Interview Conducted by Jeff Possiel
Cervantes - The Other Side: Denver, Colorado 3-28-12
As the sun dimmed in the late afternoon Denver sky, the bass thumped from inside Cervantes The Other Side during Rootz Underground’s soundcheck and The Simpkin Project welcomed me to their van out front for our own pregame session. With all seven members plus myself hanging out in the extended white van in front of the venue, we discussed the state of Reggae today, good friends, new music and the Cali-Roots Festival!
First off, how does it feel to be opening for Rootz Underground here in Colorado, have you guys played here before?
Wow, it’s super cool man. We only met those guys real quick, they just flew in from Jamaica, literally fresh off the plane! Rootz Underground has been nothing but cordial, really cool guys. They’ve been together for a long time and we’re stoked to be playing with some really good musicians. They’re nice guys too, we have a couple more shows with them so totally looking forward to it.
We haven’t been here (Cervantes) but we’ve played The Marquis Theater (Denver) before. Two years ago our good friends the Dirty Heads took us on the road and that was our first time in Denver. Those guys are really good friends of ours, we actually grew up together in the same neighborhood, same high school. All of our brothers and our friends, friends of our brothers, all that… really good dudes! Success has come fast for them but they remain just as cool, we really appreciate them a lot."We’ve seen our genre go from being niche to mainstream kind of out of nowhere."
Tell me a little bit about what you guys see in reggae today, coming from SoCal and out on the road touring….
We’ve all been playing reggae music in various bands for over a decade. And we’ve seen reggae go from very much an underground genre, to now, everybody has a reggae band. We’ve seen it go to something from nothing so fast. Instead of a rock band, now a lot of people advertise as a reggae band. We’ve seen our genre go from being niche to mainstream kind of out of nowhere.
We’ve been doing this project for about 7 years now and just in that time we’ve seen it grow a ton. An example is that Rebelution and SOJA played in our small town, these little bars and we as the hometown band opened up for them. Now, look! That same show we played with them way back when, the next week the lead singer Eric (Rachmany) wrote us a comment on Myspace when Myspace was “The Facebook”, saying, “Dude, love your album it was nice to meet up with you guys”. They were always cool dudes so it’s just insane to see them in a tour bus, doing these massive shows, sold out shows across the country. That right there is one example of just it all can change super quick and how we’ve seen the scene grow.
What do you think is a reason for that noticeable growth of Reggae?
I think because it’s so multi-verse, the “Reggae” genre reminds me of a house with many rooms. Everything is kind of under this big blanket but there’s a lot of different rooms to explore. There’s reggae with rock, reggae with rap, dancehall, lovers, pure, roots reggae, Cali reggae, almost a sublime derivation reggae, new wave, old wave, dub step, it’s just like hip hop there’s just so many styles!
We’ve been doing the same thing for years now, we play kind of a more Jamaican model standard reggae, more natural vocals and content from our area and our time. Now, our style also blends with this new kind of “surf roots” genre. The scene itself has helped us out even though we don’t necessarily identify ourselves 110% with the “scene”. All those guys are so cool though, we love and respect them as people and as bands and the music too is so good, we’re just different as we’d say. The reggae mindset now seems to be that gluing piece, that one element that can combine everybody. It’s really nice that it’s so cohesive, their fans are drawn to us and ours drawn to them, it’s a good symbiosis that way.
With the blending of all these styles, do you think the mindset then has a lot to do with the lyrics?
That’s one thing Phil put a lot of emphasis effort is the lyrics because there is meaning behind it. That’s what we really have in mind, is the message. If it’s a realistic, practical message that can be applied and lived through the people that are listening to it and feeling it, that’s what we’re always keeping that in mind. Sending a positive message to the people is a powerful thing and we definitely want to promote that.
I think there’s a lot of people who are also attracted to the idea of it, the lifestyle and maybe the partying aspect but not so much into the music. But, it’s still fans coming to shows and every time more may be sinking in and in that way, it grows. Of course, there are those fans that are really into the music, much like Dead Head fans, Phish fans, and Rootz Underground fans. Those people who work to get others to go to shows, spread the music and definitely see the artists live when they come through touring. It’s trippy to see the difference in these places show to show and it’s great that it’s getting all this attention.
