Interview Conducted by Shawn Hallman
Photo Credits: Michael Arocha
You guys are currently on tour with Steel Pulse. You’ve also toured with a lot of younger bands in the past. Have you noticed any generation gap in the audience and is it any different hanging out backstage?
Jacob: I think what you look for as a musician is to try to appeal to everyone. There shouldn’t be something in your music that makes it only for kids, or only for adults, or only for little babies. The stuff I’m singing about isn’t really age related. Steel Pulse brings their audience, and we bring ours, but they’re kind of similar."In the music, we try to make it where the mentality is what’s changing. The world is what suffers when we compete with each other."
So you try to have your lyrics appeal to everyone regardless of their age?
Jacob: I don’t really try to; because once you try to do something musically it gets screwed up. It’s like trying to snowboard, you have to just do. Bob Marley had a way of writing and making it sound like it was to everybody, so I shoot for that for sure. I’m not sitting here like, “I need a song that really appeals to everyone.” It’s not like that, but there are ways of writing that make it appeal to everybody.
A lot of your songs contain a lot more meaning than songs you hear on the radio. What is it that motivates you to write about a certain topic?
Jacob: The stuff I write about is the stuff I am concerned with. The things I think I can fix personally, the things I think the world can fix that I’m a part of. We’re kind of like the anti-radio. The radio right now is like glam and hair bands happening again. It’s all girls, girls, girls and they drive Lamborghinis and it’s ridiculous. It’s the same thing and it’s not just hip hop, its R&B, and it’s pop. When guys like Kurt Cobain came along, nobody listened to any of the glam bands anymore. We want to be more like those guys…the Rage Against the Machine, Kurt Cobain, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan type of band. That’s where good music is. Where people write it to write it.
SOJA is a pretty conscious band. What do you think of the current state of world right now, humanity, and the future?
Jacob: The way we govern ourselves is based around money. It’s based around economies of local regions that we’ve created. Texas isn’t a real thing, it’s just a line we drew on a map. If you go look at the border, there’s no actual line. Texas is the same thing as everything around it. Since we look at the world like that, we don’t get anything done. We only look out for ourselves. We made it all the way from cavemen who looked after their caves to people who look out for a huge country, but we can’t somehow in our minds cross those imaginary lines across the water. It’s all territories to us. I think as long as that’s the mentality that our world leaders have then we’re gonna die. It’s simple, pollution is going to kill us. Everyone knows it, but what do we do about it? In the music, we try to make it where the mentality is what’s changing. The world is what suffers when we compete with each other.
How do you think people can get out of this selfish mentality?
Jacob: I don’t know. To me, the amount of money that our government spends on the military is appalling. It seems that if we had things like good schools and good hospitals…Nobody talks about it, but these are things that life is truly about, trying to become enlightened and live as long and happy of a life as possible. Let people vote for what they want to vote for. Let people put their tax money where they think it should go, but that’s just on a very small level, our country. To me, it can’t be done until we have educated people, but that can’t be done until we improve our schools. For us as a country, it starts with us leaving Iraq. I think we’re gearing up for war with Iran. We’re just moving down the line, because our country is built on
war. It revolves around war, and if we don’t have war then why do we need all these military guys enlisted? Why are we paying all these salaries? Why are companies like Boeing and Halliburton some of the biggest corporations? Why did the three biggest oil companies make 80 billion dollars last year, yet everyone blames Obama for gas prices. If you went to Germany and said “Hey, do you want to join the rest of the world?” they would say “absolutely not” because they’ve already figured out all of their recycling, reforestation, pollution, and carbon issues. They look at the rest of the world and probably think we are tripping. They compost and recycle everything, things that we would never even consider doing. But all of that stuff takes money and when you take a stand to say we’re going to have an environmental society built around education, health, and the environment, that would never happen because our country is ruled by corporations who bribe congressman and don’t have to report it. That’s why we’re in the wars and that’s why pharmaceutical companies have more money than god. If a president comes along and says that, sure the people would elect him, but the corporations that are in charge of this country will not lose. It sounds radical what I’m saying, but it will never change. There’s nothing anyone can do to stop congress. We saw the greatest guy ever come in and get completely deflated. This black democrat, he probably doesn’t even want to run again. Ask Bill Gates if he wants to be president and he’ll say no because he wouldn’t have any power. There’s way more power in the private sector and America proved that. This whole game we play, it all gets taken out on the rest of the world. They look at us and they hate us and in order to compete with us they have to burn gasoline and burn them in outdated engines. These third world countries have to compete. I think what’s going on right now is really gross. I don’t care if people think I’m crazy, because I know I’m not. I know I’m right and I know their wrong. It’s just whether we realize it now while there is a world left to save or we wait until it looks like a Terminator movie outside.
