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Englishman Robert "Bucket" Hingley relocated to New York City in 1980, where he managed that city's Forbidden Planet comic book store location, and formed The Toasters in 1981 after seeing The Beat perform at the Roseland Ballroom. The group's first live show was supporting Bad Brains at A7 in 1981. One of the original third-wave ska bands, the early lineup of the band included other employees of the store. The group self-released their first single, Beat Up, in 1983. They recorded their Joe Jackson-produced debut EP,Recriminations, in 1985 and after failing to find a label to release it, Hingley formed his own Moon Ska Records label. The group collaborated further with Jackson, whom Hingley had known since 1978 and who appeared under the pseudonym Stanley Turpentine, on later albums and in live shows. The group expanded with the addition of a brass section, and their first full-length album, Skaboom!, was released in 1987.
Hingley has been the only constant member in the band. While the band's lineup has seen many changes, regular contributors included Coolie Ranx (vocals), Matt Malles (bass), Dave Barry (keyboards), Johnnathan McCain (drums), Freddie Reiter (saxophone), Brian Sledge (trumpet), and Rick "Chunk" Faulkner and Erick "E-Man" Storckman (both trombone). Veteran Jamaican saxophonist Lester Sterling also made several guest appearances. Deejay Andrew "Jack Ruby Jr." Lindo, son of Jamaican producer Jack Ruby was also a long-time member. Reiter joined after playing in The New York Citizens, who had supported The Toasters on tour. Trombonist Buford O'Sullivan joined around 2000 after leaving The Scofflaws. Faulkner and Reiter went on to form the New York Ska Jazz Ensemble.
The Toasters experienced a small degree of commercial success in the late 1990s due to the popularity of third wave ska in North America. Their song "Two-Tone Army" is also the theme song for the Nickelodeon show KaBlam! (performed by the 'Moon Ska Stompers' - members of the Toasters and friends) plus "Everything You Said Has Been A Lie" was used for the end credits during its 2-4 seasons.  and they recorded background music in many TV commercials, including for America Online and Coca-Cola. Their song "Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down" appeared in the pilot episode of the animated series Mission Hill. In 1998 they were part of the 'Ska Against Racism' tour, along with The Blue Meanies, Five Iron Frenzy, and Less Than Jake. Moon Ska Records collapsed, and since 2004 Hingley has been based in Valencia, Spain; He started the Megalith label which has since been the band's home. They still perform around the world, and in 2007 they celebrated their 25th Anniversary with a new studio album, One More Bullet. In 2011 they undertook a 30th anniversary world tour.