Technology obviously also plays a role in this, what are your thoughts on that playing a role?
"With the internet, all these blogs and ways to connect I think it really puts a new emphasis on live music because everything is so digital now."Watching and reading about all kinds of stuff, everything is so accessible. When you hear about something, you can pop on Itunes and can download it instantly. That’s great but the connectivity itself actually creates a disconnect and a need for a more real connection. With the internet, all these blogs and ways to connect I think it really puts a new emphasis on live music because everything is so digital now. I think that has really contributed to the strength of live music again. The scene in that aspect and idea that live music in general is really good, that has something to do with the fact you can get all this stuff on the internet… It’s not real, you can’t feel them but when you go to a show you can have that personal connection with the band, singing a long and moving with them. You can feel it!
I think that’s like the Phish crowd, Phish is a model that I personally like (Shawn Taylor). They’re a band whose model, as far as their attitude, I really like. They’re so focused on their fans and the live experience. They don’t have music videos. They post very little clips on the internet, here and there, but not too much… And so they make their live events the thing to do. Sure, collect to CD, get the tour T-shirt, that’s cool too but being at the show, traveling with the band, living with the fans… I think that’s where those guys really have it figured out. That’s what we as musicians need to be focused on too, the fan experience.
Overall, it’s growing, it’s real and it’s going to be prominent for a long time. One day someone is going to have to write a big long history of music and this is going to have to go into it. We hope that our genre is a major highlight, stylistically and musically but at the same time as a brotherhood and friends, we’re all together in reggae.
Tell me a little bit about the progress of The Simpkin Project over the last seven years…
Well we as a band definitely move slow. We all have our regular thing going on but we move at our own pace on purpose. We do it all ourselves. Record our own music, mix our own music, make our own videos, it’s methodical. Now, we have the help of Jared (Sagawa, Warm Wind Management). He does so much just to organize it all, the booking, the website, the production, he has a studio at his house. When you get another guy pulling the rope it gets a lot easier.
How did that relationship and partnership come about?
Jared works with a number of bands, we did a show in Hermosa Beach at this Thursday night reggae show and it went well. We just liked the way he worked, so I gave him a call the next week to tell him that and even though we weren’t necessarily looking for a manager, we wanted to expand. He always has a couple things on the side, we had a meeting and he took us on.
Our recent tours and growth is because of the efforts by guys like Jared and our publicist Curtis (Bergesen, Herbivore Publicity). It’s great to have that 8th member which is what he really is. He’s so meticulous, the day sheets are so organized and things are happening. Normally we just do shows and come back, this time we’re doing shows, we’re doing recordings, we’re doing videos…Writing music is hard enough, it’s great to have that 8th member to help out and I look forward to the future too.
On the newest album and anything else in the works…
The third album (“Everything You Want”) is out now! We’re also recording an EP here in Colorado. We want to put out another album late summertime but we thought it would be cool to do this thing with Joel (Scanlon) at ScanHope Sound.
Tell me about how the Joel and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad relationship came about…. (Joel Scanlon is the Sound/Dub Engineer for GPGDS and also co-owns/runs ScanHope Sound recording studio in Littleton, CO)
We met GPGDS years ago when they came though Huntington Beach for a few shows. At the time they came through, they had no place to stay and were looking to line up a few gigs in SoCal. We were able to meet them and give them some lodging while they were in town and when that happened, it was just a good one on one. We got to know them really well, you know, as humans, real people. There was one show we did at The Brixton, with John Brown’s Body and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, where Joel did some live recording. He was doing live sound with all of them. Whenever they came through from then on it was like, “Well, you’re staying at my house right?” Over time, we met Joel, developed a friendship, gave him a CD and that’s how it happens, that’s how we became friends. Ever since, when they came to town would just get together.
For example how shit just happens in the industry this afternoon we go to Great Divide Brew Co. and we pulled up today, look across and there’s a van parked on the other side of the street at this venue and we say, “I wonder what band that is?” Turns out, it’s this band Synergy who we played with in Humboldt when that was their hometown and they played with us in our hometown when they came south. We’ve done shows together and we had no idea that they had a show in town but we ended up having beers together and just catching up… Sure enough we’re across the street from each other. It was so strange, we couldn’t get over how mysterious that was, we call that road surprises. Mystical vibrations (everyone laughing)…
With the third album now out and an EP in the works, what about upcoming shows after this mini-tour, the highlight must be the Cali Roots Festival, Memorial Day Weekend?
