Interview with Eric Rachmany from REBELUTION; Playing Syracuse, NY TONIGHT (10/10)!!!
Jamaican feel and West Coast flow: That’s about as good of a description as you’re going to get for a band like Rebelution. With a host of accolades under their belt, this Santa Barbara quintet is currently at the forefront of the modern day reggae movement. Inspiring many like-minded new school Jamaican groove bands, Rebelution has worked very hard to bring their unique brand of freshly ripened jams to the masses.
Noted festival darlings, Rebelution has performed at Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and All Good, and they don’t appear to be slowing down any time in the near future. Currently touring in support of their third studio album, Peace Of Mind, on 87 Records and Controlled Substance Sound Labs, the group has ambitiously released 2 alternate acoustic and dub versions of the record to appease their ravenous fan base.
The group will be bringing their warm weather vibes and groovy rhythms to Syracuse, NY on October 10th, just about the time we’ll begin needing whatever taste of warm weather we can get. I spoke with guitar/vocalist Eric Rachmany to talk about how tour is going, their recent releases, and all things reggae.
G- Good afternoon and thank you very much for speaking with Live High Five! You guys are getting ready to come to Syracuse, NY for a very welcome show… How has your current tour been treating you and how long will you be out on the road?
E- Well, touring is always fun for us. Just getting onstage is the best part. We go from town to town and, ultimately, you’re just waiting for this moment to get onstage to perform. You know, that’s just the best feeling you can possibly have. At least for me as a musician, as an entertainer, and as a performer.
We actually just got off a tour in Hawaii. We were there for about two and a half weeks, and now we’re back home for about a week before we head out and play the east coast, and Syracuse is one of those stops, so we’re excited to get out there!
G- And how were those Hawaiian gigs?! Those must’ve been great!
E- Oh it’s great! Hawaii is on of the first places that caught on to our music. We’ve been there 5, 6, maybe 7 times now, and I think our kind of style of reggae hits really well out there on the islands out there, so we’re so fortunate to be able to tour out there.
G- Well, good! Like I said it’ll be great to have you guys here in Syracuse and I’m sure it’ll go over great out here.
So I wanted to ask you… Your third release, Peace of Mind, has 3 different versions… A full band mix, an acoustic mix, and a Dub mix. Why did you decide to release three separate versions of the record, and can you tell us about the different production methods and approaches you used for each version?
E- Sure. Well, the easiest way to put it is we love reggae music, we love acoustic music, and we love dub, so we figured why not put it all on one big album?
There are multiple albums. One, it was fun for us. Two, it was great for our fans, because we weren’t just giving them 12 tracks, but 36 to listen to. Also, it depends on what kind of mood you’re in. If you’re in a mellow mood and want to put on the acoustic cd, that might be right for you. Or, if you have a party going, and you want to play that Dub cd where’s there’s not too much lyrics going on… Just some instrumentals and cool sounds, you can slap that on, too. And then you have the regular album, too. So I think each album kind of serves a different purpose.
But, as far as the regular album, we worked with a few different mixers and producers that we really appreciate and are fans of. You know, write and do all the songwriting ourselves, and we tracked all the music, and we sent it to different people to mix.
One of the guys was Michael Goldwasher from The Easy Dub All-Stars. Another one with Keith Armstrong, who is a good friend of ours in the LA area. He’s worked on multiple albums. One is Errol Brown. He actually engineered the whole album, and he used to be Bob Marley’s sound engineer, both recording and on the road, and you name any classic reggae album, and it has Errol Brown’s name on it.
E- We’ve been fortunate to link up with him, and he does our sound on the road. We basically work with people we love, and just kinda got to know over the years. But it was a really fun project. We really had a good time recording it.
G- Right on that’s wild! I wasn’t aware there were that many people involved in the mix, and you’ve got Bob Marley’s sound guy, so that’s definitely a feather in the cap, so right on!
Another thing I wanted to ask… As a band that has traveled internationally, how does your reception overseas compare to in the states, both in terms of how you play and the audience reaction? Do you see substantial differences in crowd reaction or overall treatment?
E- Yea. That’s a really good questions because… Well, like I said because we kind of have a hybrid reggae sound. We’ve taken classic reggae and kind of manipulated it, and it’s a lot of fun for us to try and incorporate different styles of music like rock, and pop, and hip hop, and whatever. And you know, I think, at this point, reggae is a super diverse genre.
