Weekender

‘The beauty of being in a band’: Passafire explores genres to find unique sound

Passafire bassist Will Kubley said the band’s sound has evolved into more rock and less reggae, “but it’s not a conscious decision. We just want to explore more genres and explore what we’re capable of, and it happens to be more rock or folky or electronic.”
Passafire bassist Will Kubley said the band’s sound has evolved into more rock and less reggae, “but it’s not a conscious decision. We just want to explore more genres and explore what we’re capable of, and it happens to be more rock or folky or electronic.” Photo provided

For new listeners to almost any band, there is that getting-to-know-the-music period. A song has to play a few times before would-be fans get it into their blood, so to speak.

With reggae-rock band Passafire, though, it’s more of a direct injection, tour manager Daniel Briones said.

“There’s energy,” he said. “People are into it. For someone who has never seen Passafire before, it literally takes maybe a minute into song one and every person in the crowd is just loving it. I have never seen that person in the back who looks bored. It’s (the band’s) passion. They’re not up there just for the sake of it. They are there to put on a show for the fans. No matter what, on that first note, they are giving it 100 percent.”

The group, formed in 2003 by students attending Savannah College of Art and Design, plays hundreds of shows a year with bands such as 311, Rebelution, Slighty Stoopid, Pepper, Matisyahu and The Wailers. The group will headline a show at the State Theatre on Nov. 16, with two opening acts to get the dancing started: local reggae/jam band The Perkolators and American Afropop pioneers The Hip Abduction, Florida Gulf Coast natives who are joining Passafire for a dozen dates on Passafire’s fall tour.

Passafire members write and perform all their own music — reggae-infused progressive rock that continues to evolve as they write and tour.

“They’re a rock band to me, with influences from punk and reggae,” Briones said. “The first time I saw them, I just thought, ‘That was a great rock show.’ All four members are really great individual musicians and pull in their own styles. No two songs sound the same.”

Though Passafire has built a reputation as a touring band, they have recorded five studio releases and are working on another.

“They are constantly writing on the road,” Briones said. “At any time, if I can’t find a member, I know they’re in the corner with a guitar. All four are really passionate musicians and songwriters. The process is really the four of them coming together. Even if we spend a day off at one of their parents’ house, they will go into the basement and write a song.”

Though the group works to set aside time for creating songs, their musical gears always are turning, feeding off audience reactions and personal experiences, Passafire bassist Will Kubley said.

“Before our tour starts, we’ll take a week to write together and record,” he said. “Once those ideas exist, then we can add on on the road. We are always coming up with ideas on the road. It never stops. A lot is what we’re currently listening to, or a lot of our writing comes from personal and honest experiences that we hope people can relate to. But then being in a band with three other songwriters, it filters through everybody and becomes something else that you never imagined. That’s the beauty of being in a band.”

The music has changed through the years to stretch into more genres, Kubley said, but the band finds a way to make each one have a Passafire feel.

“Our songs have always centered around our roots in reggae,” he said. “As the years go on, we still keep that, but we definitely expand even further with other styles, album to album. I guess you could say it’s been getting less reggae and more rock over the years, but it’s not a conscious decision. We just want to explore more genres and explore what we’re capable of, and it happens to be more rock or folky or electronic. In all of it, we’re looking for what is uniquely Passafire.”

The State Theatre audiences can expect to hear some of the band’s newest work, including two songs that have not been recorded. Even favorites come across differently in concert, Kubley said.

“If you’re used to hearing studio versions only, we’re a band that can showcase those better in a live scenario,” he said. “We really just feed off the energy of the fans.”

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