Marley D. Williams of Rebelution Talks Endless Touring, Stepping Up the Band's Game, and the Summer Festival Circuit
Up On The Sun: You're booked for the first Dave Matthews Band Caravan three-day gig in Atlantic City, New Jersey. How did Rebelution get hooked up with DMB? Tell me everything you know about the special things that will be going down at the DMB Caravan.
Marley D. Williams: We have a great management, publisher, and booking agent, and we've been working hard as a band to build up our numbers. We put out a few albums that did pretty well, and we work really hard on our live show. When you put all of those together, you're building a machine to try and be successful.
UOTS: You guys are pretty highly sought after for festivals this summer! You've always played a lot of festivals, though. This summer, you're booked for Wakarusa, High Sierra, and more. What do you think contributes to your festival appeal?
MDW: I think it just starts with our music. Our music is meant for everybody, any kind of age, race, class, gender or religion. That's what the festivals are about. They're about a lot of different kinds of music, and all of those bands [that] don't really have one specific type of audience. That's what you get at festivals a lot of times. I think with us obviously being more of a reggae band than other bands, we're the reggae band that kind of give [people] that [feeling where they say], "You know, I'm not really the biggest reggae fan, but I like that band." I think that's largely why we play festivals a lot. It's because we're not necessarily a strict Jamaican reggae band, even though we respect Jamaican reggae bands. If it weren't for them, we wouldn't be here. But we're putting our own spin on the genre, and we have nothing but respect. I think that's what kind of comes back to us with being at festivals that are highly touted and with people who have been following us. We have the best fans in the world.
UOTS: Plenty of reggae and dub music is about happy subjects, but a lot of it is also about overcoming struggles. What struggles does Rebelution face as a band?
MDW: I don't think we've had to overcome really gnarly personal struggles, but we recognize that they do exist in the world. I think that sometimes songs don't necessarily have to be about yourself or identifying other things around you. [We're helping people by] living out some kind of interpretation of that where people can relate to the music and apply it to their own life and their own struggles to overcome things. Like you said, reggae music has that a lot, and that's why it's such a powerful sound and message. To be a part of that is a great honor.
UOTS: Last time you were in Tempe, you were on tour with Zion-I. Amp Live of Zion-I remixed your hit "Safe and Sound" last year. He's created some truly great remixes. How did that project come about?
MDW: I think there's definitely a brotherhood between Zion-I and Rebelution. We've done two tours and, as people and as musicians, we have nothing but love and respect for each other. With that said, it was just bound to happen.
UOTS: One thing that Rebelution is known for is being on tour a lot more than other bands. If you had the time, what would you guys spend more time doing if you weren't on tour so much?
MDW: It's funny that you mention that because I think we're starting to come to grips [with the fact] that [we] can't tour forever like we have. You need time to write other albums, and you also need time to be a person. When you're on tour, it is a very difficult lifestyle. Some people think that touring is [a situation where] everybody loves you and you go visit every city and get to see the coolest parts of that city.
Some people ask me, "You're in [that city]! That's so cool! I wish I could go there! What's it like?" And I'll answer, "I couldn't tell you the difference between Boston and Seattle because they look the same. All I see is a dark room with a bar in the left-hand corner and the right-hand corner, and a bunch of people, and lights on me."
We end our show at 12:30 or 1 and then [for] that hour afterwards, you're talking to fans or taking a shower or getting something to eat after the show. Then all of a sudden it's 2, and you're up for maybe an hour or two. And then it's 4 a.m. and you go to bed. You're trying to be the guy that goes to sleep, which is hard sometimes because there are 10 guys on a bus, and you usually wake up at noon. At noon you're just waking up and you see a parking lot or the alley where your bus is parked, and you go find somewhere to eat. All of a sudden it's sound check, and then sound check happens. Then you get off stage and take a shower, and then it's time to get ready for the show. You're like, "Wait a minute! Did that just seem like 24 hours?"
The road is challenging. Writing music and having time off is really important. We've toured as much as we have because that's our philosophy on how we're going to spread our music and also survive and make a living. When you're just starting off and nobody knows you, that's what you have to do. Albums aren't selling like they used to. You can't just be a recording artist. You have to tour and expose yourself, and you have to go through [some of the same] markets over and over again until you have a fan base where you can play [a venue] and sell [it] out. That took us maybe five years. You have to work hard and you've got to get to the point where you earn that time off. That's where we're at right now. We keep on doing what we're doing, and people keep on supporting us like they have been, which we're so thankful for. Hopefully we will get that time off to write more music. It's hard to try to write music when you're off the road and you only have a few weeks before the next tour.
UOTS: Your last album, Bright Side of Life, came out in 2009. Can we expect a new album any time this year?
MDW: I sure hope so! I know that we have a lot of material right now. We are also being a lot more particular about our songs than we have ever been, almost to the point where we're being too particular. But that's just how the recording process and the writing process go. We've gotten a lot of success from our last two albums, and just like the touring thing, we've kind of hit this point where it's our third album and maybe we're on the brink of doing some small amphitheater shows.
With that said, I think we all want to step everything up, from our live performance to our album and everything we do in this operation. That's the thing about us as a band: We've always held ourselves accountable for getting better. I think that's a large reason why we've been successful. So I think it's our time to step everything up and this album's going to take a little bit longer than the last two. The last two were kind of like, "These are good songs. People will like them." But now we're like, "Maybe we should write another 20 just in case something is better."
UOTS: What's next for you guys?
MDW: There is so much stuff coming up! There are all the festivals. We're hoping to do probably some kind of summer tour, whether it's on our own or linking up with another big band. That has yet to be determined. That's always the goal for touring: have a headlining tour, or play with someone who is above you on the scale, meaning they've played longer and they're bigger than you, and have great fans that you can expose yourself to. We've only been touring for three years...three times...and we can play with a band that has been around longer, or we can play a festival where we're opening for bands that are bigger headliners than us. It's always a very valuable learning experience for our band to improve.
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