From somewhere deep within the hydrogen-rich nebula, NGC 2174, a new take on high-powered, horn-driven rock has emerged: Space Monkey Mafia. Founded in 2016, the six-piece band is rooted in the best parts of 90s/00s ska and punk, infused with a healthy dose of contemporary influence, and combined with a lyrical urgency and message to meet the moment.
In the time of social media campaigns and playlist placements, Space Monkey Mafia gained their fanbase the old-fashioned way - by winning them over one show at a time. Quickly earning a reputation for their energetic and danceable live performances, the band showed an immediate eagerness to get in the van and bring their music to as many ears as possible. Logging over 250 shows in 20 states in their first few years of existence, the band worked every mid-size city, festival, and college town they could find within a 7-hour radius of the Twin Cities. Space Monkey Mafia’s first album, Sorry For Your Time arrived in March 2018 and that fall the band took their first foray out to the West Coast. The band followed it up with 2019’s Captain Crook EP, which featured songwriting contributions from every member.
After hunkering down during the pandemic, the band returned with a vengeance in summer 2021, selling out their first show back. 2022 saw the release of Space Monkey Mafia’s second album Banned From California via Snowglobe Records, which the band followed up with a tour of the Midwest and Rocky Mountains. With the next batch of anti-establishment anthems and self-care bangers already being compiled, Space Monkey Mafia looks to the horizon, ready to keep audiences skanking and hollering for years to come.
Frontman Dante Leyva is a captivating force. The lovable Dantorius (that’s what his friends call him (ok not really)) never fails in getting the crowd moving, even if that means jumping onto the dance floor mid-sax solo and bringing the party straight to the audience. While it may not be evident given his powerful stage presence, intense vocal power, and politically charged rants, Dante is a gentle soul at heart. Mutual aid and community service are some of Dante’s top priorities in everyday life, right behind his most important priority, self-care. These values are central in Dante’s original song “Go to Therapy”, a passionate ballad emphasizing the importance of mental health and learning to love yourself before you can love others.
Hailing from South Minneapolis, saxophonist and vocalist Tim Kingstrom has been involved in the Twin Cities music scene since the young age of 14. He cut his teeth at all ages ska and punk shows in his teens, later honing his performance chops at Normandale College and then University of Maine at Augusta. Tim has performed with a diverse array of local acts including Mae Simpson, New Reb, Megan Hamilton, and Rolling Stoners, in addition to countless others. Tim’s original songs reflect strong emotional origins whether it be hardcore rage against the political establishment (Oligarchy, Planet B) or heartfelt nostalgia about the best days of our lives (This is We, One More Song).
Sam Charlton began playing with the Space Monkey Mafia crew after moving to Minneapolis in order to complete a Master’s Degree in Music at the University of Minnesota. Inspired by the sounds of classic R&B records, Sam’s trombone playing contributes a unique sonic edge to the band. Prior to his work with Space Monkey Mafia, Sam played trombone with the Oklahoma City ska/punk band, LFNC. Sam first crossed paths with SMM in 2018 while on tour with Texas ska band Flip and the Combined Effort, sharing a bill in Madison, Wisconsin. Off-stage, this red-dirt cowboy enjoys playing banjo, advocating for the legalization of mids, and spending time with his wife.
Joe Barron is the glue that holds Space Monkey Mafia together. From the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire, Joe moved to the Twin Cities aiming, by way of his ass-kicking bass lines, to become the greatest bass maestro in the music industry. Joe claims influences from a range of musical traditions, from jazz and bluegrass to funk and blues, though he will always be a punk rocker at heart. A lifetime of trials and tribulations is thoughtfully expressed through Joe’s original lyrics and melodies, instilling a wistful yet optimistic sense of reflection (Unexpected Places, AM/PM, Anarcho Busline). If there’s one thing to be said about Joe’s original songs, they undeniably come from the heart. And he is never going home.
Fresh off the beaches of Florida’s Space Coast, founding member Blake Foster is on a mission to bring cosmic primate crime-family themed ska/punk to a dance floor near you. Blake’s musical influences are as diverse and varied as the stars, but his greatest influence is his mentor, the late Paul Chapman of English hard rock band, UFO. Blake found his way to the Twin Cities in 2012 to continue studying the craft of guitar-playing and it was here that he would work in forming an early version of the band including classmate Joe Barron. Blake’s original songs showcase his passion for ska, punk, and metal music, fusing hard-hitting horn lines with face-melting guitar solos.
Eric Stuber was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He discovered the drums at age 10 and has played in garage bands, jazz bands, and drumlines ever since, touring much of the United States as well as Europe. He studied music at San Jose State University and holds a Bachelor’s degree with a concentration in Jazz Studies. But he is not just a jazz drummer. With many influences within the punk and ska genres, his most notable influence is the playing style of Travis Barker, which is evident if you listen for a few seconds.
In 2017, Eric emigrated with his wife Melanie to pursue affordable housing. He connected with Space Monkey Mafia in the spring of 2021 while the band was in search of a new drummer. Eric’s intricate and energetic playing style quickly proved to be a good fit for the band. When he’s not rippin’ on the drums, you can find him raising the next generation of musicians, aka the Stuber children. And no, he has never surfed a day in his life.