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Rebelution at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Paul Wellman

Rebelution at the Santa Barbara Bowl


Interview with Rebelution’s Wes Finley

Drummer Talks New Album, Band’s Ongoing Success in Advance of Bowl Show


The Rebelution revolution started in Isla Vista more than a decade ago, and it’s going stronger than ever. This year, the band continues to build on their reggae-inspired sound with their new album, Falling Into Place, which features an appearance from Protoje and new production assistance. With a show at the S.B. Bowl slated for this Saturday, August 13, drummer Wes Finley took the time to talk about the band’s years of growth, their new album, inspiring rhythms,and disc golf.

How has the year been going so far? This is a big year for us, just because we have the new album and we have a live DVD coming out in the next month or two, and then this is probably our biggest summer tour yet. Lots of big things happening.

How does it feel to be at this point, at the height of your powers and popularity? Yeah, we’re still climbing… you never know how far it’s gonna go. Every day, you never know if it’s going to be your last or how far this can end up going. We’re grateful for every day and we’re happy that the movement is growing and that means that we get to grow with it.

Tell me about the live DVD, was it compiled from multiple shows or just one? It’ll be from one show we did at Red Rock last summer. We had thought about doing it for some time. Red Rocks is obviously one of the more profound places to play in your musical career. We decided to get some extra cameras in there for a 360-degree view options and other cool angles, and we stepped up the lights for that show. We are happy with the way it came out.

What’s Red Rocks like? Oh man, it’s crazy. It’s so vertical. You know how the Bowl is steep? This is almost twice as steep and twice as high, you’re looking up at the crowd, and the crowd has the ability to see not the whole city of Denver from the stadium. It’s cool to be that far out, you’re in nature. It’s a public park during the daytime… people go and run the stairs, people use it for exercise, people just go there to experience it in general.

What was the inspiration behind the title of your new album, Falling Into Place? You know, there wasn’t any one thing. It sort of fit the theme of the songs and it kind of rolls off the tongue – it worked perfectly, and it just fell into place.

You guys worked with the Jamaican reggae artist Protoje on this album, how’d that come about? We went on tour with him this winter and we got to know him and we were writing at the same time.

Some of the reggae artists I’ve been fortunate to speak with in the past talked about a divide between island reggae and Californian reggae. Do you think there is a divide or competition, or are they sympathetic to each other, or …? Right, that’s a very good question… Of course I’m speaking from one point of view, but I don’t feel like there’s a rivalry. They obviously created the sound and we’re borrowing it or enhancing on it, if you will. In that sense I don’t think there can be a rivalry. In general I don’t like to think of music as competition in any way shape or form. It’s not a sport, in a sport you’re playing against somebody else; having other musical acts on board compliments the experience. I’d like to say that we’re trying to be respectful while adding our own flavor to it and the way we grew up. We’re appreciating reggae in a different light, and hopefully they’re accepting of that. I can kind of understand they can choose not be; they want to maintain a specific sound. But you gotta be open minded. We hope that people can understand that and appreciate it.

Have you gotten much flak from reggae traditionalists? Yeah we have here and there. There’s always gonna be purists in any sort of art form. It’s impossible not to get some flak for it. Haters are gonna hate. All you can do is the best you can do, and if someone doesn’t like it, that’s their prerogative.

How was the did the creation and recording process on this album compare with others you’ve done? This one was definitely drastically different. It’s funny, the first couple albums of any band are songs they’ve kind of accumulated up to that point in their career, so once you get to the third, fourth, fifth albums, you’re writing music that’s pretty fresh, you don’t have too many old ideas you’ve held onto for a long time. With that being said, this time around we’ve worked with producers… You always hear about songwriting with producers, we didn’t want to be judgmental and rule that out. There were three or four songs that we collaborated with different producers, and our lead singer went to Jamaica worked with producers there. We had our hand in it, we’re not singing someone else’s lyrics, it’s still Rebelution, we’re willing to have assistance in creating that sound.

Was there one producer who really stood out? Yeah we actually tried out quite a different few but one we stuck with for all with SupaDups. He had worked with Michael Franti and SOJA and a bunch of other big names. He was a lot of fun to work with. He let me especially as a drummer play things that I was feeling and not try to force me to play things that I didn’t want to play or didn’t feel natural to me. I liked the open-mindedness and collaborative ideas and that producers could be natural like that, and want you as a musician to be natural.

You guys did an acoustic version of your previous album, Count Me In Yeah we had done that with the previous album too, Peace of Mind. I think especially Eric and I, we like doing a lot of acoustic stuff when it comes to radio performances or small in house PR stuff. We are usually the ones to take the reins on that. He’ll play acoustic and I’ll play either cajón or tambourine. An acoustic album was a natural thing for us to do. He did all this acoustic parts up in S.F. and I live in S.B., so I popped over to Playback and I just went in there and I did my half of it – recorded it over my birthday and just experimented and had fun with it.

