Rebelution – Alternative Reggae Flavors

Last month a CD came delivered by a band out of Santa Barbara, California, called Rebelution. With a mixture of fun reggae, jazz, pop and a little Latin magic, Peace Of Mind quickly became addictive. With the jazzy funk of the first single “Sky Is The Limit” to the almost Santana-ish “Comfort Zone” to the darkly hypnotic “Lady In White”, Rebelution have filled Peace Of Mind with twelve engaging songs that never cause the listener to zone out.

So what exactly is Rebelution? Glide decided to find out with a phone call to lead singer and main songwriter Eric Rachmany, who was home in San Francisco enjoying some nice weather before his band went back out on the road. Formed in 2004 while all four band members were attending college, Rebelution first hit big in Hawaii, releasing their first album in 2007. They have been growing in popularity ever since, selling out more and more venues as they travel the country spreading their modern reggae rock.

Your latest release, called Peace Of Mind, has three separate CDs that contain different versions of the same twelve songs. What was your thinking for doing that?

Well, we’ve always kind of had this idea to put out an acoustic album. When the band was first getting started we would sometimes play acoustic shows at a little Italian restaurant in Santa Barbara, which is where we got started. None of us are actually from Santa Barbara but we all met in college and we just really enjoyed playing acoustic music. I mean, I love playing acoustic even more than on the electric guitar so I’ve always wanted to put out some sort of acoustic record. Our manager had a great idea. He said, why don’t we put out an acoustic version of this new album and then an all instrument dub version of the album as well. That way we can give the fans something really cool and it won’t just be twelve songs, it’ll be thirty-six songs that they can listen to. We figured it was the right thing to do because it’s been awhile since we’ve put out a record. Our fans were hungry for it so we said, let’s go for it.

And so far it’s been great. We tried some new stuff on this album and everybody in this band listens to a wide variety of music so this album is really a demonstration and an example of the wide variety of music we all listen to and are influenced by.

Did you have just the twelve songs for this CD or were there more that you had to pick from?

Actually, there wasn’t cause I’m a really slow songwriter. Those twelve songs are pretty much the only songs I’ve got (laughs). It just takes me so long to write songs. I really don’t know what it is, whether it’s the lyrics or whether I have to get in the right mode to song write. I just seem to take a lot of time. But there was a lot of effort put into this album. It’s not like we had a hundred songs and I had to bring them down to a few to make the album, to make the cut. We thought about this album for a long time. Literally, since the last album came out in 2009, we were working on this album.

Where do you get your inspiration from? Do you pull from your personal life or are you trying to build a story?

It’s a little bit of everything. Ever since we became a touring band, I’ve seen different things on the road and met different people and certainly a lot of this album was me writing in the perspective of somebody else, putting myself into someone else’s shoes, and writing on behalf of their perspective. In that regard, this album was really fun to write because I wasn’t talking about me-me-me all the time. Instead, I can write in first person but I’m really writing in the eyes of somebody else. That’s something I’ve done in the past but I really got into it on this album. It made it more exciting to pretend that you were somebody else and write based on their experiences. A lot of that is people I know or met on the road and different things I see on the road. It was definitely inspiring.

You said Rebelution was born in Santa Barbara while you were at college. What were you studying?

I started out with music and that is how I met our bass player and our drummer. We kind of formed a band after meeting each other in classes. Then I switched and I studied Religion and then I took a lot of music classes on the side and then of course played in Rebelution as we were all going to college. But we all finished, somehow we all did it (laughs)

During those days did you know your band was going to go all the way or was that a wish you weren’t sure would come true?
I was fortunate enough cause since I was the last one to graduate I had seen the band take off a little bit in my Senior year of college. I sort of told myself and said to the band, “As soon as I’m done with school I’m willing to give this a try and start touring around the country and really hustling and getting our stuff out there”. I had a good feeling about it just because of the response we were getting while I was still in college.

We had a really good fanbase in Hawaii while I was still in college. Some kid picked our song up from MySpace and he sent it into the radio station and it became a hit out in Hawaii. So I’d seen some success with it already and I knew that I was going to give it a try no matter what.

That must have been exciting to have Hawaii pick up your music first?

After Santa Barbara it was Hawaii that took to our music first and that’s the power of the internet and the way that the music industry works today. You can have your music heard all over the world. Coming from a small college town in Santa Barbara it’s such a trip. I owe a great deal of success to that sort of social media outlet.

