Even if a sad time comes, I'll remain protected
If I try real hard, I'll regain perspective
If I look in a straight line and never look back
I'll be working on the next track
–from “Comfort Zone” on Peace of Mind (2012)
Lyrics such as these by the Santa Barbara roots-reggae outfit Rebelution parlay perfectly front man/guitarist Eric Rachmany's charming essence, a centered, yoga-like vibe that seeks salvation through creativity. Fresh off a string of holiday show dates that wrap up tomorrow night at the Observatory, Rachmany's vibe seeps through in a conversation about what the band have going on in the upcoming months: more touring and recording their fourth album in LA.
“I've been thinking of the word 'balance' a lot lately,” he says, describing his creative headspace over the past few months. “Life is a balance. In order to feel happy, you have to go through a period of sorrow–and the other way around. That really is true for us, being on the road a lot vs. feeling comfort and stability.”
Rebelution enjoyed some rare downtime over the summer. For much of the respite, the band fine-tuned songs they had written while on tour in Europe. Rachmany says they're halfway through the writing process and hope to be done recording by December, and he's stoked about how inspired the band is from their time in Europe. “There is lots of roots reggae [in Europe],” he says. “Everywhere has their own kind of twist on it.”
Rachmany mentions in particular the French reggae duo Dub Incorporation, with whom he was invited to share a stage at a show in Portugal. “One of the guys is from Algeria, and you can totally hear some of the Arabic influence in his vocals,” he says. “It was really cool for me; I'm Persian, and I really love music from that region and the Middle East.”
The 29-year-old grew up in San Francisco's Sunset District in a Persian Jewish family; his mother and late father were both involved in ethnic arts there, and he grew up listening to Israeli folk music as a kid before getting into guitar as a teenager and learning Dave Matthews and Sublime songs. While attending classes at Santa Barbara City College, he would meet his band: bassist Marley D. Williams, keyboard player Rory Carey and drummer Wesley Finley. Later, the four would transfer to UC Santa Barbara, going to school and playing the vibrant Isla Vista surfer-party scene.
Of the band's early guerrilla shows, he notes there were “tons of kids walking the streets Fridays and Saturdays. We went to Home Depot and built a stage, and just set up on the street. Our first show was all covers: 'Pawn Shop' and other classic Sublime tunes, 'Trenchtown Rock' by Bob Marley. We had a great time, and people loved it; more people came back the next time. We had to shut down after a while because it got too crazy.”
Unlike many young party bands, Rebelution were able to translate their live energy onto their breakout 2007 LP, Courage to Grow, a huge hit among area party kids, Mendocino marijuana farmers and reggaeheads worldwide. The self-produced album won an iTunes award and reached No. 4 on Billboard's reggae charts. “It grew gradually,” he says. “We never had a breakthrough or anything, and it still is happening. We've put in a lot of work, and it's awesome.”
Rebelution are still primarily a live act. “We've only been in the studio a total of a month and a half for all four records, but we've been on the road, playing onstage for nine years,” he says. “Our live set is so much more developed. To me, it doesn't matter how people get our music–they can download it for free–and I think if they really enjoy the music, they'll find a way to support it somehow. If they want to buy the album, I see that as a donation to the band. It's not like back in the day.”
Rachmany's obvious personal fulfillment transcends any monetary metric. And while he clowns on himself via Twitter for being 29 and living with his mom, he wouldn't trade music for any job in the world.
“Success should be measured by how much love you give to people,” he says. “Sometimes, I have to remind myself of this because there are so many dollar signs in the industry, and people get distracted. Writing about it helps me stay on course.”
Rebelution plays the Observatory on Saturday, Jan. 4. (show is sold out).