You ever go back to I.V. and see how much it’s changed? Yeah, I actually live in Noleta, in between Patterson and Turnpike. I pop over the 217 to get Freebirds, maybe hit the golf course… it’s definitely changed a lot, a lot. Every time I see a big scale change I tell the guys, like ‘hey, did you know Giovanni’s is closing down? Or Muddy Waters?’ It’s kind of funny to see things change over time. … There’s no doubt that we would not have been as popular as quickly and maybe not as successful without having come from I.V. It disseminated our music so quickly, to live in a diverse college community and for those kids to take that music back to where they grew up or wherever they moved. We still go on tour and see people from college in different parts of the country.

How do you feel you guys have grown up since the I.V. days? It’s funny we all used to live together in I.V., right? And now we’re thirty-something? We all live in different cities now entirely, and that’s been a funny change to go from living together to living miles and miles apart. That’s been a part of growing up, scheduling rehearsals before tours, mostly in L.A. I was last person in the band to buy a house, which is part of growing up, settling down somewhere permanently.

You guys have a new song called “Santa Barbara.” Is it about the city? No, it’s definitely not that at all, more just the sentiment of S.B.… I’m speaking for Eric who wrote the lyrics but I’m guessing to a certain extent it’s more about meeting a girl in S.B and having her fade away in that person’s life. It’s more of a relationship song. I can’t say with any certainty to be honest if it’s based on a real girl or not. He does like to remain vague about certain things; whenever there’s an interview question, he’s never quick to specify the details, he’s just like, ‘Well, it’s kind of about this and I’ll leave it open to interpretation.’

America’s in a pretty negative state right now, while you guys promote positivity. Has the negative climate been affecting you guys or giving the music an additional purpose? It definitely does. The political state right now is troubling for all of us, and we’d like to think that our music is helping influence younger listeners’ perspectives in that sense. We don’t want to outright claim that we’re for a certain party and push that, but we’re green thinkers, we’re environmentalists, and we try to always try to push that point of view. In the product that we use and that we sell and the sponsors we get, we’re all about that type of life. We have a song called “Know It All” that I think a lot of people have attributed to be about Trump. It’s not necessarily about Trump, but I’m glad that people are taking onto that as well.

How has social media been for you guys, since it’s come around more since you first started? It’s hard to really gain a sense, but I think social media is a good chance for bands to see how they affect people. You play a show, that’s one thing, but you don’t always see firsthand or talk firsthand with a lot of fans after… We have meet and greets before the shows, that gives us a sort of a focus group, and social media’s always positive reinforcement, with pictures on Instagram, personal stories, each one gives us a different story on how we changed their lives and turned them around. That’s the best feedback that a band can get. We as a band appreciate having to share our music and to get reactions from people, and to have people have that ability to show their appreciation and criticisms. It never existed before, so I think there’s more of a relationship between bands and fans now than there used to be.

Where are you at with your drumming? Have you been trying any new things rhythmically? I’d like to think I have one of the more diverse playlists of my band members – I actually don’t listen to a lot of reggae in my free time, believe it or not – and I’m influenced by a lot of these newer bands that have been coming around. I was influenced early on as a drummer by more emocore and some punk and metal influences; I kind of came from a different perspective from some of the other guys. With our sound in a specific way, I love all these new indie rock bands and the new sounds coming out, they’re killing it for me. Have you heard St. Lucia at all? They’re one I’m thinking of immediately. They have songs stuck in my head all the time, they’re almost like an ‘80s revival band. I love how things like ‘80s music and sounds can come back, and their electronic drum sounds are kind of where I’m going with that conversation as a drummer. I’m not trying to increase my technicality a great deal so much as my feel. A lot of these newer indie rock bands have excellent feel and I’m trying I’m adapting to that more than I am crazy chops. If I kept on my listening road of punk and metal it would have gotten more technical, but now that I’m appreciating indie rock, it’s adapting to that. Some of the other bands that have been influencing me are Local Natives and Foals, and my favorite bands are Dredge and Thrice – their styles have influenced me a lot.

What do you hope has been the impact of your music since you guys formed? I think you said it earlier, just that we’re kind of in a negative space right now, as a nation, and I think that our music gives listeners an outlet to be positive and push positivity, and to be optimistic. The way the music scene is built, it’s kind of cool to be pessimistic, in a way, and I’m glad that our music can offer an alternative to that.

What’s next for you guys for the rest of the year? We have the DVD set to be released in a month or two I think, and we’ll ride that out for a bit because that will give our listeners something to chew on. We’ll get back to writing music. We never take a hiatus of sorts – there’s always writing happening at some speed or another. I wouldn’t doubt there be an album next year. We’ll definitely continue to tour.

What have been the big lessons of this past decade? We’ve learned our limitations. I think three to four weeks is a safe amount of time not to be burnt out, especially with our singer’s voice and the way my body feels after three or four weeks of playing every day, it definitely takes its toll. It’s our specific sweet zone. We’re gonna go on tour in summer, we might have fall tour, have at this point developed a seasonal schedule… Summer’s definitely where it’s at.

Where are you special spots or favorite places in S.B.? Oh man, I went disc golfing today, at the Evergreen over by Brandon … I’m there as much as I can be when I’m at home, and I disc golf on the road too. That’s my personal hobby, just to do something and be active. When I’m home I take my dog and we go out and get outside. I’ve played the tournaments, not that great, I’m a novice but it’s still fun to compete. I love it, I’m regular.



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