Moving On Up

It's typically a good sign when members of a band are packing up their things and moving. Their former neighbors probably aren't too mad about it, and the band is probably in the midst of success and on its way into bigger and better surroundings. For the members of Kingston-based reggae band Rootz Underground, it seems that the opposite is true. Success is certainly on the horizon for the increasingly popular band, but as a result, some of the guys in the group are actually downgrading into smaller digs. As guitarist Jeffrey Moss-Solomon puts it, "We're scaling down so that we can tour harder. We're conquering the world next year, so home doesn't need to be as big as it used to be anymore."

That's the right attitude, and we can only hope his prophecy will come true.

The group makes highly addictive music in the vein of traditional roots rock reggae but with an updated, modern approach. With rebellious lyrics and bass lines that won't quit, if you can envision Marcus Garvey, Paul Bogle, Che Guevara, Nelson Mandela, Frantz Fanon, and Geronimo wailing away in a reggae band, then you're ready to hear Rootz Underground. And if you don't know who any of those people are, then you need to hear Rootz Underground. Even though it was moving day, Moss-Solomon checked in with New Times to let us know what's on the band's horizon.

New Times: So you guys are finally branching out of Jamaica and playing more shows in the U.S.?

Moss-Solomon: We just got our work permits straight finally. We couldn't really play until then.

Was that difficult?

It's difficult as a whole to get visas since 9/11. Lots of groups have new albums out and can't tour the States for various reasons. We're lucky that we got in. But if they listen to the music, they might take the visas back (laughs).

Your music has plenty of Jamaican flair, but there are other sounds thrown in the mix as well. What sets you apart from other reggae bands?

We try to stay true to the roots music: Bob Marley, Burning Spear, Peter Tosh. That's the music we grew up with, but we also love rock, folk, dub, electronica, so we have all these influences as well. It's the 2000 version of roots rock reggae. It's one world we deal with so we keep things moving forward.

What can folks who have never seen you guys live expect?

People can expect a high-energy performance. Our music is dancing music. So come to dance, but it's also conscious, so you have to have an open mind. We're gonna come out hard hitting, so be ready for the love fire.

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Jonathan Cunningham