The Slackers from New York City have a San Diego connection: meet David Hillyard, the band’s sax player. Now 45, he was born here and raised in a neighborhood in the northern part of La Jolla. “I saw English Beat at the Del Mar Fairgrounds back when ‘Save It for Later’ was a hit. I’ll venture that was, what, 1983? Hearing the sax on the Beat excited me. My parents bought me a second-hand alto sax, and I went to work on it.” Hillyard studied saxophone briefly at La Jolla Music. “I had one lesson with Joe Marillo, and I remember he wasn’t too pleased with my playing.”
"My Bed Is a Boat"
The Slackers video of the title track off of their latest EP.
By the time Hillyard was 17, he was playing with the Donkey Show, which led to a gig with Hepcat, one of the biggest ska acts of the '90s. He lived in Los Angeles then and went to UCLA. “L.A. was a bigger pond, a place to test myself in a bigger setting. San Diego was a tough town to get gigs for an original-music band like the Donkey Show. It’s a cover-band town.” In 1992, Hillyard moved to Brooklyn.
Cathartic is a word that has been used to describe the Slackers’ live shows, of which they do at least 100 per year. Their sound is trombone-and-sax-driven and rich with cross-beat rhythms. There’s ska, reggae, soul, and rock set to fairly low-fi issues: “Every day is Sunday,” Vic Ruggiero sings, “when you’re unemployed.” The water in New York is even deeper, says Hillyard, who now lives closer to Manhattan. “There’s hundreds of sax players here, and they can slap you around if they want to.” He says he’s looking forward to playing North Park and hitting up a Mexican eatery. “The one thing — aside from family and friends — that I miss about San Diego, is a carne asada burrito.”