The Pinstripes
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The Pinstripes

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States | INDIE

Cincinnati, Ohio, United States | INDIE
Band Pop Reggae


This band hasn't logged any future gigs

This band hasn't logged any past gigs



The Pinstripes ( This was the best performance of the festival that I witnessed. Let me just start by saying that there wasn’t one entire band set, the entire weekend, that wasn’t packed. The Pinstripes definitely had the ballroom crowded, and it was the band members that truly made the set an enjoyment to watch. Every one of them was lip syncing with the lead singer (Mike Sarason) throughout every song, and the bass player (Chris Grannen) was so amped and ready to play in between songs, bouncing around like a frenetic ADD-inflicted child. I got a very great vibe from how interested each player seemed in its music and entertaining the crowd. The ska reggae tunes were made even more authentic with Sarason’s Jamaican singing accent, and all the brass instruments. After the night was over, as I was walking out of the Southgate House, multiple people were patting Sarason on the back, excited about how great the band was. - Metromix

Walking into the bar at Embers during happy hour on a late Tuesday afternoon, Mike Sarason carries about him the look of an old friend. He’s easily a guy you’d like to share a beer with and have as a cornhole partner in a backyard BBQ, but when Sarason isn’t kicking it old school, he (among many other things) is out hustlin’ to make a name for himself and his band, The Pinstripes. The local Cincinnati music scene is rising on the radar these days thanks to the success of bands like The National and more recently Walk the Moon. - iSPYCincy

Toots and the Maytals have a song called “Reggae Got Soul” and when The Pinstripes started playing, to me that was an excellent description of their music. A Reggae, Ska, Soul influenced band from Ohio, Toots could have been singing about these guys (you know, had they been formed back in the 70s) when they said, “This reggae got soul…so much soul.” They’re the kind of band that makes you “want to sing and dance and do all kinds of crazy things.” Their music is smooth. It’s cool and collected. I feel like anything that I write about this band won’t do them justice and honestly, you just have to go see and experience them for yourself. And I don’t think I’m overselling them. Simply put, if you like old school Reggae, Soul, Two-Tone, enjoy early R&B and Motown… you should like The Pinstripes. They have horns with velvety tones, warm guitar offbeats, a driving bass and a singer who croons like a young Vic Ruggiero without the accent. They’re a young band with an old soul. Professional without losing edge. If you have the opportunity, go see them—you won’t be disappointed. - Noize News

"After the roar of the Goose it was time for the mighty mighty Pinstripes. These guys bring it every single time with a surplus of both joy and talent. Mixing up brand new tunes with old favorites, the ’stripes blew out the rust with their patented hybrid of Reggae, Ska and Soul, a potent mutation of Tuff Gong/Studio One strut and Memphis/Detroit Soul swagger and sincerity. The dance floor was jammed to capacity with molecularly-charged bodies that bounced with St. Vitus-like purpose and abandon. From beginning to end, the Pinstripes’ sweaty fervor was relentless and, as usual, they nailed everything with the elegance of a master carpenter in an Armani tux. The ’stripes have been working with an amended line-up, and last night was no exception. Trumpeter Ben Pitz has taken on an AmeriCorps project in the wilds of Colorado, and drummer Casey Weissbuch is likely only coming back from Nashville to do major shows; for the better part of two years, former Losanti drummer John Bertke has been laying down the rubber-wristed beat for the band. Frontman Mike Sarason says none of this has been contentious in any way, and that the band is auditioning a trumpeter until Pitz’s status becomes clearer. In the meantime, the Pinstripes continue to do what they do best, which is to do everything the best." - Citybeat Magazine

If there's one, dynamic quality with the power to save any record from being overlooked, a sense of buoyancy would undoubtedly be it, or at least in the eyes of this critic. Yet, while the brand new release from Cincinnati, Ohio's Pinstripes is stunningly jubilant, the positive energy is but one of a neverending pile of favourable compliments at hand. On Higher Ground, the group's long-awaited, follow-up effort, these seven musicians present an album jam-packed with exciting, enthralling, and memorable material, all the while solidifying a signature sound that's proved to stand as undeniably attractive.

