Isla Vista has produced its fair share of successful artists over the years with the likes of Jack Johnson, Rebelution, and Steve Aoki. Reggae-rockers The Olés are on the rise and hope to join the list of I.V. veterans to make it big.
Founded in 2011 by freshman year roommates Matt Tweed (lead vocals) and Cole Leksan (lead guitar), The Olés have made a name for themselves playing house parties in Isla Vista and gigs downtown. Recent performances of note include appearing at Casa de la Guerra during Fiesta and opening for reggae legend Don Carlos at SOhO for the Roots Reggae Explosion.
The band’s current lineup is rounded out by Daniel Kearney (bass), Eric Lordan (drums), Nick Marks (trumpet), and Dominick Burnham (trombone). Having previously released their 2012 full-length album Sabado Sessions and 2013’s No Strings EP, The Olés have recently been celebrating the success of last year’s five-track Westward Bound EP. But the end of summer saw the band back in the studio recording Strickley Speaking, their first LP with the current line up, which they hope to release this winter. In a recent email interview, Leksan talked about the band’s direction, what separates them from other artists, and representing Isla Vista.
Have you had any major obstacles to overcome as a band in the last four years working together? Bandmembers moving away. We started with a different group of bandmates than we have now; I would consider this current group a re-birth of The Olés. I always think that the band’s songs have revolved around the band mascot, Ollie, more than any of our members. There are so many shifts and changes…but the songs and the styles have stayed the same, thus the shows and recordings have stayed true since day one. Our style has always been centered on upbeat vibes and positive energy.
What do The Olés do differently to separate themselves from other artists of the same genre? The Olés blend multiple styles into each song that that we perform. Compared to most reggae groups, our music is a tad more dissonant and our lyrics are more personal than universal. Our sound combines a brass section, two contrasting vocalists, freestyle rapping, heavy drum and bass with an upbeat rhythm. I think our sound comes off a bit different than most people expect. No matter what, the goal for us is for our listeners to have fun hearing the music.
As a band that is representative of Isla Vista, what image do you try to portray about the college town? There is so much to love about I.V. — the people, the school, the girls, the beach, the weather, the creativity, the parties, the surf. We want to portray the town as we [experienced] it: tons of surfing, partying, and a culture of artistic creativity, and appreciation for live music. We want to portray I.V. as a community that parties together, makes positive changes together, and appreciates the beautiful coastline it lays on.
Fill in the blank, “If you enjoy listening to _, you’ll love The Olés.” 311, Sublime (E), Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dispatch, The Roots, Rebelution, Iration
What do you enjoy the most about playing live music? The freedom to unplug your mind and just be free. The feeling of unspoken interaction with others through music. Nothing compares to the ability of sharing the music we love with someone you’ve never met before. When our music can connect with someone, and if even for a second make their night better, all our hard work pays off.