Artist in the office: Skinny and the Chubbies

It’s a question they’ve gotten more than once: Which one of them is the skinny one? Aren’t they all skinny? 

The members of the four-person band that has been seen around the Tampa Bay area performing all appear to be skinny: lead vocalist Josiah Speed, 20, his brother Daniel Speed, 18, bassist Jared Hanlon, 18, and drummer Gabriel Martinez.

They tell people to try not to think too hard about their name. 

They came up with it as a joke one day when they were jamming, and Josiah was wearing a pair of Chubbies shorts. They all were pretty skinny, so they came up with “Skinny and the Chubbies.”

They later tried to change their name because they didn’t want to be limited to having to wear Chubbies every time they performed, but by that point they had established something of a fan base, and their fans didn’t like the idea of changing their name. 

The band members first met each other through church. Martinez was drumming for a worship group when his pastor introduced him to Jared Hanlon, who played bass.

Martinez’s band’s bass player asked Hanlon if he could “bring the funk.”

He said he could and Hanlon introduced Martinez to the Speeds. From there, they bonded over Frisbee and music, writing a song the first time they hung out. 

Their sound, they said, is hard to describe, but their influence comes from plenty of places. 

Josiah said unlike many artists, he didn’t play covers or learn to emulate other artists’ styles.

“I can’t play a song by another band,” he said. “I’ve just never done it. I always just make my own songs. That’s good, but the problem is I can’t take and pull from the really good songs and change them. …I’m not wanting to take stuff from them necessarily, but I want to kind of have an electronic vibe like Passion Pit has, yet I kind of want to have a stronger vocal like Young the Giant.”

When they describe their sound while pitching to venues they try to avoid casting themselves into a particular genre. 

“Normally, we give them a couple of artists,” Josiah said. “We’ll say “kind of like – but not really.” 

Daniel said the group’s flexibility allows its music to take on a wide range of sounds.

“We want to take a bunch of different genres and bunch them up together,” he said. “It’s something I like about our band. We’re always trying to do something different, not trying to regulate ourselves to the same style or same repetitive type of music. “

Their process is quite collaborative, they said.  Josiah does much of the writing, Daniel also writes sometimes and Martinez and Hanlon write the music. They record and practice in a studio built out of the Speeds’ home. They consider themselves perfectionists. They’re working on releasing an LP but want to make sure their first album is exactly how they want it. 

A year ago, Daniel and Josiah began working on a piece called “Life is a Ferris Wheel.”

“We wrote the chorus at least six months ago, and we still can’t figure out the ending for it,” Daniel said. “It’s very poetic. We don’t want to just throw something in and ruin it, when it could be really, really good.” 

Recently, Josiah wrote a song and showed it to Daniel. 

“It’s a little  -,” Josiah started.

“John Mayer? ” his brother cut in. 

“No, not John Mayer! Almost blues … kind of Michael Buble-ish. Smooth.” 

“I don’t know that something like that would ever fit our band, but that’s how I write,” he explained. “I don’t write country or rap though.”

“Yeah, we don’t mess with that,” Daniel added.

But they have ventured outside their comfort zone. When they started taking gigs, they took what they could get, they said – including a biker bar.

“There was so much awkward tension, it was fun,” Josiah said. “All the other bands were like Led Zeppelin cover bands, and then there was us. … The band before us had this guy who looked like a blond Slash. And then there was us. (Daniel) was playing piano, and he started playing “Piano Man” at one point, and they were looking at us like, ‘What is this?'”

“It wasn’t so much awkward for them as it was for us,” Martinez said. 

Now, Josiah said, they have the luxury of turning down some gigs because Hanlon, who has unofficially become their manager, has been able to secure several. 

“If it wasn’t for him we’d probably be playing at coffee shops on Friday nights,” he said. “And probably not even that.” 

On Monday, they will open for Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas at the Local 662 in St. Pete, and in January they will play at the Horizon Music Festival in Lakeland.