Passafire Get to Be "Anthropologists on the Road" When Touring
Summer might be nearing an end, but there are still a few lingering moments of hot and sticky musical goodness to look forward to, like the third and final installment of Propaganda's indoor/outdoor pool party concert series, Summer Daze.
This Sunday, Savannah, GA, reggae-rock outfit Passafire will headline along with Stick Figure and the Heavy Pets to make up a roster of 20 acts ripping it all day long -- noon to midnight -- on two stages at the downtown Lake Worth venue. If the first two days in the series were any indication, this say-goodbye-to-summer bash is going to be a blow-out.
In preparation for Sunday's block party music marathon, we got to know Passafire singer and guitarist Ted Bowne, who took a break from a hectic schedule of touring and new album prep to chat with us about the band's roots at SCAD, the tight-knit Savannah music scene, and his top five songs of summer.
New Times: What have you been up to since the release of your fourth album, Start from Scratch, back in 2011?
Ted Bowne: Since the release of SFS we have been quite busy. We've done several headlining tours, as well as a handful of support tours with other bands in our scene. We've supported the Green, Rebelution, Easy Star All-Stars, the Expendables, and Iration. We've also played a few great festivals, like Cali-Roots and All Good.
Start from Scratch reached number one on the iTunes reggae chart in its first week of sales and reached number six on the Billboard reggae chart the same week. It was voted "Best Album of 2011" at The Pier, an online reggae-rock publication.
We just finished tracking a new record that is in the process of being mixed by Paul Leary, who mixed SFS. We're very excited to release it to the world when it's finished!
What were you all doing at SCAD in 2003 before you decided to come together as a band? Does your art background play into the music or shows at all?
Only two of us attended SCAD. Nick and I met in 2003, and started the band with former keyboard player Adam Willis, who also went to SCAD. Adam and I did Sound Design (which is mostly sound for film/TV), and Nick did illustration. Our first bassist was a SCAD graduate student named Ed, who studied photography.
Nick has been very involved in the artistic representation of the band since the beginning, whether it be designing artwork himself or art directing an album cover or poster or T-shirt design. He designed the artwork for the Summer Hotbox Tour and is currently working on an album cover for our upcoming release.
I have contributed a few ideas here and there for shirts and stickers, but my art stays mainly in my sketchbooks these days. I would like to get back into visual art in my free time, but I have so little of it recently, with all of the touring and recording. I have produced and engineered three full-length albums for other bands (Domino Effect, T.U.G.G., and British Dependency) since 2011. I love to be in the studio and definitely learned a lot at SCAD about the recording arts. I was recently a guest speaker for a SCAD mixing class, which was a lot of fun!
How has the Passafire sound evolved since 2003?
We have definitely shaped our sound into something distinctively ours over the years. Though we started out playing a lot of covers (as do most bands), we began writing originals that were obviously influenced by the songs we liked to cover. When we were turned on to John Brown's Body, we decided that we wanted to incorporate the gritty roots reggae sounds we were hearing from them alongside the progressive rock sounds we loved from bands like the Police, Rush, and Umphrey's McGee. We have experimented with a lot of effects and various instrumentation, which has added a lot of variety to our catalog. Almost every song has an element of reggae, but we try to utilize as many different styles as we can.
Describe the Savannah music scene in a few words.
The Savannah music scene is a small, close-knit community of musicians. There are only a handful of bands that tour nationally out of Savannah, but there are a good amount of local musicians that are crucial to the scene.
Honestly, the music scene in Savannah would be a lot better if we had a decent-sized venue that allowed all ages shows to take place. As of right now, you have to be 21 and older to see live music in Savannah, which sucks for all of the SCAD and Armstrong students as well as local high school kids who have to go to Charleston, Jacksonville, or Atlanta, to see their favorite bands. We're missing out on a lot of great shows because of laws that were put in place to shelter young people from "night life."
You're playing 35 plus shows this summer on the Hotbox tour. That's a lot! How do you guys keep sane on the road? Are there any stops you're looking forward to most?
Keeping sane on the road is tough sometimes, especially when you go out for six to eight weeks at a time. It can be a strain on personal relationships and sometimes causes you to question the choices you've made. But, the fans make it worth every hardship we face when we get to their cities and they are singing along and jumping around with us. It's an indescribable feeling to stand on a stage and play music to a room full of people who are all dancing and singing along to your original songs. It's what keeps us going, and we are super grateful for such an awesome fan base!
We look forward to the tour as a whole -- every stop is but a piece of an epic journey. Even the smallest towns end up being some of the most fun experiences. We get to be anthropologists on the road, observing and commenting on social elements around us everywhere we go.
Top five songs on your Summer playlist right now?
I assume you are talking about my personal iPod summer playlist:
"Ya Hey" by Vampire Weekend.
"Babylon Feel Dis One" by the Expanders (originally Bob Marley).
"You and I" by Seeed.
"Good Way of Life" by Tingsek.
"This Head That I Hold" by Electric Guest.
That's literally the first five songs on my Summer tour playlist on my iPhone.
What can we expect from your show coming up at Propaganda with Stick Figure and the Heavy Pets?
You can expect the same "rock your face off" kind of set we like to play, with about three to four new songs, as well as a few songs from older albums that we haven't played much in the last few years. Heavy Pets are friends of ours, but we've never played a show together. Should be fun!
What's next for Passafire after the summer tour?
We are planning a Fall tour to promote the release of the new record (which is currently untitled). Not quite sure who else will be on the bill yet, but we have been talking to some other bands in the scene who are interested. We also have interest from an independent label who wants to release our new record and we are currently working toward making that happen. It's pretty exciting!
Outside of the band, my thirtieth birthday is coming up, and I am taking a trip to Africa with my mom. I've never been there, and I'm very excited to take in all the sights and sounds. I'm sure there will be a lot of inspiration for future songs! It's something we've talked about doing since I was a teen. Can't wait!
Passafire are playing Summer Daze Day 3, 7 p.m., Sunday, July 28, at the outside stage, Propaganda, 6 S. J St., Lake Worth. Tickets cost $15 advanced and $20 at the door. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit http://propagandalw.com/events/
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