Excerpt from the August 8, 2007 W WEEKLY
Ted Bowne of Passafire
ROOTS REGGAE BAND COMES TO LEXINGTON FOR SOME STUDIO WORK
By Robbie Clark
W WEEKLY EDITOR
Though certainly not considered to be a Nashville or an Austin, Texas, when you think of safe havens for a band to hole up when recording new material, Lexington can be a destination for bands looking for a quiet alcove away from the distractions of their everyday lives.
Passafire, a wayfaring reggae quartet from Savannah, Ga., has been in town since the latter portion of July working on their second album, Submersible, in the impressive facilities of Long Island Recording Studios on Palumbo Drive. Their first, self-titled album, a DIY project that took shape in their home studio, took over a year to finish, though the members of the band were also attending classes at the Savannah College of Art Design. They plan to have Submersible finished by the end of August and available by October.
It’s a decision all bands have to face - to diddle around the local market waiting for something to happen or to take that unpredictable step into the realm of professional musicianship, with money, time and effort weighing heavily on the line. For Passafire, their step into Long Island was their move from passive players to serious musicians.
“From a business standpoint, it’s completely different, because before, when we were recording music, we were like, ‘We’re going to put out an album,’ and that was about as far as it went,” said Adam Willis, the keyboardist. “Now, there’s this whole other push behind it, you get it on a label and start touring to promote it.”
Along with Willis, members of the band include guitarist and vocalist Ted Bowne, drummer Nick Kubley and bassist Will Kubley (yes, the rhythm section is family). Will joined the band over a year ago, but the other three have been playing music together for over four and a half years, and touring is something the troupe knows well. They’ve put over 60,000 miles on the van they purchased last year and have been firmly rooted in the Atlantic coast circuit since the beginning of the year, chalking up 71 shows before going into the studio, delivering their unique concoction of reggae rock to audiences from Florida to Maryland.
While bands like Sublime in the mid-‘90s brought different variations and incarnations of reggae to the mainstream, the members of Passafire are quick to point out that they’re only interested in respecting and paying their dues to a genre, characterized by its emphasis on off-beat rhythms, that was blazed by Bob Marley, Toots and the Maytals, and other Jamaican recording artists.
“If you’re going to do that sound, do it right,” Bowne said. “There’s a lot of bands that have basically bastardized the whole reggae rhythm and rhythmic elements of it and kind of made it just this thing that you do. That doesn’t make a record.”
Reggae music is also often associated with the Rastafari movement that many musicians, mostly reggae musicians, took up during their careers. Many reggae songs make a reference to Jah, in reference to Haile Selassie I, a former emperor of Ethiopia believed to be God incarnate within the religion. None of the members of Passafire are Rastafarian.
“It’s not that we don’t like Rastas,” Bowne said. “I feel like we respect it so much for what it is that we’re not going to pose as that. And it kind of peeves us to see somebody who has no idea what they’re talking about saying ‘Rasta this’ and ‘Jah that.’ At least read a book or something.”
With Submersible, Passafire hopes to further explore and showcase the band’s relationship and interpretation of authentic reggae.
“With this album, we’re trying to touch on the authentic roots reggae on some of the songs, then on some others we’re pushing in a different direction, but it’s very important to us as a group to respect that sound,” Willis said. “Musically, we’re going to try to respect that genre. But as far as the lyrical matter…we talk about our own personal
experiences, which are different, obviously, from somebody from the island.”
Passafire will be making an appearance Aug. 11 at the monthly community open-mic jam session, LexJam, which is from 2 – 5 p.m. near the food court of the Lexington Center. For more info on the band, visit www.passafiretheband.com. W