by Jaz Bowens
The Green has been making rounds and producing amazing albums for years now. Currently with three albums under their belt (The Green, Ways and Means, and their most recent release Hawai’i ‘13), The Green has been on a roll collecting scores of dedicated fans. The band, made up of vocalist Caleb Keolanui, vocalist Ikaika Antone on keyboard, JP Kennedy on guitars and vocals, Brad “BW” Watanabe on bass, Jordan Espinoza on the drums, and Zion Thompson on guitar and vocals, are Hawaiian men with their culture on their backs. They let you into their version of a smooth, melodic, rhythmic, chill, reggae world.
After hearing some songs off their first album, The Green, like “I’m Yours” and “Alive”, I was hooked. These songs are nothing short of complete bliss and can’t help but make you feel nice. Ways and Means, which hit #1 on the iTunes and Billboard Reggae charts, kept the fire burning with two of my personal favorites, “Good Vibrations” and “Come In” ft. Jacob Hemphill of SOJA.
True reggae fans from all walks of life have been raving about The Green for a long time. With a pleasant, patient, Hawaiian-kissed voice, Zion Thompson was nothing but a gentleman while answering questions I’m sure new fans or those unfamiliar with them would love to know. For those who have never heard a song from The Green, I ask Thompson explain the band’s sound. It’s so unique and original that I couldn’t find the words to describe it. Thompson tries his best. “I have no idea,” he says with a chuckle. “It’s world reggae music. R&B and soul are big influences of ours. Blues music, jazz music, dance hall are influences, too. Obviously reggae, so I would say world reggae.”
It’s important for listeners to understand The Green’s influence because it allows their audience to appreciate the bands originality and where they have come from. Being that they are a Hawaiian band, it’s important to know how their Hawaiian culture has helped shape this reggae band. “Reggae is huge in Hawaii, it’s the music on the radio and we have been listening to reggae for so long,” Thompson says. “It’s either Reggae or Hawaiian music. You know, ukuleles or guitar, Hawaiian lyrics. The music is mellower. Reggae is slightly faster. It is more folky, country, and that is more our style. That’s what we grew up listening to; both reggae and Hawaiian music.”
The Green has been on tour many times and yet, they are still are able to continuously put out hit after hit. How does a six-man reggae band with five song writers manage to effortlessly and efficiently write and produce such great work album after album, year after year without any problems? Thompson says that they are a family, which certainly helps the process. “We literally are family. We are cousins and brothers, JP and Caleb are cousins and our tour manager is JP’s brother. We have all been really close since out high school days,” Thompson explains. “We are really blessed that we work so well together, especially out on the road being so far from home and having your close friends in the band with you makes it so much easier.”
The band’s chemistry comes through not only in their music but in their live shows, too. “We get together and if we have a song, we present it. Everyone collaborates or it can just be an idea, and from there we all add to it,” Thompson says. “What makes it Green music is that everyone collaborates. What makes us fortunate is that everyone works well together. We don’t step on each other’s toes during the song writing process and everyone brings something different to the table. We honestly never came to a point where we had a major disagreement. We are lucky.” Thompson says.
Their respect for each other and the process that goes along with making an album helped to create Hawai’i ’13. The album wasn’t created in Hawaii like the other two, it was instead recorded in California at Hurley Studios and was their first album entirely produced by an outside producer and engineer. They were worried at first but it helped to have an outsider’s opinion and helped rear in and gear the production. “We had some songs for a long time and we wanted to get them out,” Thompson says. “It was two weeks straight of just nailing out the album.”
The band anticipated recording the album and they are more than happy with the results and where they have come so far. “The Hawaiian chant of “He Mele No Ku’u Hawai’i” in the beginning of the album and a chant at the end is us being faithful to where we come from and giving thanks,” Thompson explains. “It’s hard to get a full six piece reggae band to the mainland and to travel, so it was a lot of hurdles for us to overcome but that’s what makes it that much of an experience for us. It makes us even more thankful.”
What made me fall in love with The Green aside from their song writing and talented singing is knowing that they truly put their all into everything- every song, every album and every performance. Zion Thompson and the other members never take their success for granted and never forget how far they have come. “It’s a sacrifice, we go out there and we bust our ass,” he says. “All the money we make goes back into our band which allows us to go out there and continue to spread the music because we believe in a dream. We’re in it full on so we do what we have to do.”
With strong convictions like that, how could anyone not love this band? I know Philly will and The Green is excited to come back to Philadelphia at The Blockley for an amazing show. “Ahhh, the Cheesesteaks,” he says, jokingly. “We played at The Blockley the last time we were in Philly and we have some friends there. We are stoked to get back to Philly and the east coast, it’s been so long. We are ready!”
The band will be here on November 8th with Kimie, a Hawaiian singer/song writer who has a style similar to The Green’s, and SensaMotion (roots rock from Atlantic City).