With “reggae fusion” sounds, as they say, Roots of Creation was one of the first bands of the festival starting up the parties. They were there to spread good energy, make friends, and have jam sessions. By watching them throughout the weekend, I can confidently say they succeeded. Check out their latest Grateful Dub project. It’s a tribute to one of the greatest American bands, Grateful Dead.
I’ll be honest in saying I don’t know a ton about reggae. What I do know is the scene is very tight knit and true reggae fans are loyal. Do you all pull a lot of energy from the fans? If so, how do you transfer that energy into your songs and stage presence?
One of the biggest motivations is creating a song and then you hear people singing the words. They get it. Let’s say I went through a breakup or some other bad thing and then I hear other people singing the words, that’s the amazing thing. They get it. Also, maybe they are dancing or getting turned up in the crowd. Once in a while, you’ll get this amazing moment where people tell you your song made a difference. Someone once told me, “Your songs help me quit heroin.” There are those key moments in time when you realize what you’re doing is helping people. You’re first helping yourself with the music, but then, secondarily, you are building a connection with the people you are building a show for.
Continuing off that a bit, what’s one thing you want to say about the reggae scene to encourage others to experience it?
There’s all different subgroups so it depends on what you want to get into. There is the OG Jamaican reggae, dance hall, and all these different styles. What we do is a fusion. Some call us reggae rock or whatever, but I’m not a huge fan of labeling music. In our scene, it’s very grass roots based and a tight knit family of bands. We all support each other and go on tour with each other. If you’re starting out in the scene, go support bands. Don’t ask to be on the list. Buy a ticket, buy merch, and shake some hands. Be a giver in the scene.
How do you think growing artists, or just those spreading their name in general, can use things like Hangout Fest to grow their listener base?
That’s the thing about festivals. Getting on the festival list is part of the journey. Once you’re on, then you have to think about what you’re going to do. Are you going to play one set? Or are you also going to do some interviews and network with media? How are you going to get the word out? Are you using Twitter, Instagram, or putting flyers in the bathrooms? There’s so many artists I see here who made their name on the internet before they toured, but I think we are the opposite. We toured and handed out discs, shaking hands, and giving hugs. We may even do a late night set at a party tonight just to spread our vibes.
Tell us a little about the Grateful Dub project you have going on.
The Grateful Dub album just dropped a little bit ago, and it is co-produced by Errol Brown who helped with the last three Bob Marley albums. We were really blessed to have him on the album, and there’s also tons of collaborations with friends we have toured with. It’s 12 songs that were originally Grateful Dead done in a reggae-rock style. I learned how to play guitar from Dead tapes. It’s kind of an homage to where I learned to play guitar.
This is always a funny topic to kind of bring up, John Mayer even recently poked a little light-hearted fun at it. You see so many stores selling fashionable Grateful Dead shirts and young people wearing them. Some of them may like Grateful Dead, but for some, it’s a fashion statement. How do you all feel about that?
I actually have a funny story. When I first started listening to Grateful Dead, I was super into punk rock, skateboarding, and drinking. My mom wanted me to meditate and do yoga, but I did find spirituality in the reggae scene. A lot of people said a Grateful Dead show is like going to church. Our manager calls their music, “The Great American Song Book.” When I was young, a buddy who was getting me into Grateful Dead had a sister and she asked if we wanted to go see a Grateful Dead show. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t go because there were gatecrashers, and it was a mess. We were just going to stay home and play with our band. I wasn’t too into them at the time, but he did point at a few Dead shirts one time and tell me not to get one of them because that’s the one everyone gets. He also told me if anyone asks my favorite song, don’t say “Casey Jones” and don’t say my favorite album was, Skeletons in the Closet. He schooled me on what to say and what to listen to so I didn’t look like an idiot. There’s also a part of me that knows the Grateful Dead has become an enigma and represents something bigger to people. I was into them, but some people would wear the shirts to show they like to party. I do think it’s funny seeing the shirts, but I think it also represents a tribe.
What’s been one band you all have been able to work with that you kind of had to do a step back and realize it was real?
Every show we play, I try to learn something from all of the bands. It’s tough to pinpoint one. I look at things like how the front man is connecting with the audience or how tight the band is. I do look up to Slightly Stoopid as big brothers because Bradley from Sublime signed them at a young age, and they have been grinding it out. It’s cool to have hit songs on the radio, but they have such a tight fanbase that knows every song. I look up to bands who have a community.
Is there anything in your eyes that makes Hangout different from other festivals?
For me, it’s not mainstream. There are mainstream artists, but the festival isn’t. There’s a ton of variety of artists, and it’s so big in terms of volume of people. The location is also beautiful. There’s little pockets of people who have come together. I’m also just a fan of awesome songs. I’m excited to see The Chainsmokers. They work with tons of cool vocalists, and it’s not a kind of show I usually just buy a ticket for. But here, I can watch them and network. Those are the cool things that happen at festivals.
If you could say only one phrase to encourage people to listen to your music, what is it?
What we originally stood for was peace, love, truth, and music. For the truth part, it’s speaking the truth about how you feel about what’s going on in the world and in spirituality. It’s not being afraid to throw some punches out. Peace is about inner peace and the outer peace you can feel with the world and love. Music is for obvious reasons. We always say we want to bring our music to a higher ground, not to put anything down from the past, but we are trying to do something different and create our own style.
STORY & COVER PHOTO ELIZABETH STAFFORD
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