Yet, no matter how far from the trail one entrepreneur may stray, the chances of stumbling upon an entirely unanimous, original form of art are few and far between. As a matter of fact, while Higher Ground demonstrates a fresh, innovative view of a "fading" art form, one can't help but recall the now-deceased Save Ferris, whom were once classified as leaders of the third-wave ska movement. While the band's formula is exceedlingly adjacent, The Pinstripes execute their own unique, glamorous spark that's sure to drive dance hall regulars wild.

The disc opens itself with "You Ain't Sorry", a quirky, intoxicating blast of encouragement for any listener. Furthermore, it's spontaniously evident that the seven-piece act has wasted no time in finding their mould, and the end product has never sounded more appealing. Candace Washburn, the band's now-departed lead vocalist, bestows a range and essence that's bound to make any female vocalist envious, and her bright, cheerful tone sets the course for the record beautifully. On "Walk Like A Jamaican", the band's three-piece horn section, which consists of trumpeter Ben Pitz, saxophonist Mike Sarason, and trombonist Chap Sowash, display their irresistable, remarkable capability, and the fragment's arrangements are continuously phenomenal.

However, while it's crystal-clear that the group hold a knack for composing infectious, blithesome melodies, repitition has never been as easy curse to ignore. Thankfully, The Pinstripes embark on several hazardous quests before Higher Ground brings itself to a close. Luckily for the Ohio septet, the outcomes are often exquisite, and the array of material outside the band's favourable niche is a welcome breath of fresh air. For example, on "Swing You All Around", the assembly lean in a frenetic, swing-oriented direction, and the final concoction is fabulous. The song features both Washburn and Sarason (who breaks the surface on select tracks, in turn augmenting the band's assortment) trading off vocal duties. While the aforementioned is well-suited to the frontwoman position, Sarason's vocals are equally impressive, and the dual effect is immeditately captivating. On "Next To Me", Sarason takes center stage as he guides listeners through an acoustic love-ballad ("So, come on, baby, just get next to me. There's no limit to what we could be."), as well as offers his audience an alternate perspective. While the soulful serenade may feel uncomfortably out of place amongst the record's jovial executions, the track alone is surprisingly monumental. It truly is a shame to learn that so many acts feel obligated to include a stripped-down, "slow" song, but it's a treat to know an unsigned act can perform an expected inclusion magnificently, and even more importantly with ease.

On the other hand, specific compositions on Higher Ground do very little to further the record's enjoyment, and while these questionable recipes aren't complete failures, they certainly are forgotten without trouble. For example, songs like "You Say", which should by no means be considered unsuccessful attempts, will surely be overlooked amongst the remainder of the record's coruscating components. Fortunately, the awe-inspiring melodies far outweigh the less than desirable moments, and the band perform at a level worthy of pure admiration.

But, as a whole, The Pinstripes have widened my eyes to the world of independent music, and that's a feat any act should be proud of. Higher Ground is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive, commendable, and downright dazzling offerings a label-free group has ever constructed. The hooks shine at every opportunity, the instrumentation is impeccable, and the overall presentation is near flawless. While it's sad knowing the world has turned a blind eye to the Ohio septet thus far, I assure each and every one of you that if this critic was stationed behind a desk, I'd have these tremendous, young musicians signing a contract in no time. -

!upstarter: Where are you from?

The Pinstripes: We are all originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. Most of us are now in college, which complicates things a little bit, but Cincinnati is still our base of operations.

!upstarter: What influenced you to play ska in an era where ska is kind of passé?

The Pinstripes: I think for all of us it's just the unconditional love of ska music. Although the ska scene may not be as lucrative as it once was, this band never intended to hop on a trend simply because it is hip or because it will make us money. We play ska because we can't get enough of it and because we feel there is still many things that can be done in the genre that at least some people will appreciate.

!upstarter: Who are some of your biggest incluences?

