The fans were crushed. In 2000, HEPCAT, widely considered the premiere ska/rocksteady band in America, suddenly disbanded only weeks before the release of their latest record. There was no explanation. Just like that, 11 years of making music together came to a standstill. Then, after three years of silence in response to the pleas of fans and well after most had given up hope, readers thumbing through the LA Weekly came face to face with a huge, black-and-white smoking cat on a page that declared: “Hepcat Live at the House of Blues, 7/16/03.” That night, with an explosion of cheers from the crowd, Hepcat was back.
Hepcat was formed in 1989 by vocalist Greg Lee and vocalist/keyboardist Deston Berry, two unassuming reggae aficionados with modest aspirations. Their first album, Out of Nowhere (Moon Records, 1993), instantly became a classic ska record. Tours of North America and Europe solidified Hepcat’s reputation on the international ska/reggae scene. Their second album, Scientific (BYO Records, 1996), drew further praise.
Their third album, Right On Time, was released in 1998 on Hellcat/ Epitaph Records. Co-produced by Stoker (the drummer for General Public and Dexy’s Midnight Runners and the producer of The Specials and Dance Hall Crashers), Right On Time became their most successful album to date, both in terms of sales and critical acclaim. In the fall of 1999, the group began recording Push N Shove.
As the Hepcat sound evolved, work of mouth spread quickly, and the band’s performances began attracting a more diverse audience. Rastas, skate punks, swingers, rude boys, mods, and latin jazz fans are among those who unite to savor Hepcat’s sunny Caribbean melodies, soulful harmonies, and swing-inflected rhythms.
Out of Nowhere, which had been out of print for years, was re-released in 2004.