top of page
  • Writer's pictureBandifesto

Florida musician and organizer JER is an essential new voice of ska’s next generation

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

By Ida V. Eskamani


"There's people who rely on us not doing anything to keep their power ... you have everything to lose if you're not taking a chance."

photo by Rae Mystic Productions

JER — musician, composer, teacher and official Chief Executive Officer of Ska — is back in Gainesville after touring for seven straight weeks. The handful of days around the artist's interview with Orlando Weekly are a rare opportunity for JER to decompress before their current run of Florida shows (including a headlining show at Conduit on Sunday, July 30) and new projects kick off ... and marching band season begins. Marching band has been a part of JER's musical career since high school, and for the better part of the last decade they've been teaching professional marching band and drum corps.


When you have a conversation with JER, it becomes abundantly clear that this human is abundant. "If you do nothing," they say, "then you guarantee that you're not going to move forward."

"There's people who rely on us not doing anything to keep their power ... you have everything to lose if you're not taking a chance." JER — musician, composer, teacher and official Chief Executive Officer of Ska — is back in Gainesville after touring for seven straight weeks. The handful of days around the artist's interview with Orlando Weekly are a rare opportunity for JER to decompress before their current run of Florida shows (including a headlining show at Conduit on Sunday, July 30) and new projects kick off ... and marching band season begins. Marching band has been a part of JER's musical career since high school, and for the better part of the last decade they've been teaching professional marching band and drum corps. When you have a conversation with JER, it becomes abundantly clear that this human is abundant. "If you do nothing," they say, "then you guarantee that you're not going to move forward."

They are a sage in the ska scene, with a deep understanding of the foundations of the music they play and a talented musician with the ability to play just about any instrument in front of them. They've released solo music (debut album BOTHERED / UNBOTHERED out just last year on Bad Time Records) and are a member of ska-punks We Are the Union and collaborator on countless projects. They are a studied composer, teacher, freelancer and organizer, internationally known as the founder and creator of Skatune Network, a successful Youtube and TikTok channel with over 200,000 subscribers and millions of views.

The channel's ska covers, crafted by JER in their home studio, have played a big part in ska's most recent revival.

JER never predicted their place in ska's present or future. "I would have never made a bet that I would have become a ska influencer, what I was gonna do with my life. Even if you asked me when I formed Skatune Network, I didn't think it was gonna become a thing that would actually be a main part of my life," says JER.

JER's own ska journey started here in the Sunshine State. They are (we are proud to say) a Floridian, born and raised in Broward County. " I am definitely a Florida stan. A lot of people hate Florida, and I'm not one of those people."

It was in middle school that JER discovered ska. "I didn't know exactly what type of music I wanted to listen to, but I knew that I liked music from the Digimon movie, which is one of my favorite movies as a kid. And there was ska music in that movie." In high school, JER's marching bandmates introduced them to Asian Man Records, the prolific DIY record label founded by ska stalwart Mike Park, which introduced the young musician to the likes of Skankin' Pickle, the Aquabats and Streetlight Manifesto. JER would go on to study music composition for film, television and video games; the rest is history in the making.

JER could live anywhere, but they continue to call Florida home. "It's a very special place... Florida is a place where people are just truly from across the board, it really is really hard to kind of be in your own little bubble."


"When you talk to the average person, people have this idea of how Floridians are. They think everyone's racist, and everyone's horrible," says JER. "That's really not the representation of the state at all. You know, it just sucks that we have a leader and very few people from the state that make everyone think everyone's like that."


JER does not shy away from speaking unapologetically about their values. Their debut album BOTHERED / UNBOTHERED is evidence of that. Sonically, it's a solid ska album, but it also speaks to JER's diverse musical influences: There are hints of Afrobeat, hip-hop and punk mixed into an album about embracing the reality of a world on fire and the necessity to protect your peace and your people as you face the flames.


In addition to ska fans and music journalists, the record caught the attention of international progressive news network Democracy Now!, and led to a collaboration with Starbucks Workers United, the worker-led effort to unionize Starbucks.

JER is an artist who is always organizing, eager to leverage their platform for the greater good. Right before our interview, they were on the phone with Raise Up the South, dreaming up their next project.


A former Waffle House employee, JER saw on social media that the Union of Southern Service Workers was organizing Waffle House employees and wanted to help. "I just messaged them on Instagram and I was like, 'Hi, I just did this with the Starbucks Workers Union. And I want to help you and use my platform to aid towards this fight.'"


Pick it up, pick it up, but don't you dare cross a picket line.


____________





Ida is an Iranian-American from Florida who grew up with the Beatles, and came of age in the pit. She will talk to you about music for as long as you will pretend to listen. She is founder of Bandifesto, a little blog with a big heart.

0 comments

Comments


bottom of page