Johnny Socko was founded by Dylan Wissing in Bloomington, Indiana in 1990. Influenced by genre-hoppers like Fishbone and Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as the more traditional funk and soul of James Brown and Parliament/Funkadelic, Socko also had an affinity for the party rhythms of hip-hop, ska and reggae. But after almost ten years of being lumped into the sometimes-schlocky third-wave ska scene, Socko went through a transformation, and emerged as a solid, road-tested rock & roll band.
In the early nineties, Johnny Socko broke out of its regional existence, embarking on a nationwide tour with American ska stalwarts Bim Skala Bim. The sound was raucous and crowd-driven, with liberal doses of toilet bowl humor thrown into the mix to differentiate the band from its third wave compatriots. The Bim Skala Bim tour would be the first of a cycle that would eventually establish Johnny Socko as one of America's most consistent touring bands.
In 1994, Socko released Bovaquarium through Bim Skala Bim's BIB imprint; the Oh I Do Hope It's the Roast Beef EP followed two years later. The band jumped to Asian Man for 1997's Full Trucker Effect, and honed their energetic sound with 1999's Quatro.
But lineup changes followed, as they always do. Solidifying in 2000 around drummer Wissing, Christopher Smail (guitar/vocals), Joshua Silbert (saxophone/vocals), Demian Hostetter (trumpet/vocals), and Matthew Wilson (bass/vocals), Johnny Socko's sound began to evolve away from its campy, third-wave ska-influenced hijinks. It began to emphasize the more rocking sides of its original influences, and drew upon such groups as Van Halen and Cheap Trick. Dubbing their new direction "Big Rock," Socko finally took a break from touring (having performed over 2,000 shows coast to coast since its inception) to write and record a new album. In late 2002 the self-titled, Ken Lewis-produced affair appeared. It showcased a more refined sound that incorporated elements of rap-rock and pop, but didn't forgo the band's trademark sense of humor or solid horn section.
~ Johnny Loftus