The Green ‘stoked’ about new album, tour
BY JOHN BERGER / firstname.lastname@example.org
The music business is driven by hype and exaggeration. We’re always hearing about “the world’s biggest whatever,” and hardly a year goes by without Rolling Stone magazine putting out another self-indulgent “Greatest (fill-in-the-blank) of all time” list.
THE GREEN ALBUM RELEASE PARTY
With opening acts Shwayze and Kimie
Where: The Republik, 1349 Kapiolani Blvd.
Earth to Rolling Stone: “All time” isn’t over yet!
Amid all the contrived excitement, though, there are artists with accomplishments that amount to more than misleading hype.
Take The Green, whose third album, “Hawai’i ’13,” debuted at No. 77 on the Billboard Top 200 chart in August. The Green is the first local reggae group to reach any of Billboard’s six major mainstream charts, and only the fourth Hawaii-resident group of any genre to do so. (R&B/hip-hop group The Hi-Town DJs were the most recent, in 1998.)
“We were blown away; it was unreal,” group spokesman Zion Thompson said recently. “We were really stoked that the album started off so nicely.”
THE GREEN blew up big in 2010 with the release of a self-titled debut album; it won the 2011 Na Hoku Hanohano Award for reggae album of the year the following spring.
With the release of its next album, “Ways & Means,” in October 2011, The Green moved beyond basic Jamaican rhythms and got into other types of contemporary music.
“Hawai’i ’13″ is another step forward for the group.
While many Jawaiian artists of a generation ago followed the lead of Jamaican predecessors by addressing Afro-Caribbean issues, “Hawai’i ’13″ references Hawaiian issues.
The title references “Hawaii ’78,” written by Hawaiian nationalist Mickey Ioane and first recorded by the Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau.” The album opens and closes with songs sung in Hawaiian by children.
The opening song, “He Mele No Ku’u Hawai’i,” is a contemporary composition that expresses the singers’ love of their island home. The closing song, “Hawai’i Aloha,” is a Hawaiian classic from the 19th century.
“Having them start it and chant us in was the right vibe,” Thompson said. “Having them sing ‘Hawai’i Aloha’ at the end — the song that gets sung at the end of big gatherings and concerts and parties? It felt right.”
“For us being able to spread our music past Hawaii, it’s important for us to have a grasp on what’s really going on.” Thompson said. “We’re not trying to force anything down anyone’s throat, (but) we do have to represent where we come from.”
THE BAND MEMBERS — Thompson, Ikaika Antone, JP Kennedy, Caleb Keolanui, Brad “BW” Watanabe and Jordan Espinoza — are a tightknit group.
“We’ve been together a long time,” Thompson said. “Everybody in the band has known each other for different reasons forever, so things flow pretty well.
“We have our issues, but we’re really blessed that we work well together. We’re family.”
The “family” has illustrious musical roots. Thompson and Antone played together in Stir Crazy, an underground roots reggae group. Kennedy and Keolanui were in a reggae-pop group, Next Generation, that received local radio play; they’re both nephews of multiple Hoku Award-winner Danny Kennedy, founder and leader of the Mana’o Company. Watanabe’s resume includes time with Ooklah the Moc.
After this weekend’s concerts at the Republik, the sextet leaves for a month of mainland shows that will take them across the continent and back.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been so spread out on one tour. We always go a little bit outside the West Coast and the South, but this is a nice one,” Thompson said, describing the tour schedule as “connecting the dots. Some of the dots are further away than others, but we’re stoked.”
“We average about six or seven months a year on the road working in four- to six-week increments,” he continued. “We used to tour a lot longer, like two months; we’ve done 10 weeks in the past, driving ourselves all over, but we’ve gradually worked our way to doing slightly less in one clump.”
And even when they’re officially “off,” The Green is still working.
“We have what we call one-offs — like for one show we’ll travel to Maui and come back, or we’ll go to the mainland real quick and do a show and come back,” Thompson said. “We do a lot of that kind of stuff, and private shows, and preparation for releasing the album.”
“Preparation” includes getting the artwork ready, finalizing audio mixes, final mastering of each recording, and rehearsing for the next tour.
“We plan tours out half a year ahead,” he said.
“It’s hard to leave (Hawaii). A lot of people want to do it and just can’t. A lot of the bands out here are incredible, better than us, but we just happened to get lucky in the timing of the first album, and blessed in a lot of ways that everybody is able to get out and tour and be supported by our families and loved ones.”