Behind the Band: Spam Allstars
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|Spam Allstars founder Andrew Yeomanson, aka DJ Le Spam, in creative mode at his North Miami studio, City of Progress|
More common was the experience of majorlabel Miami acts like Arlan, Big, Mary Karlzen, Nil Lara (in whose band Yeomanson played guitar), Locos Por Juana, Jorge Moreno and JD Natasha. Though many of those names would likely draw a blank from anyone under 30, each had their own moment of hometown hero status before stalling out on the national level.
No doubt chastened by witnessing Lara’s “next big thing” experience, Yeomanson says he was unsure of just what the machinery of a major label could actually do for Spam Allstars: “We don’t write pop songs. We’re a mostly instrumental band…. You’re never going to turn on the radio and hear our music.”
True, Top 40 radio programmers may scratch their heads. And with the industry at large in free fall, major-label marketing muscle seems shakier than ever. But Madison Avenue now has little qualm about sidestepping the traditional gatekeepers. Buzz may not sell CDs, but it does land advertising accounts: Over the past decade, Spam Allstars have licensed their music to everyone from the Miami Heat to Mercedes- Benz. And while they still perform regularly at their old Hoy Como Ayer stomping grounds in “We don’t write pop songs. We’re a mostly instrumental band.... You’re never going to turn on the radio and hear our music.” Yeomanson proudly presides over his beyondimpressive vinyl collection. Spam Allstars perform live at Carnaval on the Mile in Coral Gables. Little Havana, they’ve also appeared on MTV as hitmaker Daddy Yankee’s band, as well as alongside James Brown saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis at New York City’s august Lincoln Center. It’s hard to imagine what doors a major label could’ve opened that Yeomanson wasn’t able to kick down himself. That’s all in addition to becoming an in-demand wedding band, playing innumerable corporate events and, for one memorable night in Deerfield Beach, serving as the dance floor soundtrack for a national gathering of reform rabbis (“We worked up a version of ‘Hava Nagila’”).
“There aren’t too many other bands that can say they’ve played 2,000 gigs. I’m proud of that,” Yeomanson adds. As for the future, he’s looking forward to more recording projects at City of Progress, like his recent score for the documentary film Square Grouper, as well as sessions with local funk outfits Fusik and Ketchy Shuby—whose presence seems to have rubbed off on Spam Allstars. The new CD, forthcoming this fall, features plenty of thick organ-based grooves, as well as some truly wigged-out and overdriven guitar work. And there’s always the next gig.
“I don’t know if I can be a 50-year-old guy on the sampler,” he quips. “But it’s become such a part of my life, performing for people. There are plenty of things about the business that frustrate me. But I’m still incredibly fortunate. Just the fact that I can think about nothing but music all day long is tremendous.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY JIIM ARBOGAST
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.