What Is Dub Style Reggae And Why’s It So Damn Good? We Asked Rebelution

Eric Rachmany of Rebelution

Getty Image / Timothy Norris


I was fortunate to hop on the phone recently with Rebelution’s Eric Rachmany who has been an extremely busy man lately despite facing the same limitations that most of the world’s dealt with over the past few months. Eric is a founding member of California-based Reggae-Rock band Rebelution.

The group came together back in 2004 when the founding members met at the University of California-Santa Barbara. Rebelution released its first full-length album, Courage to Grow, in 2007 and since then they’ve released a new album almost every two years. Their latest album is The Dub Collection and it features Dub-Style remixes of their hits throughout the years.

If you’re familiar with what Dub Reggae actually is then I think you’re going to love this interview and if you’re already a fan of Dub Style Reggae then you’re really going to love this chat. We discussed the origins of Dub Style, why a lead singer would choose to do an album that cuts out a lot of the usual vocals, what the near future of the music festival scene looks like, and we talked about the Last Prisoner Project which seeks to free the more than 40,000 Americans in prison right now for cannabis violations which are no longer illegal.

Do yourself a favor and hit play on this album whilst reading through the interview. We kicked it off with me asking Eric why a singer would gravitate towards doing a Dub Style Reggae album which typically limits vocals and what led to this album in particular.

“You don’t need vocals to tell a story in music.”

Cass: I was curious, so as a singer, why would… What would inspire you to do a new album that cuts out the vocals?

Eric Rachmany: That’s maybe the best first question ever, that’s awesome. For me, I’m always… I’m usually coming up with an instrumental before any vocals come in, and I’ve always felt like instrumentals have its own story, without… You don’t need vocals to tell a story in music. So I thoroughly love Dub Music, and it’s kind of a by-product of Reggae Music.

Listening to all these classic Reggae tunes, and then followed up by what they call a version, and that’s usually like a dub, a dub version of the track, and a lot of the times it was on the backside of a 45 record. So Dub Music and Reggae have always been… Kinda go together. And I just… For me, when I… Let’s see, when I performed live for the first 10 years as a band, I always wanted to layer my vocals and beef it. I always love this wetness to the vocals. And when the vocals do come in in Dub Music, it’s usually got some really cool effects on it, so…

So immediately, I fell in love with that sound through Dub Music, and I wanted to replicate it live as much as I could, and I got a little carried away. For the longest time, I required it, I made sure every sound guy had a certain amount of delay and reverb in my vocals. And I’ve kinda backed off a little bit now, but that’s how much I love that sound. And in the past, when we’ve done Dub versions of our songs for the Peace of Mind album, we did an entire dub version of that album. So we actually didn’t choose any Peace of Mind Dub songs for this dub collection, ’cause we already had a version out there.

But we realized there are so many songs that we don’t have dub versions for. We thought this was a great time to do it.

I’ve been a fan of Dub Reggae since the first time I heard it years ago when someone turned me on to Mad Professor. It’s such a naturally soothing extension of Reggae Music, a style that takes a Reggae song and breathes new life into it while staying true to the original track.

One thing I’ve wondered about this style though is if fans come to expect a certain sound from a band. What happens when a fan hears a song played one specific way and falls in love with that track and then hears a completely different version of it live?

“I love it. I think our fans do, too.”

Cass: I was wondering, and maybe you’ve come up against this before as an artist, is there ever a concern that once you release a Dub version of the song that the fans will come to love that more than the original and expect that or… I don’t know… perfer and love the new version over the original.

Rachmany: I never thought about that either, but come to think about it, there are a couple of dubs out there in the world that I do like better than the originals. So that’s very possible.

I think there’s like a certain time and place for playing Dub, whether it’s tryna relax or if it’s a smoke fest.

It’s just like it fits a certain mood that you’re in, and maybe it’s because there aren’t any vocals in there. And I’m definitely not attached to vocals on everything, so I love it. I think our fans do, too. And I also think that releasing this dub collection might be like an educational tool to what Dub Music is. I think a lot of people… I saw a lot of comments that are like, “Well, I don’t know what Dub is.”

