Contrary to the fact that smokers indulge in a wide variety of music, there does happen to be one style that is wholly conducive to interacting with cannabis and that style is played for one by the world-class vibe machine musicians that make up Rebelution. And while it comes down to their reggae roots and love-all attitude, it is also equally about their individual lifestyles and how they grew up discovering both marijuana and music. These four friends, bandmates, and former rommates — Eric Rachmany, Rory Carey, Wesley Finley, and Marley D. Williams — have a special bond both with each other and with the community they have created, which makes the music all the more irresistible.
Upon the release of their most recent album, Count Me In, High Times sat down with them to discuss the new record, the intersection of marijuana and music and more.
High Times: The new record, Count Me In, is out and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. How are you feeling about it?
Rory: We’re feeling great! We’ve been working on it for a little over two years now and I think every song has a purpose. That’s what it’s all about — trying to put out the type of stuff that we’re known for with the right formula and also trying to grow as a group.
HT: Before you actually went into the studio to record Count Me In, what kind of process went into the songwriting? Is there an overlying theme or message to it?
|Eric: Every song has a different feel — there isn’t really a theme to the whole album. I think the challenge is just to be yourself. If you’re in the studio and you think about the album and the pressure, I don’t think the art is going to come out very well. The challenge is just to be comfortable with who you are. That’s something we’ve been doing for the past ten years too — just being comfortable and enjoying ourselves. That’s why I think we are really proud of this album, because we just had a lot of fun doing it.
As far as the songwriting goes, I usually come up with the concept and write most of the lyrics. Sometimes I’ll write a melody as well. It depends though — sometimes I’ll write at home, but a lot of times I’ll write on the road. We’re on the road at least half of the year. We take advantage of our sound checks and work on new material as we tour. It’s definitely a culmination of at least two year’s work.
HT: Each of you also has a pretty strong individual connection with cannabis and hemp. How does that play into your music and your lives?
Marley: My personal connection I’d have to say is where I came from. I was born in the woods in Mendocino County — a place that I’ve heard has produced more pot outdoors at one point than anywhere else in the world. For me, being around that since I was born, I’ve always just felt that it was just how life was … until I moved to college and saw what police do. It always felt like it was legal to me since day one, so I’ve always connected with it. Obviously also being in a reggae band, that carries through. It’s just always been in my life.
Rory: Reggae music was kind of founded with the use of herb too, so it kind of correlates. It puts you in that mindset and mentality. I think that rhythm came from a feel-good, reggae kind of vibe.They go hand-in-hand. When I first started using cannabis was when I first got into reggae. You hear Bob Marley everywhere, but it wasn’t until I started smoking that I really felt reggae and I got its purpose. The vibe that it talks about is positive, everyone is equal, and that type of thing. That’s how you feel when you smoke. When you use cannabis, you don’t want to go get in a fight like when you’re drunk or something. You want to chill — and that’s really what reggae music says and does. It’s a lifestyle that I truly live by and smoking is a doorway to that.
Eric: Yeah, also I learned about the medical benefits of cannabis through reggae music — not even online or anything. Rastas have been talking about the medical benefits of cannabis for years and years and years. It seems like now there is a new study every day, but there is this culture and this music that’s been talking about it way before that.
Wesley: I partake the least out of everybody, but I’ve learned to appreciate it a lot because my cousin has MS. He uses a lot and has great results from it medicinally. I really appreciate it for that purpose.
Rory: I’m huge into hemp as well. I’ve been on a vegan diet for 13 years and a lot of that is from the environmental side. That’s what hemp relates to as well. It’s an annual renewable resource that you can grow every year. It’s good for the soil and you could even build a house out of it. Hemp is a huge thing and it’s really too bad that you’re not allowed to grow it in the United States. Since you have to import it in, hemp is more expensive and less accessible then. I don’t think the awareness is out there because it is always associated with pot and getting high. You can’t get high from hemp. Countries have survived famines with this plant, it’s a big thing. That alone being legal in the States would be a huge step.
HT: In terms of making music and performing live, does marijuana play into that process a lot?
Marley: Well, the first time I smoked weed was when I was like eight years old. It was just around us, you know? So I smoked a lot all the time until it got to a point where I had a lot of things going on. So I started to smoke at certain times — I like to smoke when I watch sci-fi movies, after lifting weights, social gatherings. If there’s somebody that we’re meeting and they want to smoke, you’ve got to smoke with them. It’s like a cool ritual or like having a glass of wine with someone. With that said though, I’m very energetic onstage. I like to pump people up — not just with the sound of my bass, but also with my body. And sometimes if I smoke I go into Lizard Mode. So I really need that strain of weed that has Redbull in it — otherwise I like smoking after the show.
Eric: I’ve seen you want to get creative and smoke for that reason. Marley does the artwork for almost every one of our albums. I’ve seen him do a like, “Let’s get in the mode” type of thing. So sometimes we’ll definitely do that to spur the creativity.
I don’t need it to get creative, but sometimes it’s a way to channel that at a particular moment.
Rory: Yeah, in the studio definitely. Right after we had played the Emerald Cup, we were going into the studio and they gave us like 50 jars of different strains. So that was just hanging out on the table and definitely helped in inspiring 12-hour sessions. Before the live shows though, like Marley said, I want to give at least a little energy — as much as I can behind the keys!
HT: The type of music you make specifically lends itself to building a strong community. How do you feel the love back from the fans?
Eric: We’ve always felt it. We came up in Isla Vista in Santa Barbara County and we found this amazing community that would come out to our shows. We wrote a song called “Feeling Alright,” which I think is really about them. They showed us support and just felt like family. We just have such overwhelming support and I think that’s because they feel like they’re a part of the music as well. They’re a part of the movement. Rebelutionaries.
Rory: I don’t think there is really any replacement for a live show — I think they are the most fun for us as well. That’s how we started before we were really recording artists. We were a live band playing college towns.
Wesley: We make the majority of our business from live shows as well.
HT: With Count Me In out now and you guys touring all over the world, what’s most exciting about living it as a band?
Marley: With this album, it’s interesting to look back at the last ten years and see that we’re improving every year. That steady improvement up until this point has brought us to an amazing point. We’re going to be in Amsterdam doing the Cannabis Cup in November which is super exciting plus all of these festivals we’re on worldwide. It’s amazing — I fell like yesterday we were all just roommates in college and booking our first Hawaii tour (when in fact we were just in Honolulu again ten hours ago). It feels full-circle.
Rory: It’s a cool time and I think that we put more work into this album than any other one. We were in the studio longer than ever and we had Errol Brown as our sound engineer, who recorded the last three Bob Marley records. It’s just insane. I feel blessed that he even wants to work with us. Who would have thought ten years ago that we’d have this legend in the tour bus with us?
Wesley: I think we’re in a really good place. We’re doing our second summer amphitheater tour and our biggest tour to date. We brought on two horn players and another guitar player, so we’re really growing. It’s crazy. You always think like, this could be the pinnacle, but we keep seeing that mountain build.
Eric: Things are constantly changing very fast. We’re growing really fast. We’re recording new material and playing new places. I look online and I see Rebelution cover bands and we’ve got massive crowds singing along to music that we wrote up to ten years ago. It’s spreading very fast. I think the one thing that really hasn’t changed is our mentality. We’re still the same people that we were ten years ago. We’re just having fun and trying to spread positive music. That was our goal from the beginning.