The Pier was able to sit down with Iration on the first night of their summer tour which also happened to be the release date of their 5th studio album, Iration. May 18th marked a special day for the band, and the guys were gracious with their time in answering questions just before they went on stage in San Diego. With a new album and summer tour, there was plenty to discuss as I spoke with front-man Micah Pueschel and bassist Adam Taylor.
They addressed the guest features on the record with J Boog, Tyrone’s Jacket and Slightly Stoopid as well as the established line-up with the addition of guitarist/vocalist Micah Brown further solidified into the band. Plus, we wanted to know what new songs we can expect to hear make the immediate set-list for the summer. They also share a brief story of the first and last time they toured with Dirty Heads back in 2008 — You can find additional links, tour dates & music below. Enjoy the Interview with the Santa Barbara based, reggae-rock group.
The Pier: Congrats on the new record — My first impression was how great the bass and rhythm pop, from front to back — Adam, how fun was it writing the bass for this record?
Adam: Yeah, it was really fun! It’s a lot like “Time Bomb” with a 3-note bassline. A lot of the grooves on the new record had that similar kind of vain of just keeping with that style of me being in the pocket and being in the groove, keeping it fun and easy to dance to.
ThePier: You guys aren’t really known for having a lot of guest features on records, but that changed with J Boog & Tyrone’s Jacket on “Danger,” but also Kyle McDonald of Slightly Stoopid on “Broken Promises.” What about those songs called for guest appearances?
Micah P: On this record, in particular, we really felt it would be good to have features. It’s a lot of music and we felt certain songs would be well-served having a different vocal style on there. Especially “Danger” because its inspired by the mix-tape from the hip-hop world where its a beat and everybody just throws a verse down. So that one really needed a guest on it.
And then “Broken Promises,” we were on tour last summer with Slightly Stoopid and Kyle was playing with us during our set. And then we were playing kind of a brodeo performance with them at the end. So it made sense for us to have Kyle and we just thought his vocal style would fit on “Broken Promises,” mainly because its kind of a UB40 inspired track. It made sense and we were just lucky! He knocked it out of the park and it really came together last minute, so we were stoked!
The Pier: This album has a lot of tracks at 17 songs — How many songs did you guys track for this record? Were any songs cut to make room for the final tracklist?
Micah P: We had a lot of music! We made a lot of rhythms and beats that we felt were pretty good. Even at 17 songs we had to cut 3 or 4. We planned on doing 20 songs and then cutting it down to 11 or 12. In my mind, 12 was the number. We ended up recording 20 songs and going with 17 for the record. We just felt like they were strong enough. Cutting any of this would be really tough…
Adam: I think too, with our previous record, Hotting Up, we only had 9 songs! So in a way we were trying to make up for it, giving fans more bang for their buck.
The Pier: I imagine that’s gotta be difficult, too — You spend all of this time on the record, you’re in the studio everyday hearing the songs, and I imagine you grow attached to the songs! So getting to that chopping block as a band has to be difficult…
Adam: Yeah people get passionate about the songs where they have a part that they really like. I think another big part to touch on is the addition of Micah Brown and being more prominent with the vocals on this record. It really kind of makes it stand out from the rest of our catalog.
Micah P: Yeah, in the first 2 records, we had Kai as another lead vocalist in the group and then when he left after Automatic, it was like we were trying to find what the sound was again. It was like starting over. We added Micah Brown and at this point he’s a prominent vocalist and songwriter in the band. So we felt this album needed more variety as far as the vocals go. I’m still singing on the majority of the songs and he’s having a huge part in the back-up vocals, he’s singing on some songs and then we have some guest vocals. So it really felt like the album is broken up stylistically and vocally throughout the record, even at 17 songs.
The Pier: Yeah I was really excited to see that pairing come together with Micah Brown joining the band 4-5 years ago. I was a fan of his solo material before and always felt he would be great on his own, but to join an already great band makes it even better. You can hear it on the last album in Hotting Up, but after a few years together it seems that chemistry has been further solidified.
Micah: When we did Hotting Up, things were just starting to change. Micah Brown had joined and been with us for just over a year. We were working with producer King David, “The Future,” for the first time and the recording style was different. We recorded in some really nice studios and we couldn’t just be lolly-gagging around because its expensive. You gotta be ready and we did a lot more pre-production to be prepared. So after putting out Hotting Up we got right back into the studio, working together and writing. Having the 2 years with the time to put into it and playing the new songs allowed us to get it right. By the time we put out the album, everybody was 100% happy with the product.
The Pier: And you guys went self-titled on this record — Does the addition and solidification of the line-up with Micah Brown have anything to do with it? How would you describe a self-titled reflecting this record?
Micah P: We wanted to make a record that encompasses the total span of our sound, influences and styles. I think we’re one of the more eclectic bands that are in this genre. Automatic had a lot of rock, working with Lincoln Parish of Cage The Elephant who produces big, massive rock records. We’ve worked with hip-hop guys in different realms and reggae producers as well. So with this one, we wanted to kind of get the full range of our sound. It’s so big and so eclectic that its hard to sum it up with one title or one song. I think that’s why we just called it Iration and when people look back, this will be the definitive sound of the band.
