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Victoria, British Columbia, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2011

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Established on Jan, 2011
Band Alternative Ska




"“After-party antics aside, SweetLeaf anything but rude”"

Feeling the buzz? On Oct. 16, local band SweetLeaf will perform at the Victoria Event Centre as part of the third annual Rudefest, an all-ages concert celebrating B.C. ska music.

SweetLeaf, a six-piece ensemble fronted by lead vocalist and guitarist Chris Jones, and rounded out by Jason Ramalho (saxophone), Spencer Lee (trombone), Mike Luis (drums), Zack Knippel (bass), and Nick Brandle (percussion), is no stranger to Rudefest, having played the festival both years previous.

“It is a great opportunity to rock out for the 19-and-under crowd . . . We almost never get a chance to play for [them],” says Jones. Rounding out Rudefest’s band lineup are The Brass Action, The Leg-Up Program and Morning Mayhem.

Since forming in 2012, SweetLeaf has rocked the Victoria circuit, playing at venues such as Sugar, Distrikt and Lucky Bar. Regularly attending their gigs is a nucleus of hardcore Victoria ska enthusiasts as well as more casual fans, live music lovers, and curious souls simply out for a good time. In Jones’ words, “[There are] a shit ton of our friends, and a bunch of people surprised there’s been a band as kick-ass as ours right under their noses for the last three years.” He adds that members of Victoria’s ska scene are “easily the most accepting, unjudgemental [sic] group I’ve ever known” and are not standoffish toward newcomers. Even the bands intermingle with one another; Jones doubles as a member of the Leg-Up Program, and Knippel plays for Morning Mayhem.

Earlier this year SweetLeaf dropped their debut album, Stress Leave. The music is as heady as the band’s namesake, combining butter-smooth horn harmonies, punchy rhythm guitar, entertaining lyrics, rock-steady bass lines and drumbeats that keep your feet tapping. With influences ranging from Paul Simon to Nirvana, SweetLeaf unashamedly samples non-ska genres to help hone their sound. As Jones puts it, “I don’t consider us to be a ska band. I write a song and it just comes out that way. We just happen to have horns and play a lot of upstrokes.“

In addition to their musical talents, SweetLeaf is known for their debauchery. Jones is upfront about his band’s indulgence, describing SweetLeaf as the hardest-working, hardest-partying ska act in Victoria. The ensemble’s after-party merrymaking sometimes lasts until the following afternoon, and they have even been banned from certain hostels due to their rowdy ways. Although these admissions might be off-putting for some, they undeniably add to SweetLeaf’s mystique, signaling an element of danger sorely lacking in modern pop culture. Jones makes it clear, however, that SweetLeaf’s first love is music: “The party is just the icing on the cake.” - The Marlett

"Featured SweetLeaf Q and A"

An interview with singer/songwriter/multi- instrumentalist Chris Jones of Victoria-based party band, Sweet Leaf.

Formed in early 2012 when Jones responded to a Craigslist ad, Sweet Leaf has rmly planted itself as an energetic force in Victoria’s vibrant music scene.
By Michael Luis
Absolute Underground: Give a brief rundown of who you are and what Sweet Leaf is all about.
Chris Jones: I’m Chris Jones, singer/guitarist of Sweet Leaf. We could be considered a ska/funk/ reggae band, but we’re more of a dance band with hopefully what is perceived as a positive message.
AU: On top of ska, reggae and funk, what kinds
of music are you guys in uenced by?
CJ: Man, we have a lot of in uences. Ever since Napster, I’ve never had any boundaries in what genre of music moves me. Hip-hop, funk, ska, punk, jazz, soul, and bluegrass - really anything that’s original, and by original I mean whatever’s not a rip-o of something else.
AU: You guys sport a three-piece horn-section. How important is this to your sound?
CJ: The horn section takes our energy to a whole new level, not just with our sound projected on the audience but on each other as well. We get amped-up quick.
AU: What’s it like being a part of Victoria’s historic ska, punk, and reggae scene?
CJ: Victoria’s ska scene and music scene in general is so supportive of new talent. I love it. I love the bands in this town and all the people that come out to move their feet.
4 read absoluteunderground.ca watch absoluteunderground.tv
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AU: What’s the origin of the name, Sweet Leaf? Do you guys like tea, or is that in reference to... something else?
CJ: Oh yeah, we’re all avid tea drinkers, especially [bassist] Zack, who came up with the name. I think he was drinking an herbal vanilla-spiced matcha rooibos latte while listening to some 70s metal band when the name struck him. With a surprisingly strong bong toke from some bottom- of-the-bag schwag, he looked up and said, “Whoa, that’s some sweet leaf.”
AU: Yeah, I can buy that story. Anyway, I’ve seen you guys live and it’s shit-loads of fun. How would you describe the importance of a good live show?
CJ: Man, now that the days of making money from recordings are over, a live show is a band’s bread-and-butter. No matter how big of a room or
how many people are in it, you have to give them every bit of your love and energy. We’ve been writing lately to keep our performance pedal-to- the-metal without letting up for our entire set. No matter what slot we’re playing or [the] quality of the accompanying acts, we are going to strive to steal the show. We want to be the ones you leave talking about, waiting for our next show. Anything less sends me back to the drawing board.
Check out Sweet Leaf Feb.9th at The Reef restaurant for Bob Marley’s Birthday Bashment. And for more information, you can check out Sweet Leaf online at sweetleafmusic.com and facebook.com/sweetleafmusic.
Michael Luis is a writing/journalism major at the University of Victoria. To hear him complain about pop-music and football, you can follow him on twitter: @MichaelACLuis. - Absolute Underground

