Exclusive: Rebelution's Eric Rachmany On 'Free Rein,' Island Life & More
For nearly 15 years, California's own Rebelution have been bringing their brand of perfectly popified reggae to audiences everywhere, building a devoted fan-base through their uplifting music and message.
The band's 2016 album Falling Into Place became their fourth album to top the Billboard reggae chart and earned Rebelution a GRAMMY nomination for Best Reggae Album. With the arrival of their sixth studio album, Free Rein, earlier this year, singer/guitarist/lyricist Eric Rachmany and crew prove they're primed to explore even more creative territory while always paying homage to their infectious Jamaican musical inspiration.
Recently, we caught up with Rachmany, just as he and the rest of Rebelution set out to tour in support of the new album, to discuss what Free Rein means to him, a few of its standout tracks and how island life has become much more than dream.
Tell me about the journey between Falling Into Place and Free Rein musically. How did you arrive at this direction with the new record?
Yeah, Free Rein we were really more hands on with the entire process. So, in Rebelution we always are a very hands-on band. We write the music ourselves, at least 99.9 percent of it, and we take a lot of pride in that… We chose who we wanted to work with. We really took an active producer role, with the exception of a couple songs. And we continued working with two Jamaican producers that we really like on those few tracks. So, I think Rebelution's always been that kind of band that wants to bridge the gap between Jamaica and the Reggae scene here in America. So if we can work with a lot of these producers and artists that we look up to that we kinda grew up listening to, the more we can show, like, our fan base where we come from, what our influences are.
The album's lead-off track, "Celebrate," feels like a mission statement to do that – to celebrate each other and the spirit of community. Can you tell me about how that song came together?
Sure, I mean, we get a lot of comments everyday that say, you know, "Rebelution thank you for getting me through this tough time." For that particular song, I was thinking about somebody that was going through sort of a medical issue and I know that our music has such an impact on people thinking positively, and I know that's the most important thing when they're going through some physical troubles. So I was thinking about a particular person that has used our music to get through chemotherapy and get through a tough time, and so that song was actually really easy to write because I was trying to just think about her and just know that our music can get to her and encourage her to keep on fighting. I'm honored if I could just reach just one person with the music that we make in that manner I feel like my job is complete.
Can you talk a little bit about what the album title means to you?
Yeah. To me, Free Rein is really about being your true self, and when you can be your true self, you have the free rein to do what you please. You have to be comfortable in your own skin. With Rebelution, the message that we try to put out is embrace people's differences.
I grew up in San Francisco where it's a big melting pot of people and I was fortunate that my parents exposed me to a lot of world music and a lot of world dance growing up and I always thought the differences were beautiful. People can find such beauty in these arts and practices so I wanna encourage people to embrace those differences in life, and I think if someone's listening and feeling a little weird about being different, if they can see the message to have that comfortability in their own skin, to embrace their differences, I think people really have that free rein to take on the world.
What are you looking forward to most with this upcoming tour?
It's always fun playing new material. Even though the fans, they may not know the words quite yet. We have a lot of die-hard fans that come back over and over again. We tour every summer and pretty much every winter and do a lot of festivals in between and so I think we have a lot of reoccurring listeners, so they want to hear that new stuff and they want to see like what's the new stuff coming out. We get people who say, "This is my 20th show." And we're playing Red Rocks two nights this year, which is pretty much our favorite venue to play. I never thought that we'd ever perform there, so to be able to do two nights is pretty special.
With all that touring, what do you like to do to relax and cool out?
My favorite thing to do when I'm off tour is go to experience that island life. Hawaii and Guam were two of the first places that got down with our music so it's not a bad place to be to perform. It never really feels like a job anyway but when you go out to Hawaii and Guam you just start feeling guilty that you get to do that for a living. So, I really enjoy seeing some friends and now that I consider them family out in the islands and just experiencing that beauty. That's where I'll be on my spare time.
Sounds like a beautiful place to be.
Yeah, one of the songs on the latest album, Free Rein, is called "City Life," and it's all about getting out of the city and I've been fortunate to go to beautiful, pristine places. There's a lot of places in California obviously, but to get to those beaches that a lot of people don't know about and having friends take you there. That's really what I think about when I sing that song. I'm like "oh, as soon as this tour is over I'm gonna go lay low on a beach somewhere in Hawaii," so I'm definitely fortunate… Every time we play that song live, that's what I think about.