Sure, winter has been uncharacteristically dry and sunny around these parts. But for most of us, summer can't get here quickly enough.
Fortunately, Hawaiian reggae band The Green is on the way with a temporary cure from Seasonal Affective Disorder. On Saturday, March 2, the sextet will lift Jazzbones with buoyant “Jawaiian” jams from its second album, “Ways & Means,” a disc that's been camped at or near the top of Billboard's reggae albums chart since its release in 2011. And recently, singer-guitarist Zion Thompson checked in from in Aspen, Colo., one of several tour stops that are way snowier than he's used to.
TW: In the Northwest we're known for garage-rock, grunge – nowadays, some alt-country. Not so much reggae. What's the scene like that you came out of?
Thompson: The reggae scene in Hawaii is big, actually. It's been big for a long time. It went from traditional Hawaiian music to contemporary Hawaiian; and slowly the vibe of it just blended well to the reggae beat and to the offbeat skanks (a reggae strumming technique) on the guitar.
TW: I guess the weather and island vibe helps with that. It's pretty drizzly and gloomy here. But we did just legalize pot. Maybe that'll help start some reggae bands here.
Thompson: Yeah, yeah, I think that's gonna help out everybody. Us, too. (Laughs)
TW: How did you get started?
Thompson: Two of (us) are cousins. One of the guys is brothers with our tour manager. The rest of us, the other singers – myself and Ikaika (Antone) – we've been singing and playing music together since high school.
We just kind of grew up together in this musical community in Hawaii. We actually kind of knew of each other before we started playing music together because we would see each other out performing live at shows.
TW: The Green has gotten some notoriety in recent years. But are there other bands we would have heard of that you guys played in before?
Thompson: Our bass player played in a band called Ooklah the Moc, which is probably one of the biggest reggae bands to come out of Hawaii, and one of our influences, too. I'm not sure how far the reach of our music has gone outside of Hawaii in our previous bands. But it's definitely kind of a thing that's been happening back home – a little bit of a movement. It seems to be spreading, the whole Polynesian Island reggae movement. I'm kind of stoked about that.
TW: Within your sound, you've got really traditional, rootsy elements, some dub and that kind of thing. But you also hear other bits and pieces, like some pop and those great vocal harmonies. Talk about your reference points.
Thompson: We're big fans of roots reggae, old school like … Aswad, Steel Pulse, Gladiators; all the old reggae bands – Bob (Marley), of course, and Bunny (Wailer) and all that; but the new stuff, too, and dancehall.
We're huge fans of pop music, too, and we listen to everything. ... We're always trying to get that sound, you know – that real sound. We try to get it where we can, I guess.
TW: Along those lines, do you all write collectively? Or do a couple of you write and bring songs to the group?
Thompson: Everybody in the band writes music. Everybody adds and contributes any ideas they might have. We're really lucky that way. We're a decent sized group, but we really work well together in the studio and when we're writing. It's pretty easy, actually, for us. It's harder to just pick what songs.
TW: For newcomers, like myself, what should we expect from your live show?
Thompson: A loud, fun, energizing, kind of rocking out show. I mean, we bring all the elements from all the different genres of music to the live show, even more than on the CDs. We like to change things around a little bit from the albums while still giving you the groove of the songs and the harmonies and all that stuff.
We're always trying to change and make our show better. The more we tour, and the more bands we see and places we go we learn a lot and try and incorporate new things into our set.
TW: “Ways & Means” was kind of a breakthrough album for your guys, but that's been out for a minute. Do you have new cuts you're throwing into the mix?
Thompson: We just finished recording our third album in Costa Mesa, Calif., at the Hurley Studios, and we've got about 14 tracks. So we're working on all that right now and mixing. We'll hopefully release the CD, you know, summertime. But we're kind of waiting on bringing those songs out into the live show. We do one of them (a track called "Liar”). By the next tour I'm sure we'll have at least another one or two.
TW: You're touring with a band called New Kingston. Are they from Hawaii, too?
Thompson: No, they're Jamaican origin, but they're from Brooklyn, N.Y. They're family; they're three brothers and a dad. It really comes out in the way they sing and how well their voices blend. They've got their own album. I think it's their second album, called “Kingston University.” They're amazing, man. No joke. They're one of our favorite bands for sure.
TW: This is one of your last tour stops. What's next? Straight into the studio?
Thompson: We'll probably go back in the studio and do a couple of things to touch up, maybe some vocals or something. And then we're going right back on the road, coming back out to the mainland.
We've been touring hard for the last couple years, since we started. We're just kind of staying in that mode and spreading out the music as much as we can. We'll definitely be coming back there. That's one of the areas where we frequent the most.
The Green in concert, with New Kingston and Stay Grounded
8:30 p.m. March 2
Jazzbones, 2803 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
(253) 396-9169 or http://www.jazzbones.com
Listen to the Green online at http://www.thegreen808.com
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