The Pinstripes: Every person in the band discovered ska in a somewhat different manner so we all have bands that we personally like more than others. But some of the biggest influences for the entire band have to be The Toasters, The Skatalites, Streetlight Manifesto, The Slackers, Toots & The Maytals, and The Specials.

!upstarter: Since I've been listening to The Pinstripes, I've certainly heard a greater level of maturity. Please tell me about that.

The Pinstripes: Yeah, I think we all feel that we've come a long way. Every time we listen back to our old recordings we almost laugh at ourselves, but at the same time we appreciate all of it because all of our music is really a testament to how much we have grown, not only at our respective instruments but as a group as well. When we first started as a band, we did little more than learn our favorite songs from other bands, but we've really expanded our ability in terms of songwriting and as a result we feel we can write much more diverse music than say, 3 years ago.

!upstarter: I've noticed a lot of the midwest ska bands of the 3rd wave era are making music again. Do you feel this will help provided new opportunites for younger bands, or do you think they are just trying to make a couple bucks?

The Pinstripes: I have to say, if some of the bands from the 3rd wave were in it to make a quick buck, they probably would have quit a long time ago. I think these bands really deserve more credit than they get because while there were thousands of bands that popped up when ska became popular, most of them have either broken up or drastically changed their sounds. To me, bands like Mustard Plug and The Toasters are really incredible. They've both been playing for an incredibly long time and have stayed completely true to the ska scene and all their fans. We've played shows with both those bands and I was so impressed with how they refuse to compromise their sound just because ska isn't as popular as it once was. I think what they are doing is great and it definitely provides younger bands with opportunities, because we personally have been given the honor of sharing the stage with these bands. In addition, these bands have become staples of the entire ska movement; people look to bands like these for direction. Without things like the Ska is Dead tour, there would be nothing behind the genre keeping it going.

!upstarter: Ska seems to run in waves about about 15 years or so. Do you think you are part of an oncoming wave or just playing music that moves you?

The Pinstripes: You know I'd really like to say that we are part of the next wave of ska and that the entire genre will suddenly have a huge resurgence, but truthfully, I have no idea. Right now I think we're just playing the music we love and just going wherever it takes us. Although in our experiences, we have met and played with a surprising number of amazing young ska bands. So, who knows, maybe the fourth wave is coming on....

!upstarter: Tell me about the current midwest ska scene

The Pinstripes: To its credit the midwest ska scene has a lot more going on than people think. We here in Cincinnati have built up a respectable scene and it really has come a long way. When I was first going to ska shows, there weren't really any local ska bands that had a presence in Cincinnati and it was tough to get any of the more underground ska bands to come through on their tours. Since we've been on the scene, we've put together three "Ska Fests", centered in CIncinnati, and this past summer we had a three day festival of music with over fifty bands called Ska-Stock. So in terms of the Cincinnati scene, I am very proud of how far it has come. Outside of Cincinnati, there are many other places in the midwest doing good things for ska. We've played in the Cleveland area a few times and they have a great scene, as does Akron and some other parts of northern Ohio. However, I feel as though the king of midwest ska has to be Chuck Wren, the owner of JumpUp Records, based in Chicago. He has done and continues to do more for the genre than i can say in one article. Best of all, he always represents the midwest to the fullest, which is great, because people seem to always look to the East and West Coasts for direction. Places like St. Louis and Grand Rapids also have good ska scenes. So overall, I feel like the midwest ska scene, although maybe not as vibrant as places like New York or California, is still very much alive.

!upstarter: What is in the future for the pinstripes

The Pinstripes: I believe the future is very bright for the pinstripes. We've been together for over three years now and I know that every one of us has had a blast doing it and we've made huge strides from when we first started. We all talk about what our future is all the time and its still somewhat unclear at this point. However, we have made many great connections and met so many wonderful people on tour that I think there are many great things in store for us. My guarantee to you and to all our fans is that we will continue to write music that we love and tour as much as we can. That's all I can say for right now, but thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. -

After a brief pitstop at the CAC to check out a technically glitchy set from johnnytwentythree, who still provided some fascinating Fripp/Eno/Tangerine Dream textural sound wavage, it was a short jaunt down to the Lodge Bar to soak in the rock steady vibe of our very own Pinstripes. Throw out all the standard Rock crit hoohah; the Cincinnati sextet takes the raw ingredients of Studio One Reggae, first-, second- and third-generation Ska and an absolute flawless sense of Soul, seeds it, stems it and rolls it into an enormous spliff that's nothing short of pure, unadulterated exhilaration. If you’re not having fun at a Pinstripes show, brothers and sisters, check for a toe tag. Your autopsy may already be in progress.

