Iration will headline a show at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Sunday, August 25, with Pepper, Fortunate Youth, and Katastro. It’s the culminating of an upward climb for the Santa Barbara– and Isla Vista–based sunshine reggae band that has evolved both its sound and message over the course of its many-year career. I spoke with lead singer and guitarist Micah Pueschel about their growth as a band and as people, the changes of Isla Vista, internet troll culture, and more.
How does it feel to be headlining at the Bowl? We’re really excited. It’s kind of been a goal of ours for our entire career.
Knowing you’d get here someday, what advice might you give to yourself in the band’s early days? That’s a tough one. I’d say to be patient. I would probably say to spend more time on the early records, and really think about the sound you’re going with in the early days. We’ve changed so much, and a lot of the early stuff was — I felt we were just inexperienced and just trying to figure stuff out. It was a lot of trial and error, and not a lot of actual understanding of what we were doing. … These last few years we’ve really come into our own as songwriters, I feel. We are really understanding our process and what our sound is as a group; we’re really starting to hit our stride.
Tell me a bit about inspiration behind the new song “Chill Out.” … You said in a statement that it’s about self-acceptance, but it also seems to be about calling out someone’s aggression. It’s a little bit of both. The song is kind of a reaction to the gaslighting internet troll culture that we have. They’re just kind of online trying to incite reactions, and for no reason; they are these wannabe tough guys that hide behind keyboards. Especially in the political world that we’re in, it’s especially relevant — having the president who tweets and incites violence and stuff that’s negative; I think that’s a very relevant kind of message. And I think, in the more simple way, it’s obviously a song about being true to yourself and being honest with yourself. I think that’s kind of the underlying message, and it applies to the world around us as well.
Do you feel, as the band’s grown, and your audiences have grown, responsibility to your audiences and/or to address bigger themes? I think that’s it a bit of both. I think as we grow and become older, writing about parties is not relevant to our lives. We’ve always said we don’t want to write about what’s fake. We write about topics that are relevant to us as adults, as people who operate in this world we currently live in. The political climate is a big thing, a big inspiration for me, personally. As a songwriter, it’s something that I’ve really been focusing on, and it has really been giving me a lot of inspiration as far as making songs and a message in general.
How do you feel about the changes you’ve seen Isla Vista go through versus when the band first formed? We live in Santa Barbara, and we do occasionally end up getting through Isla Vista. I definitely noticed it’s a lot nicer than it used to be, and a lot cleaner, and presented a lot more nicely than it used to be, which is cool. Yeah, Isla Vista is always going to have a special place in our heart. It’s a place that I remember the feeling when I first visited was, like, this is literally a town where it’s just a bunch of college kids living here and operating this whole place. It really kind of struck me. I went to a smaller college, a smaller school, and being able to experience that was eye-opening and awesome and it kind of made me fall in love with Santa Barbara [and is] why I moved up after school, the times I spent in I.V. with the guys up there.
What’s exciting musically to you guys these days? I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration in soul and funk music, and I think that’s kind of the direction our new music is heading. You can tell on “Chill Out,” it’s a little bit more funky and soulful and jazzy. I’ve been inspired by acts like Tom Misch and Leon Bridges, who are mish-mashing hip-hop and funk with guitars. And ’70s music: Steely Dan. I think the next step of what we’re doing is going to be a lot more of a soul kind of vibe to it, which I’m looking forward to.
How has the tour been so far? It’s been awesome, really great. Our biggest tour by far production-wise and as far as the crowds go. We’ve had great reactions to the show we’re putting on. Pretty much everywhere it’s been great, we really have a good time, and the bands are friends.
Is there something that unites the crowds across regions? It’s something I ask myself a lot. It’s an interesting question. Our friends are so diverse, of such different ages and races, I think it’s almost like we’re united in being different.
Anything you want to say to your fans in S.B. before the show? We’re really excited to play for our hometown crowd. We’re really just looking forward to being at home and really bringing what we’ve been doing on the road for the last 10 years or so to the people of Santa Barbara and being able to show them what we do.
4•1•1 | Iration plays with Pepper, Fortunate Youth, and Katastro on Sunday, August 25, 5:30 p.m., at the Santa Barbara Bowl (1122 N. Milpas St.). Call 962-7411 or see sbbowl.com.