You’ve found a good amount of success. You were recently featured on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Do you want to talk about that experience?
Jacob: It was really cool. He was super nice and everybody that worked there was really chill. They all sit around and watch the show. They prep for it from about six in the morning. It felt like a rollercoaster ride before the screen came up.
You made a fan out of my mom from that performance.
Jacob: Yeah, that was the only thing my mom had ever yelled about.
SOJA puts in a lot of effort to make connections with their fans through YouTube videos and more. I know you all have personal lives and not a lot of free time. What motivates you to put in that extra effort that a lot of bands don’t put in?
Jacob: I don’t know. Some bands do, some bands don’t. There are a million reasons why, every band is different. We’re friends. We grew up together. We think all the same stuff is funny. We’re just video- taping ourselves. Those are the bands that do it, the ones that are buddies.
You’ve been doing a lot of collaborations lately; you’ve worked with the likes of 311 and Anuhea. Do you have any cool stories about these collaborations? Did you have any favorites?
Jacob: My personal favorite was the one I did with The Green. I did one with Rebelution that was really good. I also worked with Anuhea, J-Boog, Chris Boomer, and 311. They were all pretty good. I like getting on other people’s songs. It’s fun to be involved with something that isn’t your band.
How does a song come about for SOJA? What is the song writing process like?
Jacob: It comes from me and then I bring it to the band and then we talk about it and play it some more.
Is there any reason Bob wasn’t featured vocally on the new album?
Jacob: I think he’s thinking about doing a 4, 5, or 6 song EP. When we started he was a lot more on it. "I think that’s why we’ve gotten as far as we have, because everyone is really not about the money."We would go back and forth a lot. As we moved on we started to write our own songs more. The last album mad focused on having a concept and a theme. He actually had a badass song that didn’t make the album. I think he started thinking that he wanted to start his own theme and project his own image of the things he is talking about. When we get off the road he’s going to start making the EP.
Are you going to have any input into the EP?
Jacob: I hope I’m the producer of the Bobby Lee EP for sure. He’s got some big offers though; everybody likes working with that guy. I feel like his album is going to be really good.
You’re not worried it’s not going to blow him up?
Jacob: If Bobby Lee gets bigger solo than he is in SOJA, I would be very happy for him.
Every time I’ve seen you, you tell the audience to pay whatever they feel like to take your CD home. What made you decide on doing that?
Jacob: We’ve always been more about spreading the message than counting the money. When you’re a successful band that’s actually making money, it’s easy to get greedy and want more of it, but we’ve got to stay about spreading the message. I think that’s why we’ve gotten as far as we have, because everyone is really not about the money.
Most of your lyrics are pretty personal. I think that helps people make personal connections with you guys. What is your favorite track you’ve written and what do you have the most fun playing live.
Jacob: I think Tell Me is the one that is the most fun to play live. We put Prison Blues into the end of Not Done Yet, so that’s actually a lot of fun too. My favorite is always the most recent song I’ve written, and it’s been that way my whole life. My favorite is already moved on past the album. We have about six songs done for the next album. We’re recording them in Miami after the tour is done. We’ll start it in there and see what happens.
Your singing voice is distinguishable and unique. Did any thought go into that?
Jacob: That’s just what I sound like when I sing, how it’s always sounded. It’s good that you noticed that. I’ll see a band that just can’t make it sometimes and be like “it’s the singer”. It’s what makes bands huge, the singer. Either the audience believes in the singer or they don’t.
Interview Conducted by Shawn Hallman
Photo Credit: Michael Arocha