Rachmany and his Rebelution bandmates typically release a new album every two years while touring hard on the road in between. I asked him what the future of the festival scene might look like now that COVID has changed everything we’ve come to expect from large scale music festivals and when he thinks things will begin to resemble the music festivals we’re all used to.

“For the festival to come back I think it’s gonna probably take a little bit more than a year”

Cass: Thinking about like a year from now, do you see the festival scene looking similar to what it did two years ago or you hope?

Rachmany: I don’t know, honestly. I… I know me personally, I probably wouldn’t go to a big gathering right now, so there’s that…

Cass: Yeah, I’m in Florida, so I’m like terrified of even being around another person outside of my household.

Rachmany: Yeah, I don’t blame you. And the more that we find out it just becomes a little bit more fearful for me. I just feel like every day, like we don’t know enough. And I feel like… I don’t know, I just feel like… I feel like there’s a lot of unanswered questions. And so for the festival to come back I think it’s gonna probably take a little bit more than a year. But we’ll see, I really miss being on stage and I miss playing in front of all the fans and hundreds or thousands of people, there’s no better feeling than getting on stage and expressing myself. So I think it will come back at some point, it might just take a little bit more than a year.

He did mention that Rebelution has some awesome stuff in the works to be able to put on virtual live performances fo the fans and connect with them. So that’s an initiative I’m pretty stoked to learn more about in the coming days.

Once the band is able to get back out on the road I asked him which venues he’s looking forward to the most and which venues coast to coast compliment the band’s music the best.

“I don’t know why I identify with that venue so much.”

Cass: So way down the line, are there… What is your favorite… What are the best venues that you would be most excited to get back in and play across America? ‘Cause I try and hit as many new venues I have, but there are still so many gaps of places I haven’t been to in America and abroad. What are your favorite places to play?

Rachmany: Honestly, in Florida, I really love St. Augustine Amphitheatre.

I don’t know why I identify with that venue so much, I just… I love the different coloured seats, and I think the tent over the top of it, just like it… I don’t know. The sound just gets kinda trapped in there. It feels like a crowd of like a 100,000 people even though it’s only a crowd of maybe 4,000. And the sound always just reverberates really well in there, but Red Rocks is a place we look forward to every single Summer. And we were gonna do two nights there again this Summer.

Man, every show we just love so much. It doesn’t matter how sick the venue might be or how small or how big it is, just being able to express ourselves on stage. It could be any venue, so… We’re trying just to get back on stage.

Growing up on the East Coast I’ve always been influenced by my East Coast music roots and I’ve only ever seen a handful of concerts on the West Coast so I was pretty curious as to what the key differences between an East and West Coast reggae audience looks like for a guy from the Left Coast who has been touring nonstop for over a decade.

“I love both because I learned to never judge people based on the way they’re moving.”

Cass: Are there any discernible differences between playing in the East or West Coast?

Rachmany: Absolutely. People react differently based on the geographical location, I mean out west it’s pretty mellow. On the East Coast like Philly, Boston, or New York people are raging pretty hard out there.

And I love both because I learned to never judge people based on the way they’re moving, ’cause I know me personally, when I go to a concert, I’m not like jumping up and down like crazy, but I’m really enjoying the music, just listening.

And even though I might not move around too much, it doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying the music, so I always just kinda… But there’s sometimes when I’m like, “Oh, man. This is the most mellow song and just boss straight out there.”

 

“It’s a combination of all the artwork from all the albums.”

Cass: Something about the new album artwork, that struck me, there’s that Cairn. The stacked rocks. And that’s something I grew up with.  I spent all my summers in Upstate New York in The Adirondacks, and everywhere you go on a trail, we find those in like every town. I was wondering if there was a story behind that?