The Pier: And the artwork for the cover is awesome with a surf visual that almost reminds of the Reef logo at a glance — What can you speak to that image representing the record?
Adam: The logo was a way for us to kind of rebrand Iration in a way that kind of encompassed the way we are and the way we feel. So it has the waves and the sun representing the beach of where we came from. Alex, who does a lot of our online graphics, did the album art for us. Having that new logo is just the summation of everything we’ve done, and kind of putting it out there as the new branding of Iration.
Micah P: We really wanted black and gold to be the color motif. We wanted it to have a classic look. We just wanted it to be the logo, black background, and classic looking. If you look at a lot of the great album covers from great albums of the past, they’re just very simple on the front. Iration is the name of the album and that’s just what it is, the logo representing us.
The Pier: Very cool! One song that really stands out in contrast to the rest of the record is the dance/disco sounding track, “Last To Know” — What can you tell us about that song?
Micah P: That was a song that King David and I did. When we wrote it, it was intended to be written for like, a pop act. We got into the studio writing in Santa Barbara and decided to just write a pop song, just for fun. It was really not intended to be on the Iration record, but we played it for the guys and everybody was like…
Adam: Yeah, we were like: “We have to keep this” [haha]
Micah P: So then we cut it and it sounded really good. I wasn’t even going to sing on it, it wasn’t even for me to sing. When we cut it, everybody played, and then I sang it and it came out really cool so we just ran with it. We’ve always been open to doing stuff that’s far away from “Reggae” because we just want to play good songs and make good music. To me, it one of my favorite songs on the record just because it has a super infectious grove, and melody. It’s got the funky, disco kind of thing going, so I like it!
The Pier: It’s obviously difficult to play the entire album in a setlist on a summer tour with a about an hour to play, but what songs from the new album will make the immediate set-list to be performed live?
Adam: I think there were a few that were an easy choice: “Press Play” was one we were pretty confident about. It has a cool bridge that I feel will be a good crowd song to perform live. “Already Gold” had that cool reggae groove that I feel is very easy for people to listen to, so those 2 are shoe-ins for me. But like you said, with an hour set, you’re looking at about 5 maybe 6 new songs.
Micah P: We cant go out there and not play “Time Bomb” or something like that.
Adam: Yeah, so there are a few; your “Time Bomb,” “Falling,” maybe “Summer Nights” that are already in the back of your mind. But looking at the 17 songs, it was like How do you narrow it down? So that was definitely a tough thing going into rehearsal and trying to hash it out. So we actually prepared for more songs, narrowing it down during that process of elimination.
The Pier: So will your setlist be set for the summer or will you guys change it up with each night on which new songs you’ll perform?
Micah: I think we’re going to change it up. Just because we have 9 new songs that we could play from the new record. We only have 50minutes to an hour every night so it comes down to whatever we’re feeling in that market.
Adam: For example, at One Love Festival, J Boog and Tyrone’s Jacket happened to be there so it was a perfect opportunity to play “Danger” but you wont always get that chance.
The Pier: Totally! And how exciting is it to be doing a tour with Dirty Heads? Seems like you guys have been headlining your own brand of reggae inspired music for more than a decade, but haven’t really done a national tour of this size. I think there was a small tour in 2008, but nothing of this capacity…
Adam: It’s funny because that’s a tour that nobody knows about. And the third band on that tour was The B Foundation! So that’s kind of a blast from the past.
Micah P: Nobody knows about it because nobody saw it [Haha]. There was probably about 20-30 people each night. It was seriously one of the sketchiest drives we have ever done in the history of a van. We were touring in the Pacific Northwest and a huge snow storm came through while we’re touring and shows got cancelled. We had a show in Seattle and we get to the venue and the news just told everybody not to go on the roads!
Adam: Even right before that, the promoter had called me and said “I gotta cancel the show!” And I told him “We just made it over the pass during one of the gnarliest snow-storms, we’re coming and we’re playing!” [Haha]
Micah P: The fact that we’ve known each-other for 10 years, it feels like its the right time for us to do this tour with Dirty Heads, now. We’re excited!
The Pier: You’ve released 5 studio albums and an acoustic record. I guess the next one would be a Live record, maybe? Is that something you guys have talked about?
Micah P: I mean we haven’t exactly talked about it, but if we did do something like that, I would think doing a live record mixed with some sort of visual aspect to make it special, would be cool. Especially now that we have a catalog that we can really pull a lot from to put together. So yeah, maybe!
The Pier: Thank you guys, again, so much for your time! Congratulations on the new record and enjoy this summer tour with Dirty Heads!
Listen: Iration – “Danger” (ft. J Boog & Tyrone’s Jacket)
Listen: Iration – “2GÜD2BTRÜ”