Originally formed in Omaha, Neb. in 1994, the Bishops brought island-inspired grooves to an essay writing unlikely music scene. Influences at the time came from the Maytals and the Ethiopians--traditional Jamaican reggae and rocksteady groups--as well as more contemporary, domestic ska punk acts like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
Five years after its founding, the group split. The Bishops were on hiatus until 2008 when they rejoined, along with members of fellow Omaha band Soul Plexus. Today, the band's sound is a meld of world music flavors that has expanded to include bossa nova and jazz rhythms. Familiar instrumentation from guitar, drums and keys are joined with a horn section including saxophone, trumpet and trombone. Members Mike Bechtel, John Green and Ira Hughey provide vocals.
Original songs include instrumentals with famous names, as was the tradition of older Jamaican artists. Two such tracks include "Louis Farrakhan," named after the leader of the Nation of Islam, and "Gilbert Gottfried," named after the comedian who was once the voice of the Aflac duck. Only a ska band from Omaha would do both.
But despite branching out musically and being from the same town that brought us the reggae-influenced rap-rockers 311, authenticity shines through in the Bishops' music. In 2012, the Bishops were named the "best ethnic" band by the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards. The group's first full album, "Time To Move," will be released this month. Back and better than ever, it looks like the Bishops are making moves.