Rebelution remains rooted to reggae vibes and diehard fans
By Kevin Longrie
Rebelution went from being unknown to musically inclined residents of Santa Barbara to a powerful force in the international reggae scene due to some unexpected success on Hawaiian radio and no small amount of persistence. With Eric Rachmany on vocals and lead guitar, Rory Carey on keys, Wesley Finley on drums, and Marley D. Williams on bass, Rebelution augments the stylings of Jamaican reggae—from which it draws significant inspiration—with world melodies and introspective, positive lyrics. The group is also deeply invested in “green” movements. The band’s output includes Courage to Grow and Bright Side of Life and it recently wrapped up its Winter Greens Tour. CULTURE spoke with Williams about success, music and—of course—marijuana.
Did you guys start out with the intention of becoming recording artists or did it grow out of multiple jam sessions?
We did a five-song EP in Camarillo. We were playing shows in Isla Vista, and we [are] finally starting to get out of playing cover songs and started writing our own material. We developed six to 10 songs and said, “Let’s record our best five songs.” This guy in Camarillo knows how to run Pro Tools and has some pretty good preamps. So, we went down there—the gentleman’s name was David Escobar; he’s also a musician in the Central Coast who had just started recording and had a good price. So, we were at this guy’s apartment, bringing our gear in and recording [in] just kind of the homemade way. We wanted something to show to people; to show that we’re actually a band. Sure enough, those songs became popular in Hawaii and made their way to the radio. I remember seeing comments like “We just heard you on the radio! Aloha.” and we’re like, “What?” I remember calling the radio station [and setting up a tour schedule]. It wasn’t just word getting around the streets of Isla Vista anymore. Hawaii was something we could develop–something bigger. To become, like you said, “official” musicians. And that’s when we invested real money in our first full length album, Courage to Grow.
Tell us a bit about your sound.
As far as the sound—it’s a more mellow sound that people can relate to at any point in the day or night. Lyrically, too, Eric’s really good at writing lyrics and is one of the more grounded people I’ve ever met. He really puts out messages that are meant to inspire people and make people feel confident.
Do you think the band grew out of the similarity of your tastes or by the combination of your differences?
There are so many influences between the four of us, and we’re [musically] very different. Sometimes songwriting can be challenging because it’s got to hit on all cylinders. Eric [Rachmany] is definitely our leader and I think he’s one of the more open-minded people when it comes to sounds. He came from a musical background. And living in San Francisco, he was exposed to a wide range of world music (which I think separates us from a lot of bands; the riffs and melodies that come from that). [The] makeup of our band is to provide a good groove, but to a certain extent we just want to make space for [Rachmany] and his guitar skills to shine. I think that’s why we’ve got such a unique sound and why we’ve had as much success as we’ve had. It’s always good to know your role and do it well; and stay in those boundaries while respecting your bandmates and the people around you.
You guys have a pretty big Web presence. You have contests to win tickets and seem to reach out to your fans often. What are your thoughts on the Internet as a tool for promoting music?
The Internet is definitely the future of not only music, but a lot of other things. I think the possibilities of marketing yourself are endless. That’s why the new thing these days is creative ways to interact with your fans through the Web.
You’ve played everywhere from small rooms to big festivals. Do you have a preference? Is there a big difference in how you prepare or how you’re received?
Big festivals are usually shorter sets. I think the key to the festival set is to play the songs that are most popular—the ones the fans want to hear—and then also to get new fans. Another thing is that you want it to feel like a movie: You want a great beginning and a great end; and in between you want to have a story. You also need to come up with ways to seamlessly transition from one song to another. I’d say the only real difference [between headlining or festival shows] is that you have to condense your set for festivals, cutting out six or seven songs and really trying to take it to the next level. No spaces or gaps. As far as preference? That’s a hard question. At festivals, you get the opportunity to play with really great bands. But when we’re doing our own shows, we’re playing for people who have been our fans for years. Some of them are die-hard Rebelution fans that really mean the world to us. So, I’d have to say doing our own shows [is our preference], just by an edge.
What do you ultimately hope to achieve with your music? Do you think your band has a message or are you just looking to have a good time? Or both?
Our goal right now is to keep up. We’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of success lately. Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but we’re definitely hungry and we’re trying to be the best in all possible ways. It’s fun to try and top what you already did. We constantly want to grow as a band and as a business, but at the end of the day it’s about providing a place for people to let go of things for a bit. That’s what our music is for. No matter where they are, it’s to provide people with an escape.
I know you guys are touring a lot right now, but what are you plans after that? Are you looking towards another album? Are you writing right now? Can you write on the road?
We’re working on another album right now. I’d say that as far as material goes it feels like it’s pretty close. As far as recording and producing, you never know. We were just in West Hollywood working with a producer and some guys from different bands. But I think it’s going good. I think we’re going to put out songs that are going to be different—just like we have in the past. It would be nice to get something out in the fall, but we’ll see. We’re not going to put something out unless we think it’s the best possible product.
Do you guys use marijuana? If so, do you find that it helps you write music (or at least think about your music in a different way)? Or just to relax?
All of the above, for sure. It grows out of the ground and it’s great for our minds. People need to recognize that marijuana is a great tool for many things—also in a green way. There are a lot of uses for marijuana; and when there’s a plant like that that gets put down by certain sides of the world. It’s a shame because there are a lot of other things out there that are a lot worse for the world; alcohol, for one example. And we appreciate you guys at CULTURE for holding it down.
Rebelution isn’t the only musical act to claim Santa Barbara as their zip code. Post-grunge rock act Dishwalla calls the place their hometown (In 2009, the band performed a benefit show to raise money for the victims of the local “Tea Fire.”). Members of Toad the Wet Sprocket and Sugarcult were born and raised in Santa Barbara and reigning pop princess Katy Perry grew up here—and probably kissed a girl here, too!