- Justin Long
Skumbudz has undoubtedly chosen their moniker well. The artistic ethos of the SLC reggae-rock trio is fairly well summed up in the two syllables of their band name. Of course, the "budz" part likely alludes to the band members' love for all things cannabinoid—songs like "Coffee & Kush" and "Peanut Butta" are fairly blunt in their pro-herb proselytizing. But perhaps more importantly, it tells us that they're, well, buds.
Singer-guitarist Kade Long and bassist Colin Sheffield have been hanging out since long before the formation of their current band. "Me and Kade have been friends since middle school," Sheffield says. "We did the whole growing-up thing together—skateboarding, organically raging and whatnot." The two played in several short-lived groups and jammed informally throughout their teen years, until one day in mid-2017, when Long wowed Sheffield with a song he had been writing on his own time. "I was pissed that I wasn't there for the song's creation," Sheffield recalls. "I knew then that we had to make music together."
After the two had resolved to collaborate officially, they began searching for a drummer to round out the lineup. "We had a few different people come jam with us," Long says, "but none of the drummers felt like a good fit." Finally, they found a kindred spirit in Christian Shupe, who had befriended Long and Sheffield at their day job at Sundance Ski Resort. "I got invited to a party at Kade's house, and a bunch of us ended up jamming there," Shupe recalls. Long was impressed enough to invite Shupe back around for more jamming, and Skumbudz was finally complete.
The other part of the group's name is equally fitting; the members of Skumbudz have adopted the terms "skum" and "skummy" as all-around descriptors of their music and image. When asked what exactly it means to be "skummy," Shupe laughs, explaining, "[It means] ... full of nutrients, but all of the nutrients are covered in mud. People might judge us right away and think we're scumbags, but we're OK with that." Long adds, "It's always funny to me when people underestimate us. We might get judged and stereotyped a lot with our name, or how we look and sound. But that's all right—we're just trying to write good music."
Both the band's friendship and their self-prescribed skumminess is on full display throughout their debut album, Valley Vibes. Each member brings their own musical flavors and preferences into the music to make the album a surprisingly diverse affair that feels like a true collaborative effort. "Kade brings that reggae, hip-hop, bluesy feel. Colin brings that ska-punk feel. And I bring that rock and heavy metal feel," Shupe says. "Mix all of that together, and you get Skumbudz." Indeed, while Long's blend of psychedelic, reggae and hip-hop is more or less the album's default mode. Sheffield's influence is apparent on the up-tempo rager "Chemical Release," as is Shupe's on the stomping, riff-laden "Heavy Chains."
Valley Vibes was produced by Harley Anderson, another old friend of the band. Long describes Anderson as his "musical mentor," saying, "The first band I ever played in was with Harley ... Honestly, I probably would have given up on music a long time ago if it weren't for him." Sheffield shares Long's affection for Anderson, stating, "Harley has always been an audio guru. I had a punk band in middle school, and we were the first band he ever recorded. And now, years later, he's still recording with me."
However, despite their trusted collaborator and Skumbudz's shared vision for the album, Vibes wound up suffering through a gestation period of well over a year due to some unfortunate outside circumstances. Shupe's side hustle fighting wildfires ate up most of his time over the summer months, and the band had to replace much of their equipment after it was stolen.
It finally saw an official release in August, and the band marked the occasion in grand fashion with a set at the 2019 Reggae Rise Up Festival in Heber, sharing a bill with ska and reggae lifers like Slightly Stoopid and Dispatch. "The whole thing was awesome!" Sheffield enthuses. "Slightly Stoopid is one of our favorite bands, so to perform at the same festival was an amazing opportunity." Shupe also has a particular emotional connection to that performance, where he took a moment mid-set to propose to his now-fiancée. He says, "That was life changing, and something I will always remember."
With a music video for their song "Walnut Tree" currently in the works and more live dates coming up—including a Wednesday, Dec. 4, date at Soundwell with Floridian reggae up-and-comers Kash'd Out—Skumbudz seem poised to keep rising in prominence within the Salt Lake scene, and even possibly beyond. Long says a tour is ultimately what the band is working toward, attempting to bring their eclectic brand of rock 'n' reggae to an even wider audience—and, as he puts it, "play feel-good music, and get people to open up and express themselves." As far as mission statements go, you could do a lot worse.