Fans of Ribsy’s Nickel will be surprised to hear that the longtime local reggae-rock group is a lot like costumed ’70s pop superstars KISS. But despite the fact that they sound, look and act nothing alike, Ribsy’s guitarist Jesse Corona swears it’s true.
“[Lead singer] J-Willz and I will always be Ribsy’s Nickel,” says Corona. “We’ve been through a lot of drummers and bass players. It’s like Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, they’re like the only guys still left in KISS, but they’re still KISS.”
Corona formed Ribsy’s Nickel 17 years ago, and asked J-Willz to handle vocals a few months later. Ever since, the two have been inseparable. “We finish each other’s sentences, kind of like a boyfriend and girlfriend, when you’ve been with them so long, you understand what they’re thinking. That’s how me and Willz are,” Corona says.
As J-Willz (Real name: Jason Williams) and Corona have cycled through different players, the style of the group has remained intact—a very eclectic, multi-genre sound that includes bits of punk, reggae, metal, surf, bluegrass and rock ’n’ roll.
“We play so many different kinds of music because I would get bored if I only played one style of music,” Corona says. “I consider us a product of Santa Cruz. Our influences are pretty much skateboarding and surfing.”
The group headed down to SoCal in the early 2000s to see if they could make a career out of it, but finally agreed that their home is here.
“We never stopped playing music,” Williams says. “It’s like family. We do so much stuff together. Whenever we argue, we deal with it like brothers. As long as we’re breathing, we’ll be together.”