extremely influential people in punk. 

Some don’t think it’s a big deal, but a single person has the power to influence tens of thousands of people. When they stay silent, they side with the oppressor. Their silence says they don’t care enough for black lives. Their silence says they don’t want to put effort into not only unlearning, but dismantling a system we all exist in.

On a lighter note, there’s no way I could interview you without asking about “The Impression That I Get, Except It Changes Genre Every 15 Seconds” video; in all my years of consuming music and video content, I seriously think it’s not only one of the most creative, but impressive things I’ve seen! How did that video come to be?

So by the time that idea came to my head, I had done over a hundred covers of all genres. Most YouTubers who do covers stick to hitting pop hits, meanwhile I’m covering songs of genres that many people have never heard of. I don’t do covers for views or to appease what the (ska) masses want. I do covers because I love these original songs, and there are a handful of weird people like me who secretly love these insignificant songs. 

There’ve been many ska covers of 80s songs, pop punk songs, and timeless anthems. But nobody in ska covers bands like Pup, American Football, Cartoon Network groovies, or Tiktok songs. Hell, I even covered the rapper “noname” and I guarantee no other person in ska has even thought of covering that. 

What was the creative process for it?

The next thing for me was to turn the tables. Take a ska song and reverse it into the many genres I listen to a bunch. I’m not the first person to do a reverse cover, but there are many people who would do the standard genres (metal, country, disco, “techno”, etc.). Being me, I had to hit the weird genres I love, not the basic genres everyone expects. 

Now, I love all kinds of music, but I wanted to make a chiptune, midwest emo, drum corps, and bebop version of songs, and Skatune Network has always been me doing what I want because I think it’d be a cool idea! 

You recently dropped Ska Goes Emo, Vol. 1, which was outstanding! What lies next for Skatune Network?

Yes! Ska goes emo is the 2nd cover LP I have worked on. Even though it’s all covers, I still care for coherency for musical releases. I care for album art, songs that flow well, etc. I don’t want someone who has somehow never heard these songs to know it’s a cover record. 

Skatune Network Releasing Debut Album on September 27th | ReadJunk.com:  Music & Movie News, Reviews & Interviews

Many people think the first cover record was original, but Pick it the Fuck Up is 100% a Counter Intuitive cover record! It just flows so well, and that’s because just like Ska Goes Emo, a lot of thought went into the songs, how they’d flow, and the structure!

As far as original music and what’s next to come, I’ve been thinking about doing some projects, like “Re-writing ska songs I wrote in high school”, and making that into Skatune Network uploads on original music. I have plenty of partly written and old songs for that to be ongoing for some time. 

Do you ever plan on dropping more original music under the Skatune Network name? Or do you want to keep that more cover-based?

I am also working on new original music, and this is what I’m most passionate about. 

It’s under a new upcoming project called JER, and the Skatune Network socials won’t shut up about it once I post that stuff! 

(Editor’s note: JER’s first song can be heard here!)

You’ve emerged as a champion in fighting for one’s local D.I.Y scene; what are your best tips for how one can get involved and promote their local scene?

My advice is to get into it. I come from South Florida, and anyone from down there knows that we had the legendary venue for nine years, the hub for Broward D.I.Y, The Talent Farm.

I went to my first show there in 2010. I was a sophomore in high school, and it was something I immediately loved. Then I formed bands and started booking shows. 

When we couldn’t perform at venues, we would do anywhere we could. A house? Yup! A community rec center? It works! A mason lodge? Oddly enough, yes! The Talent Farm closed in 2014, and since then, Broward has been hosting shows anywhere it can since. 

Music | We Are The Union

Traveling has shown me that people give up easily when trying to build up their scene, even with so many venues and spaces to have shows in! If you live somewhere where there are no bands, start a band! Even if it’s just you on guitar.

If you live somewhere with some bands, start throwing shows! Lots of touring D.I.Y bands will roll through if you can provide a space to play shows. 

Do you have friends who are into punk/alternative but don’t go to shows? Invite them! All it takes is one show to change someone’s life and get them hooked on this culture.

I used to invite all my friends in high school bands to shows, and many rode out, and I still go to shows with them 10 years later. It takes time, patience, and sometimes months of work will fall apart when bands fall apart, people act like trash, and a shitty cop/politician/landlord gets an important space shut down, but it’s most important to push through and keep the spaces available!

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s