On Saturday, Aug. 26, storied ska band the Siren Six! will be returning to Minneapolis for two homecoming concerts at the 7th St Entry. The shows will be the first time the band has played together since they disbanded in the early 2000s, and marks the 20th anniversary of the period when they were most active as a band.
Originally started as high school band in the mid-1990s, the Siren Six! were influenced by bands like Trenchmouth and the Pacers, and formed during a time when the “Third Wave” ska scene was starting to take off both nationally and locally. After moving from Madison to Minneapolis, the young group of musicians did well as a band, recording their album The Voice With a Built-In Promise in 1996 and their EP Young and Professional in 1998. They even managed to sell out shows at First Avenue, and in a 1998 youth news section of the Star Tribune Dan Haugen wrote,
Artist of the year: In 1997 ska found at least a temporary place on the mainstream music industry table, and also emerged as a powerful draw in the parallel universe of the Twin Cities music scene. The Siren Six! is a standout on the Kingpin ska record label grew from obscurity to sellout shows. Now on the road touring, The Siren Six!’s popularity reached a pinnacle this fall with their packed show with the Promise Ring at the Whole.
Things were going so well that they decided to take the next step and move to Los Angeles to try and make a name for themselves outside of Minnesota.
“We really thought this was the time to seize the moment. We sort of flipped a coin between New York and L.A. and just decided on L.A. and moved out there,” said vocalist and guitarist Nate Bott. “All of us together, we drove out in our van and brought every worldly possession we could jam into that van and moved out to West Hollywood.”
For a while, things continued to go smoothly for the band. They spent their days rehearsing, playing showcases, and meeting with people in the music industry, but their fortunes changed as the new century began. “Yeah, things just kind of started to fall apart,” said drummer Jeff Conrad. “Ska was a trend that was dying out and swing was coming in, which was terrible.”
Knowing that ska music was beginning to fade in popularity, the Siren Six! tried to change their sound, but it didn’t work out, and one by one the musicians each went their separate ways.
“I think we just burned out really quickly,” Conrad remembered. Band members started to fall away and the remaining musicians kept going for a short while in various configurations, but by the mid-2000s, Siren Six! were no more.
Still, the members of the band kept in touch over the years. They had actually been planning on playing a reunion show for a couple of years, but living in different cities around the world made it difficult to put something together.
By January of this year, the band were seriously discussing a reunion show. They weren’t sure if anyone would actually want to come to the show, but people were excited to see the band return to Minneapolis and the show sold out so fast that they added another show for same day. The Siren Six! have also rereleased The Voice With a Built-In Promise and Young and Professional and will have them available on vinyl for sale.
“I was over the moon about it,” said Bott. “I was just like, we’ll do this and it will be good to see everybody. You know, maybe the 12 people that still care will show up and it will be fun…and then it was just like wow, like totally just this positive reception. That was a scene that carried me through a very important part of my youth. We were super idealistic and it was politically charged, and it was just good to have that outlet for all of it. So I’m super stoked that we get to do it twice.”
Although the Siren Six! aren’t planning on playing more shows after tonight, they’re excited to perform with each other after almost 20 years and are looking forward to making the most of their shows together.
“[The shows are] the closest thing I have to a high school reunion,” Bott said with a laugh. “I was not into the high school social scene, this is what I was doing. I was in bands and going to clubs and hanging out with these five to six people for some very formative years in my life, so it’s very awesome to see them all again and just to revisit the music is just the best. I still think it’s some of the best work I’ve done.”
Simone Cazares is a student at Saint Paul College. Originally from Miami, Fla., she survives Minnesota’s cruel winters by immersing herself in the Twin Cities music scene.