Wes, thanks for speaking with us today.
Q1: When did you first start playing the drums?
I first attempted percussion in middle school, but was not very good at first, so they stuck me on triangle duty. By high school, I had actually gotten pretty good and graduated to snare. I continued to excel and was drum captain the last two years on snare, but only considered the full drum set a hobby. It was only when I brought my set down as Rebelution was forming that I regularly played my set.
Q2: Who are some of your inspirations behind the drum kit?
My inspirations come from a few different genres – progressive hip-hop, 90’s R&B, and emo/hardcore. The beats and vocal rhythms that come from groups like Zion I and The Grouch have caught my ear for a long time now and I think influence a lot of what I do on the hi-hat and also listening to the vocals to match up. 90’s R&B has always stucks to me because of the melodies and incredible singing. Most importantly though, emo and hardcore may be laughable to many people but the drummers in these types of bands are unsung heroes. Their creativity in developing new and interesting grooves while supporting the singer by inserting spicy fills and playing with intensity is something I continually strive for. My inspirations here would be Dino Campanella from Dredg, Riley Breckenridge from Thrice, Steve Clifford from Circa Survive, Brian Lane from Brand New, Jordan Hastings from Alexisonfire, Abe Cunningham from Deftones, and Wuv from P.O.D.
Q3: Rebelution’s new album Peace of Mind reached #1 of Billboard’s Reggae charts. Congratulations on its success! Did you think it would be as popular as it turned out to be?
We of course had hopes that it would successful as does every band with their release. It’s our most diverse album to date so we weren’t sure how it would be accepted, but it seems as it’s done what we wanted it to do which is reach a broader audience.
Q4: When did you guys decide to do the triple-album rather than a traditional standard album? Was there any fear prior to its release on how your fans would respond to it?
Our manager Dean first brought it up and pushed us to do it so we’re thankful for that. Studio time and costs were definitely a concern, but we realized we could accomplish the other two albums pretty quickly if we buckled down. Our acoustic performances have always been met with great response so it was no question that we should offer this to our fans as an alternative.
Q5: Last summer, Rebelution toured with Slightly Stoopid and this summer you are touring with OAR? What’s it like going from headlining large venues to playing festivals and amphitheaters in front of thousands?
It’s a nice change of pace. Headlining is always a good ego booster as it’s your show and you get to play an extended set, but it’s hard to grow if that’s all you do. The best way to increase your fan base is to play in front of an audience that’s not yours, but may be open to hearing you – that’s when conversions take place. In addition, it’s a lot of fun to play outside in the summer time and catch other bands you might be a fan of at festivals.
Q6: What city tends to have the biggest following when you guys are on tour?
Because California is our home state, shows in San Diego, LA, and San Francisco will draw some of our largest crowds. Other than that, we have pretty good draws in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Philly, and most of Florida.
Q7: Back in March, Rebelution played a show in Chicago with Pep Love, The Green, and The Wailers. Can you describe the feeling of sharing the stage with The Wailers?
It was a little intimidating, not gonna lie! Sharing the stage with any legend is always an enlightening and humbling experience and this was no different. It was exciting watching which songs they decided to do and how they went about structuring those classics. They had great energy and I could feel it as I was actually in the crowd soaking it up with everyone else. To add to the pressure of going on after them, the show was being streamed live so that upped the ante.
Q8: How successful was the online stream from that show where fans could buy it for $6.99 and donate it to 1 of 6 different charities?
The company in charge of the process was actually surprised at how successful the campaign was, as it exceeded their expectations. We’re glad we accomplished something important like that without much extra effort on our part, so we will definitely look into doing that again in the future. Any cent going into the hands of a charity is a good thing.
Q9: If you could pick 5 bands to play a festival with, who would you choose?
Oh boy, that’s a toughie. To be selfish, I’d have to say City & Colour, Dredg, Zion I, Circa Survive, and Damian Marley. I’d just have to make sure the schedule lines up so none of us are playing at the same time!
Q10: Do you guys have plans to release another album in the future?
We definitely do. We’re still currently touring in support of Peace of Mind, so we’re only just now starting to think about the next album and songwriting for it. The only thing I can guarantee at this point is that it will be just as, if not more, diverse as the previous album.
Q11: On the new album, you guys brought in a saxophone to add to the sound produced by Eric, Rory, Marley, and yourself. Do you anticipate to keep the saxophone as a permanent part of the music you make?
