Interview: Rebelution

There’s a lot coming up on this album that is different. We bring in different genres of music, which I think makes our sound unique and special.

Rebelution have just released their latest album In The Moment and over its fifteen tracks, it sees the California band take in a variety of influences that is mixed up with their trademark feelgood reggae vibes. Gavin Brown caught up with Rebelution vocalist / guitarist Eric Rachmany to talk about In The Moment and what went into the making of the album as well as discussing legendary reggae label Easy Star and Rebelutions history with the label, dub versions of the bands songs, how he got into reggae and the anticipation of playing live again.

E&D: Your new album In The Moment is out now. How did the creation and recording process of the album go?

Eric: This one was a little bit different, we weren’t able to get inside a big studio and track everything live. We weren’t able to write this album together, usually the songs come from me to start with and then I present it to the band, and then they add their parts. We’ll really practice them live, and we weren’t able to do that. We did everything remotely, sent everything digitally – our touring guitarist Kyle Ahern played a big part in this. We sent all of the files to him, and he really helped polish everything and produced about 75% of this album. It was very challenging to create and record this album, but lots of fun and we love the way it came out.

E&D: Did the pandemic hinder the making of the album at all?

Eric: It just sort of made us go a different route. We weren’t able to get together like I was saying, and we made the most of the situation. We learned a lot from creating at home, which really opened a new avenue for us. Now we know what it takes to record remotely, I feel like we can come up with a lot more material in the future where we can be apart. We can come up with ideas and share them, and we’re lucky to be living in a time where that’s possible.

E&D: How excited are you to have the album out? 

Eric: Super excited. It’s always an exciting time when the fans are listening to new material. But I’m definitely more excited to play them live and hear the crowd sing them back to me.

E&D: You’ve got Kabaka Pyramid, Keznamdi, Busy Signal and Durand Jones featuring on the album. What do they bring to the songs they perform on? 

Eric: Kabaka Pyramid, Keznamdi and Busy Signal are all from Jamaica, all three of them have been around for a minute now, but in the grand scheme of the reggae genre they’re relatively new. A lot of our fans don’t know who they are, and I’m a big fan of all three of them. Great lyricists with incredible melodies. We’re super honoured that they want to collaborate with Rebelution, it means a lot to us. These artists are coming from Jamaica, a place that has historically influenced Rebelution, both old school and new school. It’s incredible, and we want to thank them for being on the album. Durand Jones is sort of an RnB, soul, funk artist. Durand Jones and The Indications is the name of the full band, and he’s one of the lead singers. An incredible voice, and we talked about collaborating when we toured a few years ago, so we’re really glad it actually happened. And lastly, any time you hear another person’s voice on a song, it adds a new dimension. A different vocal style makes a collaboration great!

E&D: You’ve just released the single ‘Heavy As Lead’. What has the feedback to that song and the new material that you have released so far been like? 

Eric: It’s been incredible. I have to say it’s always nerve wracking releasing new material, people get used to your old catalogue and people are very reactionary. I’ve learned over time to just let it get out there and settle down. Overall, I think people really like the music though.  We’ve released three different sounding singles in my opinion, and it goes to show we aren’t afraid to mix it up. There’s a lot coming up on this album that is different. We bring in different genres of music, which I think makes our sound unique and special.

 

E&D: Can you tell as all about the video you have done for ‘Heavy As Lead’? 

Eric: I actually don’t know a lot about the animator, but I know our drummer Wes Finley was helping to direct the video. It’s cool, we’ve always wanted to do one for one of our songs. We love the way it’s come out!

E&D: The album comes out on your 87 Records label in a joint venture with Easy Star Records. Did it feel good to have your two labels linking up for the record? 

Eric: Yes absolutely, we love dealing with Easy Star. Eric and Lem have been very good to us, they promote the album very well, and, most importantly, we really like all the artists on their roster. They’re committed to releasing positive music and we plan on being with those guys for future releases, they’re great.

E&D: How does it feel to be on Easy Star and what are some of your favourite releases from the label? 

Eric: Well, I love The Green from Hawaii, Protoje, Jesse Royal, love those guys. Like I said they’re putting out a lot of conscious music, and that means a lot.

E&D: You released the Dub Collection last year. How was the experience of that being created?

Eric: We always talked about putting out a dub album, we have a dub version of our third album Peace Of Mind, but not really a full length dub album for the other albums. So, we thought let’s bring some of the old songs back that we didn’t do dub versions for. We feel like dub music is for a certain type of fan that really enjoys it. It’s not for everybody, but dub is a huge part of reggae and a big reason why we have certain effects on our music to this day – delays and reverbs and drum and bass. It’s all a big part of reggae music. It’s been cool, we really like the way it came out.

