If there is one band poised and ready to make the biggest leap in the Reggae-Rock scene in 2013, it is Hawaii’s Iration! The 808 state quintet has successfully completed their best recording sessions for a full-length album to date, and for the latter half of 2012, Iration began “shopping” their album to more mainstream labels. However, staying 100% independent has not been ruled out either. As The Pier previously discussed with the band’s lead singer, Micah Pueschel, Iration’s bassist, Adam Taylor, also told us that, “This is without a doubt our best music yet!”
But, that is nothing new with Iration or Adam Taylor. Good music has always been a part of their respective lives, not just residing in the recording studio. Although, Taylor is a bassist today, and a completely self-taught musician at that, the bass was not the first instrument the Hawaiian native picked up. The story behind Taylor becoming the bass player of Iration starts all the way back to the islands of Hawaii as a young boy.
Starting to Chase a Musical Dream
“I have always been into music. I actually first played the clarinet in the school orchestra, and just doing that when I was young, I learned how to read music. Then, everyone learns how to play the ukulele, so really that was just normal for me and all the rest of the guys; the girls had to learn to hula dance. All of this took place in Oahu, so this was standard for us. The whole band met on the Big Island in high school.”
Going from the clarinet to the ukulele is not exactly a typical transition for a musician or a reggae performer, but living in Hawaii, the culture and roots all around find their way into people’s lives, especially for Adam Taylor.
When Taylor went to college in Santa Barbara, California, that is truly when music began to reach the forefront for Iration’s bassist. However, Taylor was not in Iration as of yet. “I went to school at Santa Barbara City College. At the time, Rory Carey from Rebelution was playing guitar, even before he played keyboards for us or Rebelution. Cayson [Peterson]’s older brother was also on guitar and Joe [Dickens] was on drums. They sort of played the second guitar like a bass, and they only had maybe three songs at the time. So, I kind of thought to myself, ‘Okay, you guys need a bass player.’ (laughs)
Taylor adds “The next summer, I went home, saved up some money and bought a bass. I never took a bass lesson, and taught myself how to play bass entirely by listening to every Bob Marley and Black Uhuru CD, learning the basslines by ear. My mom would always say that, ‘I’d pull all-nighters just to learn all the songs on a certain album.’ I would just listen to it and go to my bass, and just try any bassline I could.”
When discussing reggae music, the message is always powerful. However, on the dance floor the fierce one drop drum beat and funky bass grooves keep the crowd’s dancing feet in motion all night long at a show.
Talking with Adam, his roots in reggae music go all the way back to perhaps the best bassists in reggae history. “I looked up to Aston “Family Man” Barrett for sure. Actually, I guess his apprentice or the guy that he brought up was Robbie Shakespeare from Black Uhuru and Sly and Robbie. Those two guys were probably my two biggest influences growing up and really listening to how they played. I was really into roots-reggae at that point. After we went on our first national tour with Pepper, guys like Bret Bollinger (Pepper) and Ryan DeMars (The Expendables) really rubbed off on me and I started to gain a lot of that rock element as well. Before that, I was always into heavy roots-reggae. My style has always stayed true to that roots-reggae-dub style, though.”
Learning from the tendencies of such reggae legends and living out a dream today with Iration, it was an interesting story, recounting the first ever bass that Taylor purchased. “Yes. Yes, I do remember the bass I got. It isn’t even a name brand you would know or recognize. It was a Dinosaur. So, everyone called it ‘The Dino Bass’. (Laughs) But, it was like an old off shoot of a Fender Jazz bass. So, after I learned on that, and got pretty good, I bought a Fender Jazz bass, the real thing! (Laughs) From that point on, that is what I have always used.”
Forming the Sound of Iration
Iration plays a true melting pot of sounds, blending the pure reggae and roots of Adam Taylor’s musical influences, Bob Marley and Black Uhuru, as well as fusing new age, progressive rock and indie rock sounds with the traditional beats as a backbone. There is no question, Iration has been on a consistent rising action since they emerged in the scene with No Time for Rest in 2008. The vast mixture of sounds Iration’s latest style derives from a recent appearance at Lollapalooza.