Rachmany: So basically, the art work is a combination of all our albums. It’s a combination of all the artwork from all the albums. And the Cairn happens to be on our fourth album called Count Me In. And so, we have a tree in there from Bright Side of Life, a bird from our album Falling in into Place, a bear from our album Courage to Grow, and it goes on and on. We just wanted, you know, considering this is a dub collection with songs from different albums, we thought the artwork should kinda be the same thing.

In doing my homework going into this interview I learned about the band’s partnership with The Last Prisoner Project, a project which seeks to free over 40,000 Americans currently imprisoned for cannabis-related offenses which are no longer even illegal under changed laws.

Rebelution Band

Image supplied by Rebelution


“Our goal is to get every prisoner out.”

Cass: Tell me a little bit about the Last Prisoner Project? It’s not something I was actually familiar with until she reached out about this interview, and it’s very intriguing to me. I’m curious, what are the most pressing needs there? Like, someone from my end with a platform that can reach several million readers, what should I be telling them about the Last Prisoner Project?

Rachmany: We’ve always been cannabis advocates and we never felt like it should’ve been illegal. And for us, we have our own cannabis line of products and it feels a little weird.

I guess my point is that if we’re gonna make anything off of cannabis, and there’s there are still people in prison, and basically we’re tryna do the same. We don’t care that it was illegal back then, it shouldn’t have been illegal. The war on drugs, in our opinion, is just a complete waste of money and time. And in turn, it’s put a lot of people are in prison, it costs a ton of money to keep people in prison, so we really feel for these people. And so to answer your question, it just didn’t feel right, making money off of cannabis with all these people still in prison for doing the same thing. So our goal is to get every prisoner out, that’s the mission statement for Last Prisoner Project. My manager, Dean Raise, is on board, and they started from the ground up.

We figured this is was a great organization to get involved in and a way for us to give back and really help out these people. All these people in prison have families and unfortunately, they got these massive sentences for just possession or intent to sell and these are… And most of these are non-violent offenders. So to keep them in prison is just absolutely crazy to us, so we’re trying really hard to fundraise and work through LPP to get them out.

Eric recently moved back to Santa Barbara from Guam, welcomed his first son to the world, and put out the band’s new album all during the COVID-restrictions nationwide. I was curious where he’s been finding inspiration from lately.

“We used to draw a lot of inspiration from the acts that we toured with.”

Cass: You guys have all felt really inspired, writing over the last couple of months. Have you found yourself listening to any new music or old music at home that’s helped with that inspiration yet?

Rachmany: I was mentioning this before but we used to draw a lot of inspiration from the acts that we toured with, a lot of the opening bands or if we were opening up for somebody just getting to watch them perform and seeing it live is super inspirational.

And unfortunately, we can’t really do that during this time. So I have been listening to a lot of some of my favorite music. I’m a big Pink Floyd fan, and I’ve been listening to a lot of Pink Floyd lately. But as far as newer stuff, I’ve been listening to a band called Durand Jones & The Indications, and they’re a group that actually toured with us last summer, kind of like a Neo Soul and Motown, R&B vibe. And I really am I’m enjoying listening to them.

We then turned the discussion to what fans can look forward to the most on The Dub Collection. I’m not even exaggerating in the slightest bit when I say this has been playing nonstop on my Sonos at home for over a week. I can’t recall an album that’s easier to listen to on repeat without ever growing tired of it.

“Special for the fans but also really special for us too.”

Cass: For old fans or new fans is there something in particular they should be listening for with this album that you’re like particularly proud of with this one?

Rachmany: I think for the old fans, getting to hear some of these dub versions of our old songs from our first album Courage to Grow, I think that is really special because those songs have been out longer than these newer ones, so getting to hear a different version of those I think was special for the fans, but also really special for us too. It’s hard to believe some of the songs were written 15 years ago and that we’ve been a band that long and… So that was really cool.

You can find The Dub Collection available for streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, Bandcamp, Tidal, Deezer, and Amazon. And if you want to indulge in some hope and look forward to the future, the band has their Summer 2021 tour dates listed which you can check out on their website.