"“Living the Sweet Life“"

The members of Sweet Leaf have been jamming together for a while, but they only recently recorded their first album Stress Leave earlier this year.

“We rented some office space in Esquimalt and sound proofed it then just party and record, party and record, lather and repeat, you know?” says Chris Jones, guitar and vocalist.

Victoria-based Sweet Leaf includes Zak Knippel on bass, Mike Luis on drums, Spencer Lee on trombone, Jason Ramalho on sax, Nick Brandle on percussion and backing vocals, Tyson Crabb on trumpet and Nick Taylor on backup vocals.

“We could have another if the keyboard player ever showed up,” deadpans Jones.

Knippel and Ramalho started the band some four years ago and Jones joined after answering an online ad.

They’ve lasted through five drummers and Taylor was added after the album was recorded to help fill out their sound, says Jones.

Band members’ musical interests vary from metal to punk and reggae and some of the guys are “not into ska” at all, but they play like they love it.

“Victoria has a good scene. People come out and skank it up at a ska show,” says Jones.

The Sweet Leaf sound is not straight up ska, he adds. “We cross a bunch of different barriers. We’re not just ska or ska influenced. We rock, reggae, we play funk too. We play some pretty funky riffs and genres will change in the middle of a song. There’s hip hop influence in some beats, jazz.”

This is the third year in a row Sweet Leaf will hit the stage at the Ska and Reggae Festival which runs July 1 to 5 at a variety of locations.

“It’s super fun. And we get to play with some of our favourite ska bands – that’s kinda why we do it. You don’t make a lot of money as a band but the payoff is meeting these super talented and influential artists.”

Sweet Leaf plays at Sugar Nightclub July 1. See the full Ska and Reggae Festival lineup at victoriaskafest.ca - Monday Magazine


Stress Leave - Debut album released June 2015



Victoria’s SweetLeaf formed in November 2011 when singer-guitarist Chris Jones responded to an online ad looking for a singer/guitarist for a ska/funk/reggae band. “Victoria's ska scene and music scene in general is so supportive of new talent,” says Jones. “I love the bands in this town and all the people that come out to move their feet.” After six months of rehearsals, SweetLeaf made its debut at an underground warehouse show. Since then, the group has honed their live performances to be sharp and energetic. 

A SweetLeaf show is not just a concert, but a damn party. Songs with catchy singalong choruses and ripping horn solos are regularly accompanied by chugged beers, removed shirts, and occasionally even a drunk friend crowd-surfing in a unicorn onesie.   
The Island-bred crew have proven themselves to be a crown jewel in Victoria’s famous ska/reggae scene, frequently packing local venues and performing regularly at the annual Victoria Ska & Reggae Festival. The group have recently released off their debut full-length LP “Stress Leave”. Hard at work over the last year, the group self-recorded the tracks at their own SweetLeaf Studio. Listeners can expect a refined take on SweetLeaf’s trademark devilish mix of ska, reggae, funk and rock with the songs retaining all the wild energy of a live show.      

SweetLeaf have had the great pleasure of sharing the stage with many of the hottest bands in the ska genre such as The Aggrolites, The Slackers, Mad Caddies, illScarlett, The Debonaires, and Lynval Golding of The Specials. The band has also had a few opportunities to break outside of their usual Victoria market, making multiple stops in Nanaimo, Sooke, Kelowna, the Gulf Islands and Vancouver over the past two years. 

Band Members