Sleeping Dogs are a spin-off group of Southern California ska punk mainstays WANK, with both groups led by bassist and vocalist Bobby Amodeo. WANK have been active recently, having released a feel-good single called “Blue Skies” and a full-length White Knuckle Ride in 2020, though they’re currently on hiatus. Sleeping Dogs’ sound isn’t significantly different from WANK, which makes sense considering the two bands share four members. Today we’re premiering the new video for their debut song “No Mercy,” which will be released on their upcoming EP that will be out in November.
For Sleeping Dogs, Amodeo is joined by his WANK bandmates Danny Walker, Higgins X-13 (who counts touring guitarist for The Offspring among his credentials) and Spider (who is Amodeo’s brother). The main difference between Sleeping Dogs and WANK is the inclusion of George Hughes, Jr. as an official member. Hughes, Jr. is also the keyboardist for reggae legend Ziggy Marley. “He brings so much to our songs, creatively, musically, and vibe-wise, that we asked him to join the band,” said Walker. “George makes us better–plain and simple.”
“No Mercy” is laid-back mid-tempo ska at its best, led by a slinky guitar lead from Walker. The upstrokes are never in much of a hurry, laying down an almost-funky groove for Amodeo’s to deliver the song’s message.
“‘No Mercy’ is about frustration and wanting revenge,” said Walker. “Remember the cartoon with the Devil on one shoulder and the Angel on the other, trying to persuade the person to do their evil or good deed? Well, this is the Devil talking smack to the Angel and the person. After all, we are just vessels, here for a while, to do good and evil.”
Like many videos shot during the pandemic, the clip for “No Mercy” is relatively simple. The band performs the song on an empty soundstage in matching outfits, including the opening sequence with the members in matching powder-blue suits. “I said ‘NO – absolutely not!’ I will never wear a light blue suit in a rock video as long as I live!” said Higgins X-13. Spoiler alert: he does.
WANK’s story is one of the boom and bust of major labels dipping into the local scene. When Mike Ness of Social Distortion heard the band play one of their many Southern California shows, he was so impressed that he took them under his wing and eventually produced their single “Larry Brown.”
As a part of the area’s huge ska punk scene that produced hits for bands like No Doubt, Sublime, Reel Big Fish and Fishbone, WANK’s sound fit in naturally on the World Famous KROQ and eventually was picked up on the station’s regular rotation. A major label bidding war ensued and the band were picked up by Maverick Records and toured with labelmates Deftones. In a rock and roll story as old as time, the band lasted only a few years on the label as Maverick ran into financial issues and was purchased by Warner Music Group.
After the members of WANK went their separate ways, Amodeo was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent five years of chemotherapy. Now, after several decades of being unfashionable, ska is on a definite upswing – so much so that it’s fair to call this the fourth wave of ska. It’s a perfect climate for a band that should have had more success to finally get the recognition they deserve.