"Skabout" -- The Tom McGees Fight For Their Right to Move Forward in 2013

Photo: Greg McGowan

The Tom McGees (L-R: Bill Hairston, Chris Woodall, Ross Anderson, Michael Withrow, David Scarpelli, Adam Dittebrand, Bob Chapman, John Skaggs, Christopher Itson) get into the Christmas spirit by giving away a few of their favorite covers, and look forward to recording and touring in the new year with bigger guitars, and less tom.

Reposted from The Huntington Herald-Dispatch

Nobody is breaking any news by stating that ska, specifically, and punk rock in general, is, for some, kind of fun to listen to. And if you asked the guys in The Tom McGees, they’d probably tell you 2012 was equal parts hard work and fun. Maybe more fun.

The Charleston ska band, formed in 2011, hugely influenced by their friends and progenitors in 69 Fingers, released its debut full-length, This Just In, this summer, and enjoyed a show-per-day, two-week tour of the southeast U.S. in October.

The Tom McGees perform at the V Club Friday with Farnsworth and Mad Anthony, and will play The Empty Glass’ Christmas night party with their friends in Dinosaur Burps.

A few members of the eight-piece unit gathered at the McGees’ rehearsal spot down the hall from Charleston’s Cerberus Studios to talk about 2012 and their resolution to rock harder, with a bigger sound, and a smaller name, in 2013.

Born out of the nucleus of longtime friends, singer-guitarist Michael Withrow, and singer Adam Dittebrand, Dittebrand said his collaboration with Withrow is years in the making and almost a likely outgrowth from 69 Fingers.

“I remember Mike -- I was in high school when Mike was in junior high -- he would come to all the 69 Fingers shows, know all the words, and be right up front,” Dittebrand recalled. “We always talked about playing music together, even back then.”

“We’ve known each other since we were little,” Withrow added, casually patrolling the room with Banks, his six-month old chocolate lab and honorary McGee. “Adam, [drummer] Ross [Anderson] and I went to elementary school together.” Each of them at one point were in 69 Fingers.

“And eventually [Withrow] ended up a member of 69 Fingers, too,” Dittebrand said, continuing. “But I hadn’t played music for a long time, and we started playing acoustic shows together, just playing some of the old stuff, and covers we know.

“It was so much fun, we were like ‘Well, we know more people that play music, let’s form a real band.’ And we took some of those songs we’d written and turned them into the ska songs we play now.”

Anderson, who helped his cousin Withrow found the Charleston punk band The Concept, said the McGees are all about fun, friends and rocking out.

“It’s really good, it just works out,” the drummer said. “We have a ton of chemistry, and we all get along really well. It’s like you’re not just playing music with anybody, you’re playing music with your best friends.”

The band’s tour of the southeast back in October was super fun, they said, giving the guys a chance to frolic on the beach and make new fans.

“We played in Brunswick, Georgia, just above Jacksonville, and we’d never played there. There were a ton of people there to see us,” Withrow said. “They had us come back like a month later, and there were a bunch of people there. It’s cool when so many people in other places are that excited to see you.”

“It’s cool to see the reactions, too, from the new fans,” Dittebrand said. “And these are people who never heard your music, or are hearing it for the first time.”

Dittebrand described one instance of the McGees getting love down south.

“When we went back to Brunswick, one of the places we played on the tour, they had us come back and they put us up in a condo, and we were able to take our girlfriends and wives with us. It was awesome; we had a nice big suite.”

“It’s neat to go back to some of these places,” recently recruited bassist Bob Chapman said. “There’s almost like an extended family in some of these places where they look forward to seeing you.”

Withrow said the band made money, sold a lot of merch and saw some sights. Some sights were hilarious, like the drunk guy open mic fail in Marietta, Georgia, some were less funny.

“We played a show in Charlotte, just a huge crowd; a big punk rock show,” Withrow said. “After it was over, there was this huge riot, and this fight in the parking lot where we were loading up.”

“It was kind of like Juggalos, if you’ve ever seen them,” new trombone guy John Skaggs added, describing those involved.

“Yeah, it was crazy,” Withrow added as if in awe of the sight. “Some girl got knocked out by a dude. But every show was great. I would say out of all the tours I’ve done, it was the best structured, we had the best responses, the best shows, we met all kinds of people and had a blast.”

For the holidays, keeping in their tradition of having fun playing covers, the McGees are releasing a few of their favorites, “Walking on Sunshine” and “Country Roads,” as a gift to their fans.

“We played ‘Walking On Sunshine’ a long time ago in 69 Fingers,” Anderson said with a smile. “And we played ‘Country Roads’ in The Concept,” Withrow added, “but we took it and re-wrote it, and made it our version.”

The band has been writing a new EP and will record that soon. Withrow described the direction the band hopes to take with the new material.

“A lot of the new stuff that I’m writing, we want to use two guitarists, to thicken everything up, so I can do a lot of lead work and just make the songs a little better,” he said. “We’re going to try to be going for a different sound.”

With plans to record with friend Greg McGowan of Charleston’s Time & Distance, Withrow said as the band moves forward he and the other guys are taking the McGees a little more seriously than at first. 

“We actually have been approaching it way more seriously. Now, this is what we do,” he said with an almost defiant emphasis. Effective January 1, they’ll just be The McGees, dropping any reference to any specific, maybe awesome, former television news anchor.

For Dittebrand, sharing the fun of their music with friends, fans, and family members young and old, is what it’s all about for him.

“My wife is super supportive of me, and my efforts. The kids are into the band, too. Sometimes they put their fingers in their ears if it’s too loud,” he said laughing hard. “It’s just been amazing to see how far we’ve come from where we were,” he added.

Now, kids just might be down in front at a McGees show, singing along with Withrow and Dittebrand and the rest of the guys.

“There was actually this kid at one show, his mom and dad had brought him, and they loved it,” Withrow said, recalling maybe his favorite moment of the tour.

“So, they got a new dog, and they named the dog McGee.”

The Tom McGees w/Farnsworth, Mad Anthony
WHEN: 10 p.m., Friday, Dec. 21
WHERE: The V Club, 741 6th Ave. (304) 781-0680 COST: $5
INFO: www.vclublive.com

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