Reggae is the musical equivalent of soccer— consistently crazy-popular in various parts of the world, but not so much in the United States when compared with its American-bred competition.
But just like soccer’s fan base, the reggae movement has also grown across the U.S. in recent years, and Rebelution singer-guitarist Eric Rachmany is proud to be part of it.
His California-bred band’s two previous albums, 2009’s Bright Side of Life and 2012’s Peace of Mind, mingled with the mainstream, each one hitting the upper fifth of the Billboard 200 pop-albums chart. Rebelution has expanded its palette a bit with Count Me In. Released on June 10, the 11-song collection is the fourth full-length effort on the group’s 87 Music label and the first partnering with the longtime reggae-centric indie Easy Star Records.
Rachmany checked in this week to discuss reggae’s appeal, the mix of music on Count Me In and more.
Medleyville.us: Forty years ago, Eric Clapton’s cover of Bob Marley’s “I Shot the Sheriff” was a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and as we speak, Magic’s “Rude” is at No. 2 on that chart. [Billboard announced July 16 that “Rude” has since gone to No. 1.] For most of the years in between, though, reggae music in general hasn’t been nearly as popular with the mainstream in terms of sales and airplay. That said, what did it mean for you as a reggae musician when Rebelution’s second and third albums cracked the Top 40 of the Billboard 200 chart?
Eric Rachmany: “I’m very thankful we have a core group of fans who are still purchasing albums. The way I look at is, it’s a donation to the band because there are certainly ways to get free music these days. The fact that people are still buying our music and putting us on the charts, I’m very thankful for that.
“I think that reggae music definitely isn’t the mainstream, at least in this country. But I do think the people who are into that music are fans for life, and overall they’re fans of a positive style of music, both lyrically and melodically. I think it’s definitely on the rise, and I feel very proud to be part of that movement. We’ve been a band for 10 years, and I’ve seen the movement grow. … Most everybody in this scene is independent. It’s hard work and dedication and staying true to the positivity.”
It’s been two years since Peace of Mind was released. Talk about some of the key things that happened since then that had an impact on Count Me In.
Rachmany: “I think the new album has a lot of different stuff on it — there are slower songs, some more progressive-rock songs, there’s a folk song and an R&B song on there, too. We like all different types of music, and I think we’re always trying to do something we haven’t done in the past.
“One of the biggest contributors to this album was our sound engineer. His name is Errol Brown, and he was Bob Marley’s recording engineer [in the studio] and also on the road. We’ve been with him for the past two, two and a half years. He was there for the entire recording process; his overall vibe and wisdom and good energy really added to the comfort in the studio. He’s really into the music, and he’s just as much a band member as anyone else.
“Honestly, the best part about it was bickering with Errol over certain things. I think he trusts me as much as I trust him, and going back and forth, it was really a pleasure.”
What led to partnering with Easy Star Records, and what does that alliance do for the Rebelution that the band couldn’t achieve before?
Rachmany: “Well, the main reason for going with them is they know our market. [A lot of the bands the company works with] have similar reggae-influenced music. But overall it’s the message that those guys put out on their label that did it for me. They’re interested in spreading positive music; they don’t want to just be part of an album that’s going to be a moneymaker. We’ve known them for a long time, and one of their sound engineers, Michael Goldwasser, did a lot of work on our previous album. He’s the guy who did Dub Side of the Moon, the Easy Star All-Stars cover album of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon.
“I think [the Easy Star people] are big fans of the music, and that means the most to me. We’ve had opportunities to go with a major record label, and the more we thought about it, the more we [realized] it wasn’t for us. Here is a record label that is putting out positive music, knows our scene and is fans of our music — it just seemed like the right combination.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Rebelution on tour (schedule subject to change):
* Aug. 2: Bottom Lounge — Chicago
* Aug. 3: Lollapalooza — Chicago
* Aug. 6: Mesa Amphitheatre — Mesa, Ariz.
* Aug. 7, 8: Open Air Theatre — San Diego
* Aug. 9, 10: Pacific Amphitheatre — Costa Mesa, Calif.
* Aug. 13: North Tahoe Regional Park — Tahoe Vista, Calif.
* Aug. 14: Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan — Las Vegas
* Aug. 15: Santa Barbara Bowl — Santa Barbara, Calif.
* Aug. 16: AT&T Park — San Francisco (acoustic set prior to Giants baseball game)
* Aug. 16: Greek Theatre — Berkeley, Calif.
* Aug. 17: Cuthbert Amphitheater — Eugene, Ore.
* Aug. 19: Marymoor Amphitheater — Redmond, Va.
* Aug. 21: Big Sky Brewing Company — Missoula, Mt.
* Aug. 22: The Great Saltair — Magna, Utah
* Aug. 23: Red Rocks Amphitheatre — Morrison, Colo.
Left to right: Bassist Marley D. Williams, keyboardist Rory Carey, singer-guitarist Eric Rachmany and drummer Wesley Finley. Photo by Jason Siegel