Eric Rachmany of Rebelution

by Dan MacIntosh

Just as there is still prejudice against white hip-hop artists – although guys like Eminem are starting to quiet the criticism – there is still suspicion of white reggae bands. After all, black nationalist Marcus Garvey is deified by the Rastafarian religion (religion of choice for most major reggae artists) and celebrated in much of the dread reggae recorded from Bob Marley on up to the present.

Santa Barbara's Rebelution, however, has quickly gained respect from the diehard reggae crowd, which is validated by Don Carlos' (formerly of Black Uhuru) decision to record numerous times with the act.

Influenced by classic reggae, Dave Matthews, and a class of singer/songwriters that includes Paul Simon, vocalist/songwriter Eric Rachmany continues to break down the color barrier with Rebelution.
Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): "Safe and Sound" is probably your most popular song. Can you tell me a little bit about the inspiration for it?

Eric Rachmany: Sure. It's not too complicated, although there is kind of a hidden message in the song that I haven't told many people. I would say overall that the message of "Safe and Sound" is we got started in Santa Barbara in Isla Vista, California - it's the college community there [University of California at Santa Barbara, where the band was formed]. Every weekend we would play shows on the streets, in the backyard or front yard, and we would set up stages, and anytime I would get on stage it was my time to shine. I never felt like I was good at speaking my mind, giving presentations or just giving a speech, but as soon as I had the microphone I felt like I had this new comfortable means of expression, so that song is me kind of feeling the energy from being on stage and pitching myself to a young lady. [Laughing] And I definitely have one in mind from back in the day that I still can remember and think about.

But yeah, it brings back great memories, being on stage and just kind of trying to lure in someone, an attraction.

Songfacts: I would say nine of out ten musicians will tell you that that's the reason why they got into a band. There's nothing to be ashamed of there. That's very common, right?

Rachmany: Yeah. Exactly.

Songfacts: I notice that a lot of your songs are very optimistic. There's one called "Courage to Grow." Another one is called "Sky is the Limit." Are those songs that express your natural optimism?

Rachmany: Yeah. I would say that it stems back to a lot of the reggae music I was listening to. There's a lot of positivity. And also as the band was developing we noticed a community that was coming out to our shows and everybody was just thrilled to see us play. I figured if we have this great community, let's try to motivate them and keep them inspired, and at the same time keep us inspired. The music is for everybody, not just for the fans, but for us. Kind of a reminder to keep on track and keep your head up, and think positive.

Songfacts: When you write songs, is it your way of expressing that? I mean, when you sit down and write songs, is it when you're feeling pumped up and you have to put it to music?

Rachmany: Not really. I usually come up with the music beforehand. It's less of an idea until after the music is already done, and then I think about what the music is saying to me: every melody, every chord progression, the mood to it, every bass line.

So I think about what story is this telling, without any words, just the music. And then I try to apply some personal experience to that. I mean, if it's an uplifting chord progression with an uplifting feel, a rhythm, I'll probably talk about something uplifting and try to inspire.

Songfacts: Who are your favorite songwriters?

Rachmany: Man, there's a lot of good ones. Dave Matthews is one of my favorite songwriters. I wasn't just into reggae growing up. A lot of singer songwriter stuff. Paul Simon is my favorite lyricist.

Don Carlos is my favorite reggae artist. He is a guy that got me really into reggae music. I had heard Bob Marley growing up just here and there, but I went to a Don Carlos show with my sister and I was just like, What is this? This is amazing.

Songfacts: Was he with Black Uhuru?

Rachmany: Yep. Yeah. Nice. You got it. He was in Black Uhuru in the earlier days and then he did a solo career. He's actually on our album. We've got him on a track.

Black Uhuru came along smack dab in the middle of the roots reggae uprising in 1972. However, it was in the '80s, when the group was produced by Sly and Robbie, that they were at their peak. Keith Richards, long a reggae fan, even contributed guitar to the act's "Shine Eye Gal" on Black Uhuru's 1983 album Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.
Songfacts: Which track does he sing on?

Rachmany: It's called "Roots Reggae Music." It's a homage to our love for roots reggae music, so it's fitting to have him on the song.

Songfacts: And were you nervous?

Rachmany: I've gotten to know Don Carlos over the years and he knows that I always talk about him and how much of an influence he is on me. But every time I'm in his presence I'm nervous, just because in my eyes he's a legend.

Songfacts: Did he help you write the song or did he just sing on it?

Rachmany: He just sang on it. We had the song and we called up Don Carlos, and I said "Man, you've to get on this track." He called me a day later and was like, "I'm ready." That's how it went down.

Songfacts: That must have made you feel pretty good.

Rachmany: Definitely. It's a trip, for sure.

Songfacts: What's one of the tracks on the Count Me In album that you're particularly proud of?

Rachmany: Oh, man. That's a tough question. I like them all really. It's pretty diverse. There's a different song for everyone. I definitely love roots reggae music. I love the song called "Notice Me." It's got more of an R&B, jazzy feel to it. And I like the song "De‑stress," which was the first song we released on the album.

Songfacts: Was it any particular situation that inspired writing that? Were you under stress or dealing with stress?

Rachmany: Yeah, I grew up in times of stress just like anybody else, and I was making this music to the song and I was like, There's no reason to stress. You know what I mean? I have this feeling behind me. And I hope people get that same feeling when they listen to the song.

Songfacts: Any other songs that you want to highlight for me?

Rachmany: I really like the song called "Hate To Be The One." That one is with another artist that we know named Collie Buddz who is also a ganja advocate. He's another guy I was listening to back in the day. He had a song called "Come Around," which is a huge ganja anthem. All around the world people were playing that song - it really put him on the map. But "Hate To Be The One" just has a nice world music feel. It reminds me of a Latin vibe going on. That's definitely one of my favorites.

Songfacts: You guys ever run into the Toad the Wet Sprocket guys? Aren't they from the same general region?

Rachmany: I think they got started in Santa Barbara, right?

Songfacts: Yeah.

Rachmany: I've never met those guys, but we're both aware of each other and that would be really cool to link up with them.

Songfacts: Have you ever done any collaborations with people outside of the traditional reggae scene?

Rachmany: We've collaborated with a hip‑hop group called Zion I, and they're our great friends at this point. We're like family. Growing up in the Bay Area, that's another legendary group in my opinion.

Songfacts: What did you collaborate on?

Rachmany: We've done a few tracks together. They've done a couple of remixes with us. We had Zumbi the MC on our track "So High," and they have a song called "Many Styles" that we're on - we sing the chorus on that. Come to think of it, we've probably done four or five tracks together.

Songfacts: Are there any dream collaborations that you'd like to do?

Rachmany: Yeah, I would love to collaborate with Dave Matthews. It seems like an unlikely situation because of the type of music he does, but anything's possible, I suppose. Just to jam with him would be great. He was a big influence on my acoustic guitar playing growing up, so I owe a lot to him.

March 24, 2015. Get more at rebelutionmusic.com.
More Songwriter Interviews

Comments: 1

  • Alyson from Henderson NvSuch an awesome interview!...always love listening(or reading)about where and how the band came up and what their inspirations were to become such a amazing band!...love to be a part of the rebelution family ,you guys rock!!
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