Finding Balance in ‘Peace'
Rebelution's latest album seeks middle ground while the band's internal debates fuel its sound
The first two Rebelution albums had the reggae-rock group going in opposite extremes.
"Our first album, ‘Courage To Grow,' we had this mentality that we didn't want to do so much on the album that we couldn't do live," singer-guitarist Eric Rachmany said in a recent phone interview. "We just kind of wanted to have that same sound. Then on ‘Bright Side of Light,' we were like ‘Screw that, let's make this way more full and with tons of layers.' "
With its current album, "Peace of Mind," Rebelution found a middle ground between recreating its live sound in the studio and using overdubs and instrumental or sonic elements that might enhance the studio version of a song, but at the expense of being impossible to recreate on stage.
The sonic direction didn't come together without some careful consideration from the band's four members.
"The one thing that I don't know if people know about Rebelution is that we're really particular about our sound," Rachmany said. "That one rhythm hit on guitar or piano may be argued about for a full day before we actually figure out whether it's going to be in or whether it's going to be out, and sometimes we'll even listen to the same track, two different versions, and we'll really, really talk about it."
Those internal debates seem to be working in Rebelution's favor so far in a career that started in 2004 when Rachmany, keyboardist Ron Carey, drummer Wesley Finley and bassist Marley D. Williams formed the band in Isla Vista, Calif., near Santa Barbara.
Despite self-releasing 2007's "Courage To Grow" and 2009's "Bright Side of Life," the group has steadily grown its audience — watching the second album debut at No. 1 on Billboard magazine's reggae chart. The band's current tour takes it into theaters, large clubs and even a few amphitheaters — including Sept. 22 at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre.
Rachmany is enthusiastic about playing live, in part because with the arrival of "Peace of Mind," the group now has more songs than it can fit into its headlining set, giving it a chance to mix up its set list.
"We've kind of been debating which songs to play every night," he said. "We've never really had that situation before, where we had to choose between three albums' worth of songs. So now it's kind of like this new era for Rebelution to have the option to play these new ones. It's exciting."
The new songs will add some variety to Rebelution's live show.
"I think a lot of this new album has a softer sound," Rachmany said. "Not to say the whole album, but we definitely tried to explore the softer and the harder and a little bit in between."
"Peace of Mind" does have its share of songs with relaxed tempos — "Closer I Get," "Good Vibes" and "Life on the Line." Such songs are more subdued and contemplative than "Comfort Zone" and "Day by Day," two tracks that have more of a rock edge, or even the CD's poppier tunes ("Meant To Be," "Calling Me Out" and "Sky Is the Limit"), which all feature especially buoyant melodies.
For Rebelution, the album also represented an opportunity to grow as a band in the studio and in how it recorded music.
In addition to the standard "Peace of Mind" album, the group made a disc of acoustic versions of all the songs and a disc of dub versions (created by producer Michael Goldwasser) of the songs, creating a three-disc edition of set.
After doing a lot of self-production on the first two albums, for "Peace of Mind," the group brought in different producers — Goldwasser, Amplive (Zion-I), Keith Armstrong and Errol Brown (Stephen, Ziggy and Bob Marley), Yeti Beats (Kool Keith, George Clinton) and Jim Fox — some of whom had worked on 2011's "Remix" EP.
"I really love the way things are going, because we get to record music and people get to hear us in their CD player," Rachmany said. "And then, when they want to see us live, we get to tour the country and actually see the people that have [gotten] our music every day. So it makes it all worthwhile."