I think people think it’s very similar, but to me, it’s a very diverse genre, and you find reggae all over the world that is totally different… Different subcategories of reggae music.
So if we travel to Brazil, for instance, what we noticed is what they were into was the kind of rootsier sounding stuff. But, at the same time, Brazil is such a huge place, and such a big market that there are people into all types of music. So, I think that’s where Rebelution could be really successful in a place like brazil or all of South America.
Unfortunately, we’ve only been to Brazil in S. America, and the only European market we’ve been to is France. But, you know, I guess what I’m trying to say is the reggae category is super diverse, and I think because Rebelution have a lot of these different styles in our music is the reason we could be really successful in those markets. We haven’t really developed those markets that much because we spent a lot of time in the States, and that’s why our fan base here is bigger than anywhere in the world. But, we’re definitely growing, and I think that we’re going to continue that going international.
G- Excellent! That’s great! Since it is a reggae band and reggae comes from a lot of angst. It’s a happy lively music, but there’s a lot behind that and there is a lot of substance behind the art form, as a newer reggae band and especially given the current state of politics and the upcoming presidential election, what do you feel is the most pressing issue facing Americans in this day and age? Are you guys a political band and socially conscious?
E- Yea I think we are, and we have been in the past. You know, personally, when I look at politics, I see too many corporate ties to Congress.
A guy that we toured with recently named Pet Love, and he’s one of the founding members of hip hop group Hieroglyphics out of the Bay area, and on the road he said “We gotta look out for each other. It doesn’t matter if we have a white president, black president? You’ve got to be your own president and look out for yourself. You gotta look out for your family, friends, and loved ones,” and that really resonated with me and sort of resonated with a song on the recent album called “The Closer I Get.”
When I was researching a lot about the whole banking system in this country and the whole downfall of the economy, I kind of realized how corporately tied a lot of our Congress has to these corporations, and just horror line… All the bank fraud and the terrible mess of everything that went down. That song is really about looking out for one and other even if I can’t resonate with the way things are working out in this country, we have to take care of your family and your friends and do whatever you can. And at the same time, you know, making your voice heard and, as far as trying to make a change.
G- Right on. Good answer, and I want to take it back to the fun stuff and what we’re all about here… The music. Do you have a favorite song you have ever written, or if you were to give 1 song to someone who had never heard of Rebelution before to try and make a new fan, what would it be and why?
E- I would probably pick a song called “Bright Side of Life,” and the reason why I would pick that is because we are always trying to motivate people and encourage people and sometimes you need a song, you need music, to get things on the right track and in a better light, I suppose. That’s what that song is about, looking on the brighter side of life, and the brighter side of things.
That’s the greatest part about our music… It can uplift people and unify people and make you see something you haven’t seen, just by listening to it. And that’s what that song is about, and I would choose that.
And it’s also upbeat and you can dance to it, and sing along, and all that good stuff! (laughs)
G- Right on. Well, hopefully you’ll give us all a crack at that at The Westcott. Back to touring for a minute, you guys spend a great deal of time, and large portions of your lives, on the road. The road can be a very difficult place, so how do you guys maintain such a rigorous schedule and how do you occupy your time when you’re traveling between gigs?
E- Like I was saying earlier, the thing that keeps us going is just getting onstage. That’s the best part! No matter how tired we are, as soon as we hit the stage and hear the crowd singing our music, and people are smiling and dancing, that’s enough to keep you going, you know?
But it’s also taken a lot of practice, as far as me personally and the whole band. When you have to sing for an hour and a half, 5 sometimes 6 nights a week, I’ve had to definitely train my vocals, you know.
I think at one point, it was hard to get over the hump. At one point we were sort of new on the scene, we hadn’t toured that much, but your voice is a muscle and you have to keep on training it just like an athlete, I suppose.
So, we definitely had to learn how to perform and how to keep on doing what we’re doing. Definitely, the goal was to try to reach as many people as possible, and the reason for that is because we do feel we have a positive message and we can make an impact. I think a lot of people try to make an impact in this world, and I definitely think that we do this through our music and through our art, so we’re just happy to be on the road all the time.
G- Dig it. Now, feel free to defer or not answer the question, but it’s a reggae band and there are a few lifestyle choices that come along with that. What I want to know is is it safe to say that Rebelution are familiar with herbal remedies?
E- (laughs) Definitely!
