With the release of the third Passafire album, Everyone on Everynight, the little Savannah reggae band that could is ready to cross over to the Big Time.
Although it’s not scheduled for release (on LAW Records) until Sept. 15, Passafire’s faithful local following can get a taste of the new songs (not a bad one in the bunch) when the band shares a bill with John Brown’s Body Saturday at Live Wire Music Hall.
Everyone on Everynight, recorded at the Sonic Ranch in El Paso, Texas, includes 12 tracks that go way beyond the sweet, soulful pop reggae of Passafire’s earlier stuff. This music is melodic and memorable – the applicable showbiz term is “hook-laden” – and showcases not only a maturing sense of craftsmanship, but a sizeable sonic step forward.
And yes, you can dance to it. Dare you to listen to it and sit still.
Singer/guitarist Ted Bowne, whose snaking guitar lines and buzzing leads are all over Everyone on Everynight, says he and bandmates Adam Willis, Nick Kubley and Will Kubley are “stoked” to be a mini-tour with John Brown’s Body, the Boston-based roots reggae band that actually lit Passafire’s fuse in the first place.
Connect Savannah: What’s at stake for you with this new album?
Ted Bowne: The last record was our first for a label, so we were stoked to put it out, but there wasn’t as much behind it as this one. The label really pushed for this one to be made. We put a whole year and a half touring behind us before we started writing it, so we all had a different perspective on all different kinds of things.
I think this record’s a lot more mature, in a lot of ways. There’s a lot more attention to musicality – and for lack of better terms, there’s more attention to the pop culture, and trying to really relate to everybody on a mass scale. Rather than pigeonholing ourselves in one thing. We’re branching out into different genres, per se, and going into stuff that we haven’t really touched on before.
It’s not just about the grooves now – there’s more emphasis on melody – the songs go places.
Ted Bowne: Thanks. Yeah, we focused on still having very conscious and poetic lyrics, but the choruses and some of the song structures are very easy to get stuck in your head, and sing along to every time you hear them.
You’re on the road for most of the year. Is this new approach the result of working so closely together, and knowing intuitively what the others are thinking?
Ted Bowne: Yes. There’s a lot of stuff that’s collaborations – we didn’t know who wrote it, so we just said “Written by Passafire.” Our style of writing, we go up in the studio at my house and we play, we record it, then we come downstairs and listen to it and kind of piece it together. Then we write lyrics together – sometimes, not all the time, but for many of these songs on this album, it was a collaborative effort with all four of us sitting in one room around the fireplace, just kinda passing around a piece of paper and discussing the thing as a whole.
The first album was a culmination of two or three years of songs that we’d been recording in school. The second album was, I guess, the first year and a half of us touring and coming up with songs and playing them on the road.
But this album, we’d hadn’t gotten a chance to write anything while we were touring so rigorously that we basically took the time off, and came home, and sat down together and wrote spontaneously.
You were all SCAD students when you put the band together six years ago. Was it reggae-driven right from the start?
Ted Bowne: We started out as a jam band, I guess you could say. We played a lot of different stuff and started getting a following around town. Ziggy Marley and Michael Franti were doing a show in town; we could only see the opening act because we had to be down at Loco’s to play. So we handed Michael Franti a flyer on the stage – just went up to the front of the stage and handed it to him – and he announced our show, and then later on came down and rapped with us. We started playing South Carolina and Florida, and it was kind of a rolling stone gathering moss after that.
How and when did you decide on the reggae framework?
Ted Bowne: John Brown’s Body really did influence us to fully, completely just switch over and play around the reggae theme. We went up to see them in Asheville, and it was a total life-changing experience. We saw them live and we just melted. We were like, “This is exactly what we need to try and do.” So we came home and started focusing on writing really tasteful reggae tunes with a little bit of rock influence.
That was five years ago, and now we’re playing with this band that sparked this whole interest in playing primarily reggae music for us. We play with a lot of people that are influential to a lot of other people – on a much bigger scale than John Brown’s Body – but this is probably by far the coolest thing for all of us.
John Brown’s Body
Where: Live Wire Music Hall, 307 W. River St.
When: 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 8
Tickets: $10 advance, $15 day of show
Artist’s Web site: www.passafiretheband.com