By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
* This story was modified on Dec. 31, 2010.
Southern California white-guy reggae act Rebelution have a tough row to hoe, but they work their sunny little patch as best they can. Lacking Matisyahu’s fervor and devotion and Collie Budz’s wordly credentials, the affable crew coasts on sunny vibes and thinly positive platitudes, roughly near the intersection of Jack Johnson Way and Sublime Street.
Guitarist/singer Eric Rachmany, bassist Marley Williams, keyboardist Rory Carey and drummer Wes Finley—all college students in that coed bacchanalia called Isla Vista—started the band in 2004 and found a fan base for their reggae/rock hybrid. Rachmany’s splintery leads dominate the sound, while the rhythm section makes a busy bed of ersatz rootsiness.
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With a stoned, jam-band smile—and a double entendre aimed at its blunted audience—2007’s Courage to Grow comes with a party-ready vibe as casual as an old VW Bus. Two years on, Bright Side of Life continued Rebelution’s lyrical fixations: using herbs is no crime; change is difficult but will come with hard work; it’s important to stay positive at all times; and, of course, “too much greed/while so many bleed.”
Nothing too deep, but then again, the hackey-sack brigade might not need a nugget of truth as much as a nugget of sticky-icky. Finley submitted to a barrage of questions about the band’s approach to a genre that some consider authentic only if performed by Jamaicans.
OC Weekly: Since there’s always a backlash from “purists” against white-guy reggae bands, why did you guys join this genre, knowing you’d catch some flak?
You should be true to your interests regardless of preconceived notions and stereotypes, and music is an art form meant to be shared among cultures. Sure, reggae was founded in Jamaica, but that doesn’t mean it must only be played and listened to in that country.
How many times have you heard a comment such as “White dudes playing reggae is wrong?”
Every now and then, we get a comment like that online, but it’s not a regular thing. It’s best to not respond to people like that. There’s nothing we could say in a few sentences that will convince them to change their taste in music or how they identify with it.
Some California reggae stations have been accused of reverse racism, refusing to play non-Jamaican reggae.
I haven’t heard of that happening to us, but we don’t get a lot of radio play anyways. Reverse racism is just taking an eye for an eye, which, as Gandhi famously said, makes the whole world blind.
When you started the band, what were your goals in terms of spreading a positive message?
We were all in college and going to class, so we were learning something new every day. Living by the beach in a sunny environment paired with listening to reggae culminated in being positive and expressing that in playing and writing music. There were more rock and punk bands in town at that time, so there was a niche for us to play reggae, which consistently has a positive message, unlike most other genres.
Can that positivity make the world a better place?
Lyrics and music have the strong possibility to make the world a better place because the message is so outright. Lyrics are poetry, and music is the vessel that eases the listener and enables them to be more open to the words being told to them.
How has medical marijuana and the Proposition 19 campaign affected the band, their politics and the shows you play?
I can’t say Prop. 19 has had a huge impact on the band. In the years before that, fans of our music have been using marijuana and listening to our music. Our fans have always included growers, purchasers—and people who want nothing to do with the stuff.
How do you feel marijuana enhances the creative process when you’re writing and recording? Does it play more of a role there than when you’re performing?
The way marijuana affects the creative and performing processes will always be individual issues. In my own experience, marijuana has no place in writing or performing, as it affects timing. If your only job is to put on the best show you can, drugs will only get in the way of that. I would hate to get wasted and put on a horrible show that hundreds of people paid good money to see. There’s a time to work and a time to play, and entertainers can sometimes forget that.
This article appeared in print as "A Time to Work and a Time for Spliffs: Rebelution take their stoner/reggae rock seriously."