Do you think it is easier today with how the music industry has changed?

I think that there is opportunity where that wasn’t the case back in the day. I think back in the day there was a lot of money being fueled into these artists by big major record labels. It still happens today but nowadays we have this opportunity as an independent artist to put our music out online, put it on itunes. We’ve toured tremendously throughout the years since we started this band. That’s our kind of our success and I think it’s possible for any band to do that too.

And you also get immediate feedback and can see where you have so-called hot spots to go and play.

Right, exactly. That’s been the case with us. We would have never known we had fans in Hawaii if it wasn’t for the way that the industry works today.

How did you discover reggae music?

In high school I was listening to a lot of reggae, Bob Marley and a few other artists, and I got heavily into it. Then toward the beginning of college I just kind of found a little reggae scene going on in Santa Barbara. Of course, our bass player came from kind of a background of listening to reggae and his name is Marley. He grew up listening to a lot of Bob Marley and reggae. We just found that commonality and started covering songs. That is how the band started, as a cover band, and it took about a year till we started writing original tunes. We figured out we could do this and gained the confidence to be songwriters and performers and musicians.

Have you been to Jamaica yet and played?

No, not yet but we definitely have some connections (laughs). We kind of have a different take on reggae but so far everyone that has heard us from Jamaica really enjoy it. There are a lot of legendary artists that really enjoy our music and that’s a really good feeling to know that they enjoy it.

Who has been your biggest influence as a musician?

There is a guy named Don Carlos. He is a pretty legendary artist out of Jamaica and I’ve been fortunate to have toured with him over the summer and got to chat with him. He knows he’s been a big influence on me and Rebelution. He is a great guy and we’ve been really fortunate to link up with him. When I was listening to a lot of reggae, he was one of those guys I became inspired by so I always mention his name. But I really get inspired by a lot of different music. I like World Music, I like singer-songwriter acoustic, I like blues and pop and rap and hip hop, everything. It’s not limited to one person or one style.

When you were writing these songs, did you have one in particular that sent a tingle down your spine?

It’s hard because every one I have an attachment to obviously. It’s an art form and I really try to put my all into it and try to convey an emotion and a feeling within everything I write. But there is a song called “Moonlight” from our last album, Bright Side Of Life. It’s one of those songs I get to pick up the acoustic. People often ask you what would it be like if you were trapped on an island and you could bring three things and that’s kind of my mentality with that song. It’s like what I would do and who I would bring and what I would try to accomplish in that situation. That was a fun song to write and kind of means something.

“Lady In White” on the new CD seems to be getting a lot of attention for its subject matter.

That’s one of the songs that I wrote on behalf of somebody else. Cocaine is an incredibly addictive drug and nobody in the band does any hard drugs but I tried to imagine myself in the shoes of somebody who has an incredible addiction to drugs. It’s a tug-of-war between being sober and being addicted to this drug. If it wasn’t “Moonlight”, this probably is the other song I felt a real attachment to even though I’ve never had any sort of drug addiction. But just putting myself in somebody else’s scene like that was just really fun to write. Although it’s a heavy song, I really enjoyed being a part of that one.

And then you have a song like “Comfort Zone”, which is almost a complete opposite.

It’s hard to just pinpoint one theme on the album. But it is called Peace Of Mind and “Comfort Zone” I think really fits in with the album title because it really is about finding that zone of comfortability. That’s sometimes a challenge being on the road as a band. Everybody has to find that kind of zone where they feel comfortable and can pursue what they have to pursue and that’s kind of like one of the themes of the album.

So what are Rebelution’s plans for 2012?

We’re going to finish off this winter tour, the Peace Of Mind tour. Then we’ll do a few shows here and there and we’re talking about maybe going international at some point this summer. Then hopefully play some outdoor shows here in the States as well. Summertime is the best. You’re able to perform outside in venues where it feels good in a t-shirt and shorts and flip flops. That’s our environment (laughs)

So what can people expect who have never seen Rebelution live onstage before?

You know, our live show is constantly changing because we’re learning new ways to incorporate different things into our set. We’re constantly evolving. As we’re coming out with new songs and new albums, we’re throwing in new songs and new renditions. I think people really enjoy singing along to our lyrics. And that’s what feels the best is seeing people happy and smiling and you can see our music being identified with them. We try to keep the energy pretty high and get the crowd involved and that’s kind of always been the Rebelution style.

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