maxwell barna speaks with the red-hot reggae outfit …
There are some bands that spend years and years trying to make it big. They devote tremendous amounts of time and effort tightening up, developing a unique sound that’s capable of captivating an audience. They tour their local circuit, season after season, show after show, but they never get anywhere. There’s just one detail that’s always missing from their Pythagorean Theorem of success. There’s always some kind of kink in the chain or missing puzzle piece — one small, minute detail, without which they never really find their footing. This idea of never finding one’s niche may hit a little close to home for some unlucky few who read this.
But others, like Hawaii’s up-and-coming roots reggae rockers, The Green, have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, because they’ve accomplished more in just three years than many bands do in a lifetime.
Singer and guitarist Zion Thompson answered the questions on my mind, including how they wound up topping Billboard charts, the dirt on their next release (due out in late October), their relationship with the legendary folks over at Easy Star Records, and what it’s like to cope with such tremendous success in such a short time.
Pop-Break: Your album (The Green) was on Billboard’s 2010 year-end Top 10 Reggae chart and was honored as the iTunes Reggae Album of the Year. I think everyone is asking themselves the same question: How have four (talented!) guys from Hawaii made such a big splash all over the place in such a short time?
Zion Thompson: Thank you. It has been kind of unreal. We couldn’t be happier with the amount of love we have been shown for our first album. For a basically new band from Hawaii to have their debut album do well and be recognized and honored on Billboard and iTunes for that whole year, there has to be a kind of crazy, almost perfect alignment of factors combining. All we can say is that we’ve always worked hard and are totally humbled by all the blessings we’ve received and thankful for the people in our lives that we have been blessed to know and work with. Mahalo ke Akua!
PB: You guys were also signed to Easy Star Records, from what I understand. Were you signed to anyone before that? If not, how did you manage to put out your first album? When did you guys crack a deal with Easy Star Records and how’ve you guys liked the experience thus far?
ZT: SHD Records out of Hawaii released our first album. A friend of ours started the label and had us, The Green, as his first release. It was a dream come true to work on our own project together and finally turn all this music we had been recording into something physical and official. Our latest album, Ways & Means, is on Easy Star Records and we’re stoked because we’re all big fans and been listening to Easy Star since they released Volume 1 some years ago! They came and saw us live for the first time when we played Sullivan Hall in New York City while we were on tour with Iration and The Movement. Our manager Seth [Herman] set it up so that after our set we would go out and talk, have a drink and vibe out. From the get go everything was good vibes and those guys are all so down to earth. It was a good introduction. Cas Haley released his latest album with Easy Star and he kind of helped us to get a better overall grip on everything, from an artists point of view. But really, it was an easy choice.
PB: Your Love & Affection EP just came out in August. From what I’ve seen, it’s doing extremely well and has debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Heatseeker Chart for the Pacific Region. Did you guys expect such a huge response from the public, or is this big news for The Green?
ZT: It is big news for us. We have a good push in Hawaii, but it was awesome to see the positive response Love & Affection got outside of Hawaii. That just proves how crucial touring has been for us! The Love & Affection EP did pretty much exactly what we wanted it to do. It debuted well and created a good buzz for the full length album, Ways & Means, and for that we’re stoked.
PB: From what I understand, Easy Star All-Stars member and Easy Star Records Co-Founder Michael G personally mixed a dub track for the EP. From where I stand, that’s a pretty large accomplishment. How do you guys feel about it?
ZT: Michael G is the man! He also worked on our full length album and we’re honored to be working together. There’s a whole other level of quality that someone of his caliber can achieve in the studio. This is one of the many reasons why we believe this album sonically surpasses the first.
PB: Your next full-length album, set for release on Oct. 25, is titled Ways & Means. Do you think having two releases coming out so close together chronologically is going to pose an issue, especially knowing how much of a positive impact Love & Affection is having on your fans? What I mean by that is do you fear that maybe scheduling the releases so close together might not give fans an adequate amount of time to digest the tracks on Love & Affection before diving full-on into Ways & Means?
ZT: The EP is supposed to whet the appetites of the fans. A little appetizer before the main course, if you will. By the time Ways & Means comes out, it will have been over a year and a half since our debut album was released. We wanted to make sure that we came out with the second album within two years of the first. Being away for longer than that would be just too long. Thankfully, things worked out.
PB: I can’t really say it enough — people are eating up Love & Affection, and from what I’ve heard off of it, I think The Green’s done a great job. Having said that, how many tracks off Love & Affection will appear on Ways & Means? Can you tell us how many tracks Ways & Means will consist of? What is your favorite track off the new record and why is it your favorite?
ZT: With the exception of “Travlah Dub” every song on the EP will also be on the full-length album, which is another reason why we feel the EP’s release was well timed. There are 14 songs on Ways & Means and all of our singers are represented.
There’s something for everyone.
It’s hard to pick a favorite overall, but the one that’s stuck in my head right now is “Decisions.” Caleb sings it and it’s pretty frickin’ sick. I love his singing style. But I love all of the new material and my favorites are always changing. By next week, it’ll probably be a different song!
PB: Having Michael G mix a track on Love & Affection was a pretty big deal. I think it’s safe to say he definitely knows what he’s doing. Do you guys have any similar tricks up your sleeves for Ways & Means? If so, what can fans and new listeners expect from the record?
ZT: Yes, Michael G’s roots-pertise does appear on Ways & Means. He gets down pretty hard on the track “Transparent People” in particular. Roots-pertise, that’s my word. Just made it up now. Anyway, we were blessed to have had some of the most talented reggae producers around working on this record together with us, Michael G being one of them.
PB: While looking at your upcoming shows, I noticed on Oct. 7, The Green is scheduled to play in Las Vegas at the Pure Aloha Fall Festival. Can you tell me a little more about the festival, what it’s about and how you guys got involved with it?
ZT: In Las Vegas, otherwise known as Hawaii’s “ninth island,” is this huge, four-day celebration and concert featuring Hawaiian and Polynesian music and entertainment. There’s local style food, games, hula, art by Polynesian craftsmen, rides, all kinds of stuff. Its something that kinda brings back the vibes to the people with connections to Hawaii, but living on the mainland. But, it’s really for everyone and anyone who loves the culture. Or if you’re new to it, that’s fine too. Even better! We jam alongside Nesian Nine on Friday, Oct. 7. Its The Green’s first Pure Aloha Festival so, we’re stoked! We got a lot of friends and family there too, so we always love playing in Vegas.
PB: Aside from the release of Love & Affection EP and the upcoming release of Ways & Means, do you guys have any other major announcements or anything we should be looking out for in the near future?
ZT: Good question. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, right? [laughs] The sky is the limit. Our plan is to just keep moving forward and try to improve as musicians, songwriters and singers. Business is important, and so is family and friends. Those are all things that we are constantly working on. If we keep working and trying to find a good balance, the rest will fall into place. First things first, you should give me time to show you all my Ways & Means.
We’re embarking on a massive fall U.S. tour on Oct. 7. We’ll be on the road until Thanksgiving, playing all over the place. The majority of the shows will be with our friends Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad.
PB: This last question is something that I’ve asked everyone I’ve ever interviewed. You absolutely MUST answer it — if you could only drink one beer for the rest of your life, what would it be?
ZT: Oh man, that’s the best interview question I’ve ever had. Nice. Holy crap that’s not easy, though … Well, I guess after awhile any beer would get old but for me, it would probably be a close one between Rogue Morimoto Hazelnut Brown Ale and Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. Delicious! Thank you so much! Aloha.