What’s in a name?
If you’re talking about Hawaiian reggae act The Green, it’s a little bit of everything the colorful word can and does conjure, said guitarist Zion Thompson.
Thompson spoke to The Bulletin last week as he and bandmates Ikaika Antone (keyboards), JP Kennedy (guitar) and Caleb Keolanui (vocals) headed toward Fort Collins, Colo., the fifth stop in a tour that brings The Green to Bend for the first time Monday for a show with Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (see “If you go”).
The Green plays “with the notion of The Green and (marijuana), and that kind of thing. Of course, because we’re a reggae band, that’s an automatic thing everyone’s going to think,” Thompson said. “At the same time, it’s a playful thing. (Green’s) got so many different meanings, and for us, one of the things too, is we’re a brand new band. We are kind of green, I guess.”
Not for long. The band debuted last year with a self-titled record, and by year’s end, iTunes named it Best Reggae Album of 2010 and Billboard included it in its Top 10 Reggae Chart. To date, the album has sold in excess of 20,000 copies.
“It’s so weird that it happened like that, and it seems like such a fluke and such a random thing. It’s so sudden, we don’t even know what it means yet,” Thompson says. “It’s great, but it’s kind of surreal, and it’s hard to step out of our skin, and outside of the box, and know what that means right now.”
Thompson says the accolades do amount to a bit of pressure on the band, whose sophomore effort, “Ways & Means,” comes out Tuesday on Easy Star Records.
The challenge of creating a strong successor to the debut “definitely fueled us,” Thompson says. “Right when we came home from our last tour, we went right into the studio and we were just fired up. We think the product is better this time around. A lot of the music is just on a different level. We got a lot more heads working on this one, too.”
The four core members of The Green are all singers and songwriters, each contributing songs to the collective cause, says Thompson.
“We think all of those things combined make it better than the first,” he says. “I don’t know how it’s going to get received ... (but) we stand by it, and we’re stoked to get it out there.”
When playing live, The Green expands by two members: bassist Brad Watanabe and drummer Leslie Ludiazo. Fans in Hawaii, if not already lucky enough by living in Hawaii, often hear The Green as a septet, when a second keyboard player joins the lineup.
Reggae is among the most popular music genres in Hawaii, explains Thompson. “If you live on an island, or you’re from that kind of upbringing or grow up in that kind of environment, it seems like ... that tends to be the style of music that either comes from there or does well over there.”
Thompson grew up playing the ukelele exclusively until his freshman year of high school, when he picked up a guitar because he “just wanted to make different kinds of sounds (he) couldn’t get out of ukelele,” he says.
Though The Green definitely stands on some traditional reggae themes (“Jah Love”), this is a musically versatile crew, and influences of soul, pop and R&B can be heard on several “Ways & Means” tracks.
All of which may be heard in Monday’s live show, Thompson says.
“We like to have a lot of fun out there,” he says. “A lot of energy, a lot of different styles of music all wrapped up into a kind of reggae vibe. We rock out, we do dancehall, we do lovers rock for the ladies. Pretty much something for everyone.”