You can tell that the Pinstripes are having an absolute stratospheric blast every time they’re on stage together (and if you knew what they had to go through just to be in the same place at the same time with any regularity, you’d understand why) and they transfer that feeling of unrestrained joy to the audience with an almost casual effort. But make no mistake; the Pinstripes are working overtime to generate that joy, and the work shows through every bit as clearly as the play. The band knows its shit and executes it with tighter-than-a-Republican’s-ass marching band precision but with swing and swagger to spare. If the Pinstripes are playing, you want to be there. - City Beat

Sunday, November 25, 2007
Review: The Pinstripes - "The Decay"

2007 Stubborn Records

Drawing on a vast mixture of influences, a strong foundation, and tons of ambition, The Pinstripes have been making name for themselves. They recently won the Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best World Music Act, and have shared the stage with many of today's top Ska acts.??

This year they released their new album "The Decay". If non-stop energetic rhythms, and blistering horns are your thing, your gonna love this album.

??The album opens with such a powerful punch of energy in the song "Find It", you'll be thirsty for more. They relax the tempo a bit with a little number called "50 Cardinal". The way the drum and bass swing are reminiscent of an old SkinnerBox tune. That's what I love about the album, it's diversity. I've always had a soft spot that way. It's really easy to find yourself moving to the sounds of ska, reggae, dub, funk, punk, and more. The Pinstripes capture these styles, and fuse them into finely crafted album for any music lover.??

"Evening Dub" sets off with the great words "Sit back and listen keenly, well I play for you another musical biscuit" echoing into a heavy, heavy bass line. Melting horns dubbed over a tight neck breaking beat and hard crashing cymbals. This one easily shows how they are able to move in and out of styles seamlessly.??

Another stand out tune is "Africa". A straight up dose of Ska with powerful horn lines, and gut wrenching sax solos, dueling over an infectious upbeat skank that will get you off your feet in no time. ??After burning you up throughout the entire album, they cool you down with a stripped down acoustic tune called "Wanna Go Home". Real easy on the ears, and catchy like Chris Murray.??

One listen through this album will have you shaking off the jitters like a roller coaster ride, and eager to get on again. And believe me you'll have to hear it again.??

If you love music, you'll like this album.??-Gabe - Musical Occupation

The constant evolution of Ska music has been one of the most fascinating arcs in music history. Begun as a pre-cursor to Reggae, artists like Bob Marley and the Wailers developed the "island" sound. The second wave of Ska formed in the British Punk scene, as artists like Bad Manners, The Specials and The English Beat added their Punk-spawned urgency and created a new branch to the Ska tree. The '80s and '90s saw a more direct hybrid of Punk and Ska, as the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and others created yet another brand, bringing the Punk up in the mix and matching brawny power chords and howling vocals with the sped-up skip-beats.

When Ska has gone through its "down periods," when it's not fully embraced by the mainstream -- in fact, it's often ridiculed as a fleeting fad -- it lives on in the underground. The revival that's rising now has been more appealing to me, a 2-Tone label die-hard. New, young bands like the Aggrolites and Hepcat have brought things full circle, going back to the natural, uncluttered vibe of those earliest Ska sides (while still mixing in the occasional modern elements).

In Cincinnati, the leading Ska band is The Pinstripes. One listen to their new album, The Decay, proves they've more than earned their stripes.

The Decay contains everything that made me fall in love with Ska 25 years ago: smooth, clean, soulful vocals; tight horn punctuation marks; classic organ; and a steady, air-tight beat that doesn't ever step on its own feet from being too hurried.

