Excerpt from the August 8, 2007 W WEEKLY
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
Some wonderful developments to report:
By Tom Martin
July 30, 2007
- With the generous support of the Keeneland Foundation, Long Island Recording, LexArts and a fourth donor who wishes to remain anonymous, LexJam has taken possession of a full, professional Peavey sound system. This rig features a 3000 watt Main amp; 800 watt monitor amp; rack mounted equalizers for both; 24-channel Mackie board; rack-mounted effects, aural exciter and compressor; 18" bass mains as well as mid-range and horns; stage and side monitors; 4-mics; all cables; drum-mic kit; two 4x4x2 wheeled Anvil road cases. It will be up and running at the next session on August 11. Many, many thanks to our sponsors and to Wil Freebody of Long Island recording for generosity over above the call of duty (Wil tossed in a ton of additional gear!)
- Mark McKinley is registering our domain name, LexJam.com and we will soon have a website (using the content he has so graciously developed and maintained for us.) Bill Gillespie is working with Mark to develop a list-serv. Beginning with the next session, we will have a volunteer roaming the crowd to collect e-mail addresses.
- We are developing a new sign-in sheet. It will call for players to designate whether they are "B" (beginner), "I" (intermediate) or "E" (experienced.) This will enable organizers to better mix groups of players and provide opportunities for beginners to experience playing with experienced musicians.
We will also include a section for full bands to sign-in. Full bands will be given approximately 20-minutes and then invited to stick around to blend-in and then perhaps return for a second set if time allows.
- Before launching each tune, a leader for that tune will be designated. There will be a brief discussion to make sure everyone is on the same page concerning key, chord changes, tempo, etc. All other players will be asked to keep an eye on the leader for cues.
- We have been discussing an earlier start time. We have always managed to get things rolling well before 2pm, and may decide to go ahead and start at 1pm.
- Slightly new location for outdoor sessions: there is concern that someone might step off the curb into oncoming Vine Street traffic. We are investigating a couple of alternative setup options, each still in front of the Lexington Center. The Coffee Beanery has okayed using their umbrella tables and chairs no matter where we wind up.
- This is turning into a fun, highly anticipated monthly event. Most important: come and join us and help spread the word!
Hope to see (and hear) you there on August 11.