Rebelution returns to thank Hawaii fans
BY ERIN SMITH / Special to the Star-Advertiser
As far as Rebelution’s members are concerned, the band’s name means kill ’em with kindness, lead by example and make waves in a peaceful way.
The California-based, reggae-rock group’s mantra sounds a little like the spirit of aloha when taken at face value, and thus it is no surprise that Hawaii fans were among the first to embrace Rebelution’s music just over a decade ago.
REPUBLIK MUSIC FESTIVAL 4
With Rebelution, Matisyahu and
“Without the fans in Hawaii, I don’t think Rebelution would be here today,” bassist Marley Williams said in a phone call from the mainland. “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.”
Hawaii embraced Rebelution when it came bursting out of the gate in 2004 and gave the band its first radio hit. What followed were many years of grass-roots touring and reputation-building, culminating in high-profile appearances at Glastonbury, Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits and in sold-out headlining performances at Red Rock and Santa Barbara Bowl.
Not bad for a self-propelling band without backing from a major label.
With Tuesday’s release of a fourth album, “Count Me In,” Rebelution is back to revisit isle fans, headlining The Republik Music Festival at Kakaako Waterfront Amphitheater.
SO WHAT does it take to reach the decade mark in a band?
“I think it’s about getting your group of people together,” Williams said. “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.”
Studio time is a testament to what a band is made of — it’s often both the most exhilarating and most trying time for a group. The opinions and creativity of all the band members, plus those 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 a while 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 Rebelution sound they’ve come to know and love — in-the-pocket, cruise-worthy vocals and solid reggae musicianship on songs like “Roots Reggae Music.” The band also offers a bit of a genre departure on tracks like “Fade Away.”
“I like different songs for different reasons. But the song I’m kind of biased to, because I was most involved in it, is ‘Roots Reggae Music,'” Williams said. “Not only was I involved in it, I love the roots-reggae vibe of it, and it features Don Carlos, one of my favorites.”
Jamaican singer Don Carlos is also a Hawaii favorite, often seen on local stages.
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 charts.
When those kinds of milestones are achieved, there is always pressure to deliver to the fans when a new album drops.
Williams said he and the other band members aren’t worried. Asked about their success thus far, he deferred to the fans who have built up Rebelution to where the band is today, on the eve of a fourth album release.
“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. The people have made Rebelution what it is, and not money and paying for advertising and all of that,” he said.
“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.”
Erin Smith is a solo musician, lead singer of Maui-based band The Throwdowns and Honolulu Pulse blogger. The Throwdowns performed at the inaugural Republik Music Festival in 2011 along with Rebelution and Matisyahu.