Heels & Picks: Rebelution returns to Oahu
BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser
As far as the band is concerned, the moniker of California-based reggae-rock group Rebelution means kill ‘em with kindness, lead by example and make waves in a peaceful way.
REPUBLIK MUSIC FESTIVAL 4
With Rebelution, Matisyahu and Steel Pulse
» Where: Kakaako Waterfront Park
The band’s mantra sounds a little like the spirit of aloha when taken at face value, doesn’t it? And so it’s no surprise either that Hawaii fans were the first to embrace Rebelution’s music just over a decade ago.
“Without the fans in Hawaii, I don’t think Rebelution would be here today”, said bassist Marley Williams in a phone call. “Being a musician, and trying to make a career being a musician are really difficult. There’s a lot of competition. There are a lot of things you have to overcome as people.
“One of the most important moments in any quest to achieve a goal is that first wave of support and that first confidence-builder. And we are humble and grateful to say that Hawaii gave us that.”
When Rebelution burst out of the gates in 2004, Hawaii gave them their first radio hit. What followed were many years of grassroots touring and building a name for the band that has culminated in appearances at Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits and sold-out, headlining performances at Red Rock and Santa Barbara Bowl.
Not bad for a self-propelling band without major label backing.
With the June 10 release of their fourth album, “Count Me In”, Rebelution returns to Honolulu as headliners of the Republik Music Festival 4 on Sunday at Kakaako Waterfront Park.
I first met Rebelution in 2011 when my band, The Throwdowns, performed during the first Republik Music Fest. It was a super-fun time for all of the acts on stage, which included our two bands along with Matisyahu, Steel Pulse, The Dirty Heads and The Green. With their impenetrable cool of in-the-pocket, cruise-worthy vocals and solid reggae musicianship, I became an instant fan of Rebelution after catching their set.
So what does it take to reach the decade mark in a band?
“I think it’s about getting your group of people together,” said Williams. “As the founder, I met each member before they met each other. And I’m really proud of the people I found. We’ve grown into being Rebelution and into respecting each other tremendously.
“It’s really about knowing when it’s important to stand up for something that you believe in, and more importantly, when to let other people have the talking stick. Pick and choose your battles wisely. Not that we battle, but that saying goes a long way.
“If you always try to get your way, you will never get your way in the big picture. You’ll get kicked off the island, no pun intended.”
As someone who has spent years in bands, I know what the man is saying. I always liken being in The Throwdowns to having three extra, yet totally platonic, spouses. Ladies, can you imagine?
Studio time is often both the most exhilarating and most trying time for a band, where the opinions and creativity of all the band members, plus that of a producer, are in play. The hours are long, there are many factors to consider and after a few hours, all the guitar solos start to sound the same.
“We’re all perfectionists, in our own way … so it takes awhile to get an album done and put it out,” Williams said of the studio time it took to build “Count Me In.”
“It’s a real nice mix of traditional Rebelution as well as an expansion, because you always have to push the envelope a little bit.”
Fans of the band can expect the sound they’ve come to know and love on songs like “Roots Reggae Music” and a bit of a departure with tracks like “Fade Away.”
“I like different songs for different reasons,” said Williams. “But the song I’m kind of biased to, because I was most involved in it, is ‘Roots Reggae Music.’
“And not only was I involved in it, I love the roots reggae vibe of it, and it features Don Carlos, one of my favorites.”
The band’s third album, 2011’s “Peace of Mind,” debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s reggae and independent charts, and at No. 13 on the Top 200 chart. With those kinds of milestones met, there is always pressure to deliver to the fans when a new album drops, but Williams and the boys aren’t worried.
When asked about their success thus far, he deferred to the fans who built the band up to where they are today.
“My favorite thing about the experience of doing all of this, and having the success that we’ve had, has been that the people have supported us,” he said. “The people have made Rebelution what it is, and not money and paying for advertising and all of that.
“You know, slow and steady wins the race, and the faster you rise the harder you fall, however that saying goes. I think grass roots is the way to go, and I hope we can do this for a long, long time.”
As the lyrics on their new album so aptly state, Rebelution is “too blessed to be stressed.”
Erin Smith is a singer and guitarist who performs as a solo artist and with Maui-based Na Hoku Hanohano Award-nominated band The Throwdowns. Born in Canada, she moved to Hawaii in 2004 and now resides in Kailua. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.