¡Olé! On Saturday, February 2, reggae-rock-hip-hop band The Olés play a belated album-release show at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, and it’s one to get excited about. Of the many promising West Coast reggae hybrid bands to rise out of Isla Vista, few have shone so brightly or grown as strongly as The Olés. They will celebrate their new album, Rise, released last November, with an expanded lineup, fleshed-out sound, and creative innovations woven in.
With Rise, they show they’re a musical powerhouse with which to be reckoned. Produced by Rebelution’s Wesley Finley, the new album rolls between genres and moods, all glistening with excellent musicianship and dynamic, surprising song structures. The band plays between the sonic surf of sand-specked, sun-soaked party starters and more mellow oceanic chill-outs. Songs such as “Cruisin” and the wistfully beautiful “Angel in the Outfield” are swaying soothers, while the more up-tempo, horn-spiked “Burn Glow” and arena rock-built “Traffic” pump with a scorching classic-rock edge. In all, the band crafts a creatively connective blend between their reggae, rock, and hip-hop roots.
“We showcase all of our musical stories — it keeps the listeners engaged,” said guitarist and vocalist Matthew Tweed. “It’s kind of an eclectic album. It’s a culmination of our past works and how to write together, and we were a little more deliberate in how we wanted to present the songs and what we wanted to do musically. It’s not your kind of cookie-cutter, standard pop music; each song has its own unique creative persona.”
While to some degree The Olés’ sound encapsulates a beachy, laid-back lifestyle the rest of the world daydreams about, it also deals with very real, down-to-earth struggles. “A lot of the stuff on the album is about overcoming personal difficulties and rising above personal obstacles. Breakups, painful communications with other humans, people in traffic; ‘Angel in the Outfield’ is about losing a loved one and moving forward.”
Working with Finley enhanced the band’s musical vocabulary. “He had some great input, advice, and tips on the reggae classics, as well as the smaller stuff the listener might not consciously notice that his band has perfected over the years in the more reggae-oriented songs,” said bassist Daniel Kearney. “The upstroke on the guitar, for example — different little stuff that added more texture, more depth, stuff we might not have stumbled on.”
“One of the biggest takeaways working with Finley was watching him work with our drummer Westin [Byerly]; they could share a unique musical language, because he’s a drummer,” Tweed said. “He brought his years of record experience: how we can end songs, how we can begin songs. He brought an outside perspective to songs we’ve heard 100 times.”
The band first linked with Finley back in the Gaucho days through mutual connections, and the relationship has grown ever since. “We formed a pretty great friendship. He’s an awesome guy, and he’s a pretty quirky dude too,” said guitarist/vocalist Cole Leksan. “He’s really into Frisbee golfing and sour beer and cornhole, and he’s made a really interesting lifestyle out of going on tour, finding local disc golf spots, and having cornhole tournaments backstage.”
Not to be outdone, The Olés have a few quirks of their own. “We have an affinity for pretending we’re either Incubus or telling people we’re a touring band called Incubus,” Leksan said. “Most times people believe us.”
No matter what name they go by, The Olés are boundary breakers in their musical explorations, stretching genres and styles further than the usual reggae-rock imagination allows. And they’re still on the rise.
The Olés play Saturday, February 2, at 8:30 p.m. at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) for ages 21+. Call (805) 962-7776 or see sohosb.com.