There is a fresh, youthful energy, but they don't overdo it -- it's apparent that these guys have listened intently to the originators and others who kept most true to the original concept. The Decay is likely the best Ska album to ever come out of Greater Cincinnati.

The band will be celebrating the CD release in style. The 'Stripes will be a heavy presence at their annual "Ska Stock" festival Wednesday and Thursday at The Poison Room. The Pinstripes perform both nights of the all-ages fest, which starts music at 4 p.m. each day. Ska acts of all kinds (and from around the country) fill out the bill. The band then heads off on an extensive U.S. tour. Now, who said Ska was dead again? ( - City Beat

The word Ska conjures up differing responses, and many are sadly negative. Whether through sub-par bands or kneejerk reactions against the genre’s ’80s commercialization, the mere mention of Ska rubs some people the wrong way.

To that end, The Pinstripes have a mission. The septet wants to replace that downcast opinion by offering a joyous hybrid of Reggae, Soul and Punk that is reverential in emulating the Studio 1 movement a half a century ago while incorporating contemporary perspectives.

“In terms of popular mainstream genres, I don’t know many that are so pigeonholed,” says vocalist/saxophonist Mike Sarason about the Ska backlash. “When we have band talks, that’s a lot of what we talk about. For the most part, we feel if you like music and you hear our music, especially if you hear it live, you’re going to like us. It’s just getting you in that venue or getting you to buy that CD or click the Web site. How can we play what we want to play and still reach the people we think we can?”

For a young band, The Pinstripes have a long history. The group began as a high school Punk band formed by bassist Chris Grannen, guitarist Matt Kursmark and drummer Jared Goldfarb, which ultimately morphed into The Pinstripes after a sonic shift to Ska with the addition of Sarason and trumpeter Ben Pitz. A high school band challenge victory brought a cash windfall and recording time, resulting in their debut 2004 EP.

“We were in high school and thought, ‘Ska. Let’s try to play it,’ ” Grannen says. “We weren’t good at it. It was something to do ... we didn’t know much about Funk.”

Fundamental changes have redefined the Pinstripes along the way. Goldfarb left to pursue his Jewish studies (he remains connected as the group’s self-proclaimed “Jewish mascot” and vocal advocate). He’s the dance floor dervish in a yarmulke at a Pinstripes show.

“Their musical vision is this growing positivity,” Goldfarb says. “They look at a world that has problems, (using) songs with social commentary, and do something positive. If you go to the show and see the chemistry that’s developed, you’re touched in this positive way. The closest vessel to convey that is Ska. Now it’s more Reggae, Dub and World, but it all revolves around the vision of ‘We’re going to take a dark world and light it up.’ ”

“For the record, I’m in it to get girls,” Grannen adds.

The band’s original lead singer, Candice Washburn, left to concentrate on her Jazz studies after recording 2006’s debut full-length Higher Ground. With Washburn’s departure, Sarason assumed lead vocalist duties when Kursmark booked a show before they’d hired a replacement. With his ascension to frontman, The Pinstripes’ dynamic has clearly changed.

“We went from American Ska influence to a more rootsy sound,” Sarason says. “Now we’re listening to traditional Jamaican stuff and bands that emulate that style. And revival bands in general, like the Soul revival; we just spent all day talking about Daptone Records and Sharon Jones.”

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Goldfarb’s replacement behind the kit was equally important. Casey Weissbuch — a dead ringer for Seth Rogen’s little brother — drums like a Jamaican Keith Moon, giving the rhythm section a pulse that is simultaneously frenetic and tightly controlled.

“I played with Chris and Matt and with a Punk band called Forest Fire for awhile,” Weissbuch says. “I basically just followed these guys around until they let me be in the band.”

By then The Pinstripes had already added trombonist Chap Sowash, an SCPA grad and Jazz major who had played in area Ska bands, one with Sarason’s brother. Sarason invited him to play on a song they were recording and he remained.

“I was actually looking for a gig and messaged them,” Sowash says. “After my first show, they asked me to join. I joined at a good time. It was right before they recorded Higher Ground, followed by a tour over the summer. It was when things were starting to get serious.”