We would certainly like to. Khris Royal has helped our music progress and we intend on having him on board as long as he’s willing. Occasionally he has conflicting dates with his own projects so we’ve had to bring in a replacement here and there, but it’s safe to say that on the rare occasion it’s just the four of us again, we do notice and miss that fifth layer.
Q12: Peace of Mind was recorded with a number of special guests including Jacob Hemphill (SOJA), Lutan Fyah, Zumbi, and the legendary John Popper (Blues Traveler). How did the idea come about to bring in John Popper to play harmonica on “Closer I Get”?
The idea came from doing listening sessions of the tracks as we were working on them in production. Eric and Marley were brainstorming what they could hear in that space of the song and a harmonica seemed fitting. We knew Popper from having played a Fourth of July show with Blues Traveler at Red Rocks a couple years ago, and it’s no secret that he absolutely rips on the harmonica.
Q13: Which of the Rebelution albums was your favorite to create?
Peace of Mind has been my favorite to create so far for a number of reasons. This was the first time we’ve actually written while on tour so we had songs that had matured over time, as opposed to writing on the spot. Additionally, we had more studio time than before to hash out ideas and experiment with sounds so we were a lot happier with the end product. The songwriting on this album was more diverse so I felt like I got to stretch out on some of the tracks and really show what I’m personally capable of, from raging on Lady in White to playing brushes on Honeypot. Working with Eric on the acoustic album was also a new area were challenged ourselves in, developing as studio musicians.
Q14: If you could play anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Playing in Hawaii, Aruba, and Guam has been awesome because you’re sort of on vacation while you’re there for the shows. In terms of uncharted territory for us, I would like to play in Australia and New Zealand because they are reggae friendly and beautiful places. Japan also seems intriguing, like another planet almost, so I’d like to use music as an excuse to travel there also. Other than that, the moon?
Q1: Given the new found push in the cannabis movement, do you feel you can use your band as a platform, or will you just focus on the music?
-Tim Sullivan (Amherst, MA)
I think we already do make a statement in our music that we openly support the use of cannabis. We let the music speak for us.
Q2: Wes, was Rebelution the first band you played with and did you play other genres before reggae? When Rebelution first started, did you guys always play reggae music or did you try out different genres before deciding on reggae?
-Jeff Hertz (Commack, NY)
I first started playing in school so technically I was playing wind ensemble, marching band, and pep band music before anything else. At the same time Rebelution was forming, Eric and I were also in another project together called ToneDown that was more acoustic rock. We recorded some songs and played a few shows but that group dissolved and Rebelution was taking off as more people were into the reggae influence at that time. Eric and I still enjoy rocking out every once in a while and we may revisit that idea someday.
Q3: Wes, where did the name Rebelution come from?
-Dan Horowitz (Wilton, CT)
Rebelution is a portmanteau, meaning it combines two or more words into one new word, in this case rebel and revolution. There isn’t much of a history behind it except that we wanted to give both terms a positive connotation. It was a simple name to remember and rolls off the tongue easily so we knew it would stick. Nonetheless, you’d be amazed at how often it’s misspelled!
Q4: Can you describe Rebelution’s process of writing a song? Does it come naturally or do you guys sit down and plan a writing session to get the sound you want?
-Justin Pepple (Arlington, MA)
These days our writing process can vary. We all live in different areas so when we’re not on tour, some of the guys will use their laptops and instruments they have at home to develop a musical idea, then record it and send it to the rest of us. Then we delve into that idea in depth when we meet up for rehearsal and figure out where to take it. Recently we’ve taken a few ideas and turned them into instrumental transitions in between songs, and then when we get time in at a sound check on tour, we’ll then work on developing them into full-length songs. Each song kind of takes its own direction to a certain degree so it’s important to be open-minded and not force it into anything it doesn’t want to be.
Q5: Wes, is the song Attention Span off the album Courage to Grow a true story? Cuz it’s definitely the story of my life!
-Adam Weinstein (Hartsdale, NY)
Attention Span was written about how impossible it is to remember everyone’s name. We specifically wrote it about living in Isla Vista where we would be constantly meeting new people. It’s sort of a song about the awkwardness in forgetting someone’s name over and over and over and…over again.
Wes, thanks again for taking some time to discuss your music with us. We really appreciate it and look forward to seeing Rebelution on the road this summer!
Welcome! Thanks for taking interest in myself and the band!