G- Alright good. Well let’s call this “The Stoner Chronicles” for a moment… Can you tell us about the first time you ever got high and where you were and what you did?
E- (laughing) Sure. The first time I tried cannabis was with a friend here in San Francisco, and I don’t even think it had an effect on me… I probably didn’t know how to inhale or anything… I had never smoked anything in my life, or eaten it, or anything like that.
But, I definitely didn’t really start appreciating it until I used it a little bit more and more, you know. I feel like you almost have to build up a tolerance. It’s not for everybody, that’s for certain. I may be jumping ahead to another question you have, but for the band, it’s a useful tool, plant, medicine… It has so many purposes for us, not just for the band, but for people as far as keeping a healthy lifestyle. It actually is a huge part to our lives, so… (laughs)
G- Right on! So do you think that we’ll ever see legalization in our lifetime?
E- I do. I do think so, and I’m really hopeful. I just think a lot of people are really misinformed about the uses of cannabis, and I’ll definitely be an advocate of legalizing it, for sure, for the rest of my life.
G- Yea me too… Just think about it? If marijuana gets legalized, this country would be out of debt in 15 minutes on Frito Lay sales alone.
E- Yea. There are countless medicinal uses for it, and also it’s such a great source of creativity for us. I don’t know if I would’ve enjoyed reggae music if I didn’t find cannabis and gone to see this amazing concert with my sister back in 1999 or something… I went to go see a guy named Don Carlos, a founding member of Black Uhuru, and I just being in the center of this dance floor and just listening to this amazing music, and it just hit me, you know? And it sort of influenced me to start writing music and not being afraid to perform and create amazing music.
G- Good story… I dig it! So a couple of last questions. You guys have played a lot of shows and you’ve been all over the place. For your personal experience, what would you say is the most memorable show that Rebelution has played to date? Can you tell us about where was it and what was it like?
E- Oh man… There’s so many, it’s really hard to decide. But, the first one that comes to mind is when we went to Hawaii for first time. Nobody really knew our music, except for in Santa Barbara where we got started. We flew to Hawaii, and all the sudden… This song “Safe and Sound” was a big hit, and on the big island, and we saw a line around the block trying to get in to the sold out show, and we just couldn’t believe it. It was the first time, we’d gone somewhere else, and seeing a huge crowd of people into our music, and so much hype, that I thought that was pretty memorable.
G- Excellent! Right on. There’s are 2 more questions left, and they’re informative type questions… Do you wear hearing protection when you perform, why or why not, and do you think it’s…
E- Yes, we do.
G- Do you?
E- Yes we do. Go ahead with the second question.
G- I was going to ask if you thought it was important for your fans to protect their ears when they go to see you in concert?
E- I do. I think that’s a really good point and something that the band hasn’t touched on yet. Actually, my guitar teacher has Tinnitus… The ringing in the ears, and his career was cut short because he listened to so much loud music. And he’s the best guitar player I know.
We use in-ear monitors, but I do think it’s really important to protect your ears. They’re so fragile and you don’t want to get in a position like my guitar teacher, especially because he was a performer, and a fantastic one at that. But I do think that’s important and something that Rebelution does need to touch on with our fans to provide some sort of ear protection… Definitely.
G- Maybe I can help you with that when you come to Syracuse. I have an organization called Wear Today Hear Tomorrow that is particularly focused on hearing protection and hearing loss prevention in the music industry, so I’ll be at the show when you’re here.
And the last question I have for the day is, as a band that has traveled many miles and released several successful albums… You’re an inspiration for a lot of kids out here and a lot of up and coming bands, a lot of young musicians who love your sound, and they want to be in your shoes. What advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
E- Well, I think that it’s very difficult to be a musician and make it your living But after doing this for 8 years, the best part is just playing music. It doesn’t have to be for hundreds and hundreds of people.
Even if you make an impact with just one or two people with your music, that makes it all worth it, really. The more intimate shows are a lot more fun because you can connect with people.
I definitely would advise not to have this mindset that you have to reach as many people as possible, even though that is what Rebelution is trying to do at this point, because we do have a solid fan base and we know we can make a difference, so why not try to have a positive impact? But I think that, as far as people in bands, find the love of just making music and not shooting for the stars.
G- Excellent! Well, I can’t wait for the show in Syracuse and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today!
E- Greg, it’s been great and I’ll link up with you in Syracuse.
G- Right on.