The Pinstripes’ sophomore full-length, last year’s The Decay, showed the band’s significant maturation — Sarason cites it as transitional between their youthful past and developing future — and their recently recorded four-song demo is further evidence of their evolving musical identity.

“The music has progressed with our maturity level,” Pitz says. “We all got older and started listening to more traditional Ska. We started to grow up and get out of the phases we were in. And we have this massive amount of chemistry.”

Perhaps the Pinstripes’ most impressive facet is their commitment in the face of physical separation. Sarason attends college in Chicago, Weissbuch is a Nashville music student and Kursmark lives in Columbus, but all stay in constant contact through e-mail, texts and message boards. The out-of-towners return at regular intervals for gigs, practices and writing sessions; the fact that they resume their diligent work ethic from a dead stop each time speaks volumes about their musical and personal bonds.

Although quiet during the interview, the band credits Kursmark as the Pinstripes’ cornerstone. He books shows (including several Eastern seaboard/Midwest mini-tours), organizes practices, designs and executes artwork and generally manages the band. The five members in attendance (keyboardist Jack Wright was absent) and Goldfarb applaud after the laundry list of Kursmark’s responsibilities.

“Thank you,” he says, making Calvin Coolidge seem chatty.

2009 could be the Pinstripes’ big year. They plan to do more touring, writing and recording, and both Sarason and Weissbuch graduate next June, which will allow them to concentrate more fully on the band.

At the interview’s conclusion in their borrowed practice space, The Pinstripes blow through four new songs, including the propulsively hair-raising “Come On In” and the Soul-charged “I’ll Be Waiting.” From this impromptu performance, it’s clear that the Pinstripes truly shine on stage. As the song notes, shades may be necessary for a future this bright.

“We’ve been together for four or five days and we’ve been working to write new songs and perfect old ones,” Grannen says. “I just feel real positive about the work we’ve been doing and the progress we’re making.” - City Beat


"The Pinstripes / I" 2012 (13 tracks / CD, 12" Vinyl)
"Sweet Lovin' Digital Single" 2010 (Free Download Only)
"Midwest Soundclash" - 2009 (3 tracks / 10" vinyl pressing)
"The Decay" - 2007 (10 Tracks / CD)
"Higher Ground" - 2006 (15 Tracks / CD)
"Acoustic EP" - 2006 (5 Tracks / CD)
"The Pinstripes" - 2005 (7 Tracks / CD)



*COMING THIS WINTER, THE NEW FULL LENGTH LP, "THE PINSTRIPES - I" recorded in Chicago with Producer Anthony Abbinanti (the Drastics, MJ a Rocker). The album showcases the Pinstripes maturity, musicianship and lasting pop sensibilities.*

If you’re not having fun at a Pinstripes show, brothers and sisters, check for a toe tag. Your autopsy may already be in progress.

Winners of the 2007, 2009 and 2010 Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Best World Band, and 2010 nominees for Best Live Act, The Pinstripes don’t merely play Reggae and Soul music — they inhabit the sound like it’s a ramshackle house that’s keeping them alive. Tight but never slick, fun but never goofy, intense but never serious, The Pinstripes (a hard-touring band with a hard-won following) combine Reggae, Soul, Dub and Ska to create something that's genuinely lacking in a great deal of contemporary music: joy.

Throw out all the standard Rock crit hoohah; the Cincinnati sextet takes the raw ingredients of Studio One Reggae, first-, second- and third-generation Ska and an absolute flawless sense of Soul, seeds it, stems it and rolls it into an enormous spliff that's nothing short of pure, unadulterated exhilaration. You can tell that the Pinstripes are having an absolute stratospheric blast every time they’re on stage together and they transfer that feeling of unrestrained joy to the audience with an almost casual effort. But make no mistake; the Pinstripes are working overtime to generate that joy, and the work shows through every bit as clearly as the play. The band knows its shit and executes it with tighter-than-a-Republican’s-ass marching band precision but with swing and swagger to spare. If the Pinstripes are playing, you want to be there.