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The members of Seedless all remember their motivation to play reggae back in 2006: Sublime songs were easy to cover. Four years later, their shallow reggae roots have grown into a sprawling forest of eclectic, echo-filled island sound. Blending one-drop drum beats with soul, stoned eighth notes and shards of punk aggression, Seedless are light years ahead of a Sublime cover band. Opening for acts such as the Wailers, Fishbone and Tribal Seeds, the group—made up of Casey Sullivan (vocals/lead guitar), Grant Rivera (bass), Joe Bakhos (rhythm guitar), Shay Pino (drums), Matt Liufau (vocals) and Juan Rios (keyboards)—have formed a zigzagging reggae sound that has sparked up a noticeable buzz in preparation for the release of their sophomore album, Twisted Roots.
OC Weekly: Is the eclectic island sound you play representative of a lot of OC reggae bands?
Shay Pino: When we first started, we didn’t play reggae. The only reason we started playing reggae was because Sublime was easy to cover as a three-piece. Our influences back in the day were Tool and 311, so we were playing more rock/metal/reggae. We wanna keep people surprised; we wanna change the tempo of a song like four or five times. It’s what keeps us entertained. As long as we’re not bored, that means the crowd won’t get bored, so we just keep switching it up.
Juan Rios: And the band is natural with it, as far as rocking out. They’re not trying to fake the funk and be like Bob Marley and the Wailers.
So this record was a pretty evolutionary step for you?
Casey Sullivan: Our sound changed so much from our first album to our second it was ridiculous. Our first album pretty much blows. We all hate it. On this album, our writing ability just jumped up since Juan got in the band and added the keyboards. Then Matt got in the band.
Matt Liufau: “Twisted Love,” which is one of our best songs on the album, is one of the last songs we recorded. We recorded it almost from scratch in the studio. At first, it sounded like things were going the wrong way. But once things got layered on top of one another, everything just got to where we could see where the song was going.
Are there any shared dub or reggae influences that inspired the sound you guys have now?
Sullivan: Musically, I think we were pretty influenced by Rebelution and Tribal Seeds, UB-40 and a lot of island reggae like Katchafire. We like all that music, and we also like to take it to the next level and twist it up.
What’s been one of your best band moments prior to this release?
Pino: House of Blues, winning the Warped Tour battle of the bands. It was Matt’s first show with us.
Grant Rivera: Matt was wearing a white shirt with sparkling-gold pinstripes . . . for the record.
Liufau: If you heard the crowd that night, it was insane.
Pino: You could hear our fans screaming our name while the other bands were playing—”Seed-less! Seed-less! Seed-less!”
So obviously you guys smoke weed. What’s your favorite strain of bud?
Rios: Mars OG and Master’s Mistress.
Sullivan: I’m a Sativa fan.
Pino: We go through this every time we practice. I just wanna bag of fuckin’ weed [laughs].
If you had to convince someone to come to one of your shows, what’s the one song you’d play for them?
Sullivan: “Twisted Love.”
Pino: It all depends on what the person listens to. If we see someone who’s not too into reggae, we have another song that will grab their attention. That’s the cool thing about our album—there’s something for everyone somewhere. We have a little bit of ska, a little bit of dub and a little bit of rock. We don’t have to sit there and categorize ourselves with one kind of style, one kind of people or one kind of music.
Seedless perform with Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds, Pacific Dub and West Swell at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600; www.galaxytheatre.com. Fri., 8 p.m. $13. All ages; also at the OC Foodie Fest, in the Honda Center parking lot, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim; www.ocfoodiefest.com. Sat., 3 p.m. $12.
Hey, Orange County/Long Beach musicians and bands! Mail your music, contact info, high-res photos and impending show dates for possible review to: Locals Only, OC Weekly, 2975 Red Hill Ave., Ste 150, Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Or e-mail your link to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column appeared in print as "Easy Skankin’."