As Adam Taylor recounts, “Personally, I do not stray outside of reggae music. I mean, I like listening to Hawaiian music. But, after we played at Lollapalooza, I started to listen to a lot more indie rock. Just that festival alone opened up my eyes to bands like Foster the People, who we collaborated with on the new album. But, for me, personally I was always into that dub-reggae-roots sound. Joe and Cayson are kind of more into the punk rock. Micah likes a little hip hop as well. Everyone really has a little bit of a different influence they’re bringing to the table, which we all bring to recording.”
But, Iration didn’t jump from the early days, performing around Santa Barbara, covering a few classic reggae songs to playing at Lollapalooza, Wakarusa and California Roots Music and Arts Festival in front of 10,000+ fans in attendance. Iration has made gradual progress with each album release and subsequent tour. With each leap that Iration made on the Reggae-Rock totem pole, the band has gained experience from some of this genre’s pioneers, most notably, Pepper.
As Adam Taylor explained, “right when we got the first tour with Pepper, that really opened our eyes to the potential for us as a band. Before that, we were just doing the weekend thing and playing shows locally. We just threw our cards on the table and really went for it, all in, from then on.”
Iration’s “All In” mentality has paid off. Now, growing into veterans of the scene, Iration is set to release their best music to date. Whether it is pure reggae, progressive rock, or softer pop songs, Iration’s sound is all encompassing.
For the upcoming album, Adam Taylor detailed, “Iration, in general, we have never wanted to be categorized too hard in any one specific genre. We have always strived to be versatile and go into different genres. On this record, we wanted a part of it to be rock influenced, because we had a #1 song on 91x in San Diego for 11-weeks with ‘Turn Around’. KROQ wanted to pick it up, but felt it was a little too reggae. They were looking for something with a little bit more of a rock element. After we met Lincoln Parish from Cage the Elephant, we lived in a house together for a month and wrote together. We recorded six songs with him producing and playing, as well. Those six had a bit more of a rock element, the remainder of the album I’d say has more of that ‘Time Bomb’ style, that our fans are more familiar with.”
Creating the Sound for Automatic
After meeting Lincoln Parish, writing, recording and producing new music together, the Cage the Elephant guitarist’s fingerprints are firmly entrenched within Automatic.
When asked about the influence of Parish, Adam Taylor was straight to the point: “[Cage the Elephant] is a band that we really respect. I was able to watch them side stage at Lollapalooza, and that really kind of blew my mind… there is the reggae-rock genre, and then you see something like that in front of 100,000 people, you think to yourself and just say, ‘Wow!’ They take control of the crowd and absolutely own it! There are definitely a lot more avenues you can go down. After meeting Lincoln, we just kind of let him take the reigns for a bit and show us his world. It’s really cool, we all look up to him, and he came back and told me that I am now one of his favorite bassists. Cage the Elephant is one of my favorite bands, reggae or not.”
As a new mix of sounds enter into Iration’s repertoire, Adam Taylor’s style has had to adapt, as well. To accommodate Iration’s more indie rock sounds, Taylor had to vary his traditional reggae bass lines, explaining, “It changed quite a bit, actually. But, I still feel I was able to take that reggae element and the roots background, while applying it to the new sounds. For reggae bass lines, they are really prominent, whereas for rock, the bass is kind of riding with the drum throughout the song. There is more of a driving force with some more notes involved.”
Performing new songs in the comfort of their own studio is completely different than playing the new songs live for the first time. With the new variations in their sound, Taylor’s playing style, instrument and equipment had to adapt, as well.
