By Dana Getz
A California quintet hailing from Santa Barbara, Rebelution has a history of making sunny, island-flavored sound with a West Coast twist. Though reggae at its core, Rebeultion’s style is a medley of SoCal pop, breezy funk and acoustic folk with a burst of Jamaican dub, resulting in an unpredictable yet effortlessly refined flow.
The group has honed their uniquely eclectic sound throughout their near 10-year period together, performing on extensive national tours and at notable summer festivals. Members Eric Rachmany, Rory Carey, Wesley Finley and Marley D Williams met in college while residing in Isla Vista, adding New Orleans saxophonist Khris Royal around 2011. Having just finished up their Good Vibes Summer Tour, Finley and Rachmany sat down with us to discuss their label, being on the road and Snoop Lion’s recent foray into their reggae realm.
You guys met back in college. At the time, did you have any idea what Rebelution would turn into?
Finley: No, because there were so many bands that were just playing on the weekend just for fun. Usually when you graduate you disperse and do your thing, but we actually garnered a pretty decent following and turned it into something serious. So we’re kind of blessed in that aspect.
What drew you to the reggae sound?
Rachmany: I guess I was listening to a lot of reggae at the time. I got into it in late high school and then when I got down to Santa Barbara I was kind of looking for people that were playing reggae music. I met Marley and we kind of bonded over that. So we were listening to reggae and we were playing a lot of reggae cover songs, and then when we started writing original tunes we started incorporating our other influences to make the Rebelution sound.
Is there a strong reggae scene in Santa Barbara?
Rachmany: Not really. I think we kind of helped bring it up a little bit just by being there, but historically there has been a lot of reggae bands come up in Isla Vista. I think maybe just because it’s on the coast— the beach kind of vibe. We definitely feel proud to bring that to Santa Barbara and kind of make the scene a little bigger.
It was originally just the four of you—when did you meet Khris and what led to adding him to the band?
Finley: He played a few shows with us in New Orleans, where he’s from, and we were looking for a horn player and he just killed it. He was the same age as us and he was used to touring, so he kind of just fit right in. We’ve had some other people join us here and there too, but Khris has always been the solid member who feels like an extension of us. It just fits naturally.
Rachmany: At this point it just feels like he’s part of the band, like he’s always been there.
You’ve been releasing your music independently on your own label. Why was it important to you to go independent?
Rachmany: We’ve always done everything ourselves. We always want to own our own music; we want creative control. A lot of times bands lose that creative control when they go to a major record label. Honestly, I think Rebelution spread through word of mouth from the very beginning. We played parties and people would just tell all their friends and their friends would tell friends, plus the fact that we live in a time where music is accessible by the internet. We’re very fortunate that our music was able to spread that way. We never really felt the need for a major record label, so it’s been nice doing everything ourselves.
Have you been looking into signing any artists?
Rachmany: We haven’t. We don’t really make too much off of record sales, it’s mostly touring. But we’d like to eventually. If we can build this band up to a solid state and bring on bands that we love, that would be really cool.
Are there any up-and-coming bands that are on your radar?
Rachmany: There’s definitely a lot, yeah, too many to narrow down. There’s so many great bands that we’ve come across along the way—bands that work just as hard or even harder than Rebelution. The thing is that the most talented people are never really found, you know? There’s always someone that’s writing incredible music in the basement at their mom’s house.
You consider yourself a tour-driven group. What do you like about being on the road?
Finley: I mean you’re traveling for a living. Some people don’t even leave their own state, but we’re in a different state every day. It’s kind of crazy that we get to see all these main cities that some people might never get the chance to see, so it’s cool to reap the benefits of being in different cities, eating different food along the way, meeting different people and seeing all kinds of different sights, but the drawback to that is loss of sleep.
Rachmany: Yeah, touring affects literally everything. I could probably go in depth but it would take me a while to name every single thing that it affects, but we like it and we love performing so that keeps us going.
Do you ever get into arguments being around each other all the time?
Rachmany: We have a great relationship. We’ve been a band for nine or ten years and we practically live with each other, so we resolve things pretty quickly. We get along great. We hang out with each other even when we’re off the road sometimes, so if we have a little argument we always figure it out.
For someone who hasn’t seen you perform, what can they expect from a live show?
Rachmany: We like to keep the energy pumping, but we also like to keep it mellow too.
Finley: Yeah, just high energy and crowd interaction. We vibe off of people participating—putting their hands up and showing us energy—that motivates me to play, play harder, be more active. I hate going to shows where the band barely even moves from where they’re standing, you know?
How do you feel about Snoop Dogg going reggae?
Rachmany: I think it’s cool the message he’s putting out after talking about a lot of gangster shit for many years. He came from a rough place and I think he wants to put out a positive message, he wants to encourage people—similar to what I think we’re doing. He’s through with gangbanging and he realizes he’s a in a fortunate position now and wants to put out something positive, but I think the whole reggae thing might be a work in progress for him. I like some songs and some songs I’m not feeling as much, but overall I really admire the message that he’s putting out. Everybody has a choice to talk about what they want to talk about in music, so I think it’s really cool what he’s doing.
Finley: I just hope it’s not a gimmick. I hope he doesn’t reverb back at some point. I just hope he has true intentions.
Are there any artists that you haven’t worked with yet that you’d like to?
Rachmany: There’s so many bands that we want to tour with. Me and Wes like this band called Dredge a lot. They’re a really cool progressive rock band.
Finley: That would be crazy.
Rachmany: I also love Dave Matthews Band. I’m a huge Dave Matthews fan, so think it would be cool to tour with them at some point. Obviously a lot of reggae legends we’d love to tour with that are getting older and may not be around forever. A lot of hip-hop artists, like Far Side would be cool to play with.
Finley: Some of these groups it’s just hard to get everyone together. Living Legends comes to mind. We’ve toured with a couple of the individual members, but to get them all together is difficult.
What’s next for you guys? Any upcoming albums?
Rachmany: Yeah. Right now we’re on the summer tour but we’re working on new material as we’re on the tour, and we’re gonna get in the studio later this month. Hopefully we’ll have everything done by the end of September and try to get it out by next year. That’s the goal. We feel very inspired at this point in terms of getting new music out.
Do you have any ideas for what the new album will sound like?
Rachmany: I think every album is a progression from the last. We’re always trying to do something different than before. It’s easy to just write the same style of music. over and over again, and I think we’re always challenging ourselves to do something different. I think that’s the key word—always challenging ourselves, whether it’s musically, lyrically—trying to do something difficult, that’s what I want to do.