The Aggrolites Interview with Roger Rivas
L.A. based The Aggrolites are hitting the Saranac Brewery opening for Slightly Stoopid in the coming months, and Ska/Reggae fans be damned if they miss it! A rare treat for Upstate NY, The Aggrolites plays a style of music they have dubbed “Dirty Reggae,” and the name fits like a glove.
Formed in 2002, the band has done wonders to propel reggae and ska into the modern day marketplace. Yea yea I know… Ska is dead and was never cool anyways. Go fuck yourself… These guys don’t play the “Dork in High School” card. They play funky jams for the hard partying, fun lovin’ “Don’t give a fuck” crowd, and that done well. As their song says, “Reggae Hit LA.”
Incorporating Jamaican rhythms, Ska energy, and Punk attitude, The Aggrolites’ “No Holds Barred” approach to their musical styling is something to behold. Grab a drink and try for yourself… This ain’t kid stuff. I got to correspond with organist Roger Rivas to talk about the band’s history, the Ska/Reggae scene, and hard partying.
G- What’s up and thank you for taking the time to speak with Live High Five… How’s everyone doing? Introduce everybody and tell us about “Dirty Reggae” is.
Roger here, organ player for The Aggrolites. Dirty Reggae is what we choose to call our style of music. Its pretty much a mixture of what we are influenced by. The Soul, The Funk, The Reggae!
G- You guys have been together for 10 years working really hard on your songs and touring… How did the band come about, and when did you all first get started writing together?
We all loved the same era of Reggae. We met at a recording session that was supposed to be an album for Derrick Morgan. Didn’t happen, but The Aggrolites did. We started writing original music when the album “Dirty Reggae” happened. Before that we played a handful of live shows performing old school rocksteady and reggae covers.
G- The Aggrolites have this attitude… A sort of “Yea, we play groovy, fun-time music to party to but we’ll also kick your ass if you fuck with us” kinda thing. I dig the blend of reggae/ska/punk ethos you’ve got going on…. Did you all come up in a lot of different musical environments?
Can you say fuck in an interview? Ha. You nailed it! We are just keeping true to what we listened to and what we have gone through. We also keep true to what kind of people we are. True all across the board. People try hard to be something they are not half the time. You play punk rock and you always get a band of punk rockers. You play rocka billy and you get a band full of rock a billys. We play skinhead reggae and not one of us are skinheads. We are reggae fans and musicians that grew up in different parts of L.A. and use all of our life experiences into our style.
G- Can you tell me a bit about LA and the reggae/ska scene out there right now? … What are the crowds like and how are the responses at your shows back home as compared to on the road?
L.A is where I call home. I owe it so much! The Jamaican – Los Angeles connection IS, and has always been strong. It IS and will always be one of the places with the best reggae collectors and fans hands down! California for that matter. From the bay area to the city of angels. I think a lot of it has to do with the people that live and grew up in L.A. They can relate and bond with the classic reggae. Honestly sometimes its ruff at home because for whatever reason we have branched out of play just scene shows. Our L.A crowd is strong but it has changed over the years from “scene” people to “regular” people. When we play in Spain or Germany for example it is off the charts, because the music we are offering doesn’t come by all that often to those places. We are playing Los Angeles more frequently than any other place. Right now there are so many great shows going on in California. Some many great original Jamaican artists coming through. That’s a testament to how dope OUR scene is…Our L.A. scene!
G- You guys are opening for Slightly Stoopid tonight and headlining your own tour. Do you guys have any new recordings in the works, and can you tell us about the tunes or any details about where it’s being recorded?
We have a NEW album in the works. It will be jam packed with the same vibe we always bring. Check out http://www.aggroreggae.com for all the info on it. We might even play a new tune or two on this tour.
G- Your “Dirty Reggae” album was apparently cut in 1 take. What is your writing process like? Who in the band typically comes up new music? Is it written out and structured, or does the music grow more organically from jamming?
All of thee above. Dirty reggae was effortless with no huge expectations. As the albums went on our writing has matured and in some instances touched areas that no other modern reggae band has. We have always had a combination of pre written material and jams. Best of both worlds. You capture different magic with each.
G- Who do you listen to when traveling between cities, and what bands really influence(d) your desire to play music full-time?
Original rocksteady and reggae music! There is not a day that goes by in our van that we are not listening to it. If we were not listening to reggae but at the same time trying to play it then we would be lying. It would show in our music. As far as the desire to play full time, that comes from being able to PLAY MUSIC FULL TIME. Who wouldn’t want to do that? Play reggae and make a living doing so….I’m in.
G- I think The Aggrolites and The Skints (UK) should get together for a nasty tour, and would love to make that happen myself. Any bands that you hope to share a bill with in the future?
Prince Buster,The Gaylads, Ken Booth, The Specials. There are tons of good modern bands but when you share the stage with your hero, that’s dope!
G- What’s the most memorable crowd you’ve played in front of to date? Where was it and what was it like?
Hmm ruff one. Really ruff one! We went on a UK tour with Madness some years back. Those arenas where insane. Thousands of people. Felt like thousands of skinheads! Was very cool to share with them our music. It was even cooler to see that they all loved it!
G- Lastly, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands out here in Syracuse, in NYS, and everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
Know what you want out of being in a band! Do you want to play music as a hobby? Do you want to make it a career? Both are right answers but you should choose. If you are honest with yourself and your band mates it will save you a lot of time. I am fortunate to be in a band with like-minded dudes. We are going to rock it till the wheels fall off.