Everyone says you have to be there… We’ve all be playing music…and reggae music for a long time now. Reggae Rising and Reggae on the River have been around for 20+ years, everyone in the world came to those. Now, unfortunately they kind of diminished and Cali Roots is now it’s the 3rd year, it’s happening and its awesome bro. This is the biggest one yet. Everyone we talked to is going to it and honestly, it’s really exciting man. We’re from California, we’ve all been playing reggae for a long time and we’ve been playing together for years now, it’s really nice to finally play a festival in our own backyard and it’s going to be a good one!
More on the Cali Roots Festival…
I feel like half the bill we’ve already played with! Our manager Jared (Segawa) got us on there. Everyone we’ve talked to is mentioning it and going… It’s a big feat for them (Cali Roots) to grow like that, its crazy how big it is. It’s actually overwhelming how large the whole movement has grown tremendously.
We talked about social networks for fans but the network of bands is its own thing. All that online stuff is not only allowing us to keep track with our fans and ourselves but it’s responsible for our communication with other bands… ‘Where are you, what are you doing”, giving each other props and talking like “let’s set up a show” or whatever. Cali Roots is going to give us a chance to hang out with everyone at one show. It’s like, why don’t we just get together and do it all at once. It’s Memorial Day Weekend, it’s a recipe for a good time and it’s going to be a massive turnout.
Who are the guys of Simpkin looking forward to seeing….
That’s what we’re doing at Cali-Roots, catching up on a lot of IOU’s! We’re so excited even for the bands that we have seen!
- The Green is awesome! We know those guys and work with them, really great guys. I find myself lately singing the songs in my head. It’s great to listen to some really tight music and they’re just really good dude.
- I want to see Mishka too, I really like his vibe and haven’t caught him yet.
- J-Boog too, I’ve heard his tracks but it’d be nice to see how he plays it live.
- I’m looking forward to seeing Monterey itself! That’s an amazing part of the country. Just in general being there is going to be amazing. I can’t even imagine how many people bought these tickets because this is where you want to be if this is what you’re into… it doesn’t get better than this, there is no better option for Memorial Day Weekend.
…and so how does it feel to be playing in front of all these other special acts?
Wow, we are so fortunate to play in front of all these people… and appreciative. It’s so cool! It’s one of those mysterious things that all of a sudden you’re in the middle of all these great people and incredible situations and we get to be in the middle of something that’s so sought after. I mean, it’s a finite list right? So, only 30 or so bands making the list, it’s flattering. No doubt about it, definitely one of the highlight shows of the year! We’ve wanted to play a show up north for a long time and to play a festival in this county has been a goal since day one. We’re stoked!
As we wrap this up, are there any preshow rituals as a group or individually?
A couple high kicks (laughing!)…
I just like to hang out with the boys, this right here. We roll like a team, every member has a responsibility in the unit and we all try to work it as best as we can. We have to take on the team mentality, from warming up and talking about that night’s show, to being a unit and as tight of a team as we can.
Just talking about the overall game plan is helpful. How it’s going to go down and how we’re going to accomplish a certain goal. It’s important to talk about so it’s always on our minds. It’s a meditative, very much a reflective situation. We discuss what we’re doing and promote it.
Hopefully this can all take place before a show…Sometimes, especially before a show things get a little hectic from setup to taking the stage so if we have a chance to remind each other of the reason and the goal in mind that helps to put on a killer show.
Just to sit and relax is great when we have the chance and when the green room is available, we’ll warm up with vocals and a good sound-check is also super key! We like to enjoy the town we’re fortunate to visit usually with things like craft beers, going to breweries, hanging with the guys.
… Oh and high kicks are essential!
Much respect and many thanks to all the guys in The Simpkin Project! The show itself was an excellent experience, the dance floor crowded as they jammed on but getting to know the guys themselves was a real treat. Be sure to check them out at the links below, buy the albums, see them on tour and as always – SUPPORT LIVE MUSIC!
The Simpkin Project Links: