Since the late ‘90s, the Los Angeles-based Bargain Music has been known for two main things: (1) their penchant for quirky, eccentric, humorous lyrics, and (2) their musical eclecticism. Musically, Bargain Music is all over the place. Their material is essentially alternative rock, but the Southern Californians will—depending on their mood—incorporate anything from reggae, hip-hop, funk or soul to heavy metal or punk. On occasion, Bargain Music even incorporates country; some of their songs have been relevant to the alternative country/No Depression scene (including “Hell No” and “Drinking with Trey”.) But more often than not, their work tends to be on the funky side, and the valid comparisons range from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Living Colour, Primus, 24-7 Spyz, Prince and Rick James to Peter Tosh and Lee “Scratch” Perry. Some observers have found it strange that a band that has been influenced by reggae, funk, soul and hip-hop would also be influenced by country, but lead singer/keyboardist Josh Fischel sees it as perfectly natural. In a 2000 interview, Fischel outlined some parallels between reggae, hip-hop and country and asserted that all three of them are “musics created by economically depressed people.”Bargain Music was formed in 1997 in Long Beach, CA, the L.A. suburb that has given us everyone from gangsta rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg to Mexican-American banda star Jenni Rivera to Sublime—a well known, ska-friendly alternative rock band that Bargain Music has often been compared to. However, Fischel has been quick to stress that Bargain Music and Sublime are two very different-sounding bands. Fischel formed Bargain Music with his friend Sean Whisner, and the artists they recruited in the late ‘90s included bassist Jeff Ward, guitarist Trey Pangborn, singer/rapper Skeleton Man and trumpeter Dave Williams (among others). By the end of 1998, Bargain Music was circulating their demo cassette Feelin It (Rough Mixes), which is also known as The Green Tape. After that, they hired bassist Mike Watt (of Minutemen and Firehouse fame) to produce their first official album 77 003, which was released by the Washington, DC-based Beatville Records in 2000. The following year, Beatville put out Cook the Beans, an album that ranged from new songs to previously unreleased and remixed material. Along the way, Bargain Music have been through more than their share of lineup changes. Williams left the band in 2000, as did Skeleton Man. 2001 found Pangborn taking off as well, and eventually, Zach “Zippy” Goodin became the band’s guitarist. Then, in 2002, Ward announced his departure, and he was replaced by Matt Brein. Fischel, Brein and Goodin are the main participants on The Magic Is Over, which Beatville released in 2003.
– Alex Henderson