Eric Rachmany, front man for the wildly popular reggae-rock group, Rebelution, remembers being in school as a young person and feeling terrified. The songwriter, who plays in front of multiple thousands of people at any given gig today, says he would get nervous when he had to speak in front of the class. So much so that he’d try and memorize his reports word-for-word. Now, years later, Rachmany is comfortable in front of a crowd. He’s embraced the space that’s his within any Rebelution show. As a result, his group has garnered hundreds of thousands of fans from all over the world. Rebelution will surely grow in followers given the release of its latest LP, Dub Collection, which hit stands and streams last Friday and was mixed by the band’s touring guitarist Kyle Ahern.
“I learned through performing to get into the art,” Rachmany says. “When you do that, you can really put on a show. People can tell when you’re into it and when you’re not. That’s the beauty of art and of expressing yourself. It’s such a great feeling to let go and give it your all.”
While Rachmany feels comfortable on stage with his band mates playing for large crowds, he still, after all this time, doesn’t feel totally keen on his singing voice. But that insecurity is plastered over by the overwhelming support Rachmany and Rebelution receive from their fans. Despite not feeling in love with the way his vocal sound, despite never thinking he would be a front man (“That’s why I wanted to be a guitar player!” he says), Rachmany knows his audience has his back.
“The connection encourages me,” he says. “The first time I performed was in front of, like, two people. But seeing people come back is great encouragement, it motivates me to want to perform. I don’t like the sound of my own voice – I don’t know anybody that does like the sound of their own voice. But it’s a good feeling when people respond and say thank you.”
Despite not considering himself an inherent singer, Rachmany has thrived as a front man. The artist, who first came to music at five-years-old, would first watch his sister play piano. He was drawn to it, the sounds, rhythms and possibilities. At around 12-years-old, he got his first guitar and his early guitar teacher remains a mentor to this day. Rachmany found Bob Marley’s music at some point and certainly appreciated it. But it wasn’t until he was 16-years-old that the reggae genre hit him like a ton of bricks.
“That really changed my life,” he says. “Hearing reggae live with a full horn section, blasting out of the speakers. I was blown away at the whole scene. I explicitly still remember it to this day.”
During his own shows, Rachmany says there is a mutual blissed-out feeling shared between the band and the fans. This energy is especially present during songs like the band’s hit, “Feeling Alright,” which, on the new Dub (read: echoey, often instrumental) record, is as much a hypnotic few minutes as it is a piece of reggae music. These days, Rachmany says he misses playing live – quarantine has taken one of his joys.
“I really miss that,” he says. “It’s nice to be home with family but I really miss being able to express myself 100-percent. There’s something about that microphone and the life and the show – it’s such a great release of energy for me.”
Rachmany, who says he draws inspiration from touring, misses the exchange between him and the audience most. In many ways, the fans feel like their own set of chosen family. Rachmany, who first started paying attention to music because of his sister, says he is close with his own family and that dynamic helps fuel how he feels toward his fans. Reggae is a music that engenders close relationships, he says. But the absence of this is helping to inspire new work from him and the band.
“I don’t think people are putting themselves in other people’s shoes very often,” he says. “As we’re writing for the next album, we have plenty of inspiration just by seeing what’s going on in the world. Now is an important time for Rebelution to put music out, so we’re working hard on another record.”
For a band that started just “for fun” at UC-Santa Barbara, Rachmany’s Rebelution has moved well beyond anyone’s expectations. Today, the band produces slick songs that pave both unique paths and succeed in part because of the work of past musicians who’ve come before them. While Rebelution is known for its reggae, it also offers songs that borrow from the realms of rock or world music. But, in the end, the band is a project borne out of obvious synergy, an exchange between people who need it.
“We’ve learned a lot from the artists who came before us,” Rachmany says. “But we always want to try something different. Reggae is a huge part of our sound but we never want to put out an album that sounds like the one before it. Rebelution is limitless and that’s the great thing about it. Our fans listen to a wide variety of stuff. So, it’s a mix of knowing what we want and trying something new to make each experience different.”
If you dig Rebelution, check out more of their tunes and consider a purchase.