Review: Southern band brings reggae-rock to Aspen
October 18, 2011
ASPEN – Passafire is the reggae-infused rock band from Savannah, Ga. – that’s right, reggae-rock from the South – that made a stop Sunday night at Belly Up in Aspen.
Lead singer and guitarist Ted Bowne said that when the group was in its early years in 2003, the reggae scene in Georgia was nonexistent.
The foursome started as a college party cover band. Different members brought different musical interests, and they collaborated to agree on making a sound they all enjoy. Bowne said they found common ground when writing their first songs – reggae.
“We all really gravitated toward that style of music,” Bowne said.
Passafire has released four studio albums and two live recordings. They’ll perform 150 to 180 shows a year and have toured with other experienced road warriors such as Pepper, 311 and the Wailers.
The band released its fourth album titled “Start from Scratch” in September. The four featured “Kiss My Head” and “Hard to Believe” from that album at Sunday’s show. They also performed songs from older albums that help them develop their fan base, such as “Kilo” and “Submersible.”
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“This year we didn’t tour as much because we had to write an album and go into the studio,” bassist Will Kubley said. “The whole album came about pretty quick. It was written and recorded in basically four months.”
For the first time, the band worked with a producer when recording “Start from Scratch.” Butthole Surfers guitarist and veteran producer Paul Leary expressed interest in working with the young band.
“He’s not your normal perception of what a producer is, he’s more of a conductor of sound,” Bowne said. He said that Leary left Passafire with the creative freedom to write the album, while Leary engineered and fine-tuned the tracks.
“The creativity we had really allowed us to be more comfortable with recording because we never worked with a producer before,” Bowne said.
Being roommates in Georgia, Kubley and Bowne collaborate on writing. Though Bowne writes most of the lyrics, everyone in the band contributes. Kubley said he often acts as an editor for the lead singer, trying to focus better what he will write down.
When on the road, Bowne said his best tool for writing lyrics is his BlackBerry. When he sees something that inspires a song, he will jot down quick electronic notes. While in Aspen, Bowne said he saw an elderly resident with a long white beard riding a bike. He said such a character would be worth noting as a potential lyric.
He said his phone is filled with the random two- or three-word reminders and wouldn’t really make sense to anyone else who looks at it.
“I write two words in my BlackBerry, then I go home and put them with a song – sometimes they don’t work, sometimes they do, and that’s the magic,” Bowne said. “I write a lot of songs on my BlackBerry.”
Passafire’s tour continues to take them west with its Denver-based opening act, reggae band Tatanka. Bowne said that even though the band has played Belly Up before, they always look forward to their quick Aspen tour stop.