Performing with his, “Fender Jazz Bass, which I love,” admitting Taylor. “I take great care of that thing! I have been experimenting with different pickups on my bass. Seymour Duncan is my pickup sponsor, and I went in before tour and tried all kinds of different pickups and different types of settings for live performances. Right now, I have a really good tone, that I am super happy with and King, our front of house sound engineer, is really happy with the sound too. Also, just experimenting with different strings. You can go into the studio and then going on stage could sound completely different. Overall, just the pickups and strings I try and change and match up accordingly to the sound we’re trying to play on tour. With the new sounds on Automatic, I have had to update all my toys for the road.”
Iration Becoming, Automatic
With the hype building immensely for the new album, Iration is prepared to release, Automatic, debuting the band’s first ever music video only seemed fitting for the Hawaiian natives. The first single is, “Porcupine”, and as Taylor said, “it is actually called a video treatment. We came across a few of those types of videos awhile back, and we were really into it. The producer who did our video actually did a video for LCD Soundsystem. For this video, we kind of wanted an artist’s conception of what he thought the song meant and portrayed that in the video, rather than have us in it. In the future I think that we will do music videos where we are in it. It just worked out well and we love the finished product.”
With the increase in demand for Iration with their recording studio products and upcoming live shows, the band is seeking an official backing team for the new album. Since the band’s inception, Iration has been pitching their new album to various record labels, staying away from the traditional reggae, underground, independent route.
As Taylor said, “Iration has always been a grassroots type of band. I think on this record, because we have all of these guest collaborations and producers working with us, maybe for this album that would be the best bet. But, then we can always go back for later albums and release them on our own through 3 Prong Records.”
Adam continued “We feel that we have this really great piece of work just sitting there waiting to be heard, but we are knowledgeable enough to know we can’t just rush it and put it out. We could put it out on our own, but if you go with a major label in the industry, their reach is so much deeper than you could even imagine. You might not make as much money at first going with the major label, but they do open up a lot more doors for the band through radio play, on-air performances and what not.”
Iration on the Brink of Mainstream Success
Needless to say, when Iration started the band, this was the tipping point where they hoped to be someday. The band is at the crevice of greatness currently. The days of playing at the Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara, CA covering songs from their idols seems like a distant memory. Now, Iration still brings a few covers to their live performances, but no one in the band envisioned being at this particular point at this stage in their career, or ever.
Thinking back to when Taylor was just getting into playing music, picking up an instrument, the idea of shopping an album that contains their best music ever, along with Iration releasing their very first music video, never crossed his or the band’s respective minds. “Not even when I was playing clarinet or starting to play bass,” Taylor exclaimed! “I never even thought [music] would be my career. I mean, we have played at Lollapalooza, which in itself is mind-blowing to me. Just to think about that is crazy, but we did it. This entire journey, we have been really blessed with all of our support and fans. But yes, it has come about by us putting the music first. We gave the music everything we had, and soon enough the fans showed their support. We never thought, ‘Oh, we want to do this for money.’ What we wanted to do was make good music for everyone’s enjoyment.”
The enjoyment for Iration’s rabid fan base is about to explode with the new album release. There is no official release date set in stone, but artists take great care with their final product leaving the studio. A new album always brings optimism, but Iration’s expectations have never seen these heights prior to a release.
“With the release of Time Bomb, I knew it was really good,” Taylor explained. “I have a similar feeling about this album, but I will say this, we did take a gamble with ‘Porcupine’ being the first single. We wanted to show our fan base, which is heavily on the reggae side, that we have this vast sound. We wanted to appease our fans on the reggae side, but at the same time see what doors we can open up with the new music. I think once the more Time Bomb-esque singles get released, the fans will be even more into the hype of the album. When fans hear the album, they will still hear that reggae element throughout all the songs. It won’t be straight rock music.”
The excitement is evident while discussing Iration’s studio work with Adam Taylor. All of the band members are anticipating their most successful release with the highest-quality music production yet. Soon, in regards to the official release date, cannot come soon enough with Iration’s Automatic!
Watch: Iration – “Porcupine” Official Music Video