E&D: Do you have any plans to do dub versions of the songs from the new album? 

Eric: We haven’t talked about it, but I assume that will happen at some point. Like I said I love dub music, so we’d love to see that happen.

E&D: You’re due to hit the road on the Good Vibes summer tour with Steel Pulse. How much are you looking forward to that? Will you be playing a lot of new material from In The Moment at the shows? 

Eric: Yeah, we’re looking forward to getting out on the road, I really miss performing. That’s how I express myself, getting on stage and playing music in front of people. There’s only so much I can tell you about myself when I’m talking, but, when I sing and play guitar, I really get to demonstrate who I am as a person and who we are as a band. We plan on playing some of the new material, but we also plan on playing the old stuff as well, and everything in between. We don’t want to just too much of one particular album.

E&D: What have you missed most about playing live? 

Eric: Just that feeling of expression to the audience. It’s such an incredible rush of energy that’s flowing through me and I really try and give it 100% when I’m out there performing. It doesn’t matter how tired I am, I really try and get into the music. Gosh it feels so good, I can’t wait for that.

E&D: You’ve played at massive festivals like Glastonbury and Lollapalooza. How was the experience of playing festivals like those?

Eric: Glastonbury and Lollapalooza are huge festivals, we only played Glastonbury once, but it was very very cool and very very muddy. Festivals are great, I feel like we really thrive at festivals in Europe because it’s a meeting point for people from all over Europe. In the past, when we’ve gone to Europe, we’ve just played a few club shows, and it’s hard for people to get to those. We’d love to get back to some of those big festivals and feel those big audiences.

E&D: What have been some of your favourite gigs that you’ve played over the years? 

Eric: Certainly, Red Rocks in Colorado is lots of fun, such a beautiful, vertical looking venue. About 10,000 capacity. It still feels intimate, and the sound reverberates in an amazing way. Really looking forward to doing those two shows this summer. Also, playing Hawaii for the first time will always be a vibrant memory that stays inside my head. Also Guam, these were two places that got down with Rebelution’s music in the very early stages, so we’ll always remember those shows.

E&D: How did you discover and get into reggae and dub in the first place?

Eric: Well, I’d listened to Bob Marley growing up, but I’d never really got into reggae through Bob Marley. I listen to Black Uhuru, Don Carlos, Steel Pulse, Israel Vibration, Culture – that stuff got me into reggae music and I heard it all from my sister, she was playing it, and I was immediately drawn to it. I really liked particularly Don Carlos, I loved his style, saw him live and then was instantly into reggae and wanted to explore it. I’ve always got to shout out Don Carlos, one of the original members from Black Uhuru – he brought me into the reggae genre.

E&D: What are some of your favourite reggae albums ever made? 

Eric: Don Carlos – Laser Beam and Raving Tonight. Gregory Isaacs – Night Nurse, the way it was recorded is super clean. Even today it would be hard to find such a clean sound. I’ve never heard another reggae album sound that clean, even today.

E&D: Do you believe that music is a great tool for protest and change? 

Eric: Absolutely, I think music is a great tool for education. I feel like the arts are a great tool for education. For us, we’ve taken different political and social stances through the music, and it’s hard for me to talk about it in person or over the phone, but if I can get a message through music, it’s a way better tactic in expressing your message. We learned about cannabis, we feel like we’re a band advocating the use of cannabis, and we learned about it through the music we were listening to. I was learning about cannabis way before reading about the benefits of it through music, and I feel like it’s an incredible educational tool.

E&D: What have been some of the highlights of your time in Rebelution so far? 

Eric: Oh man, I can’t think of just one particular highlight that stands out. It’s really been a progressive growth over time. Our first show was for five people, then it became ten people and fifteen people and so on. It’s just been a slow and steady growth and I’m so lucky and happy that it happened that way. We definitely put in a lot of work, we used to play over 200 shows per year, and we weren’t making any money back then, but it didn’t matter. We were just loving life, loving performing, and we just followed out hearts. I think the main highlight is just that we stuck with it, we stuck with our gut feeling and just kind of trusted that it was the right thing to do. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t playing music. I think the highlight for me is just the entire 17 years, and looking back at the way that Rebelution has grown, it’s really amazing. Thank you for covering the band and album, much love!

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