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Hawaiian reggae band, The Green, rolled into New York City’s Highline Ballroom on November 16 and drew in an energetic, enthusiastic crowd. With their signature Hawaiian sound, combined with modern vibes and roots reggae, The Green has become one of the most successful reggae bands in the United States.
Currently holding the number two spot on iTunes’ reggae charts, just behind legendary Bob Marley, The Green has shot to major success over the past year after releasing their self titled debut album, which was voted as 2010’s number one reggae album on iTunes. Their second album, entitled “Ways & Means” has overcome the dreaded sophomore slump as it sits at the top of U.S. Billboard’s Reggae Chart.
During their 7 week mainland tour, The Green came to New York City with fellow musicians Cas Haley and the Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. The Green’s roots styled reggae performance took the excited audience through over an hour of their songs, including “Love is Strong,” “Travlah,” “Gotta Be,” and one of their most popular songs that solidified them in the reggae community, “Love I.”
The full band consists of JP Kennedy on lead vocals and guitar, Caleb Keolanui on lead vocals, Zion Thompson on lead vocals and guitar, Ikaika Antone on lead vocals and keyboard, Brad “BW” Watanabe on bass, and Jordan Espinoza on drums. With four equally strong lead vocalists and layers of masterfully composed music, The Green showed New York City exactly why they continuously hold top spots in current reggae charts.
Toonari Post had the chance to sit down with Zion Thompson after The Green’s set and got a glimpse into the Hawaiian band’s current stardom.
TP: This isn’t your first time in New York, you’ve been here before?
Zion: This is maybe our 4th or 5th time to New York City.
TP: How does it feel coming back?
Zion: It gets better and better every time I think. The crowds for us get a little better, we always have fun though over here. Our label is Easy Star and they’re based out of New York, so whenever we’re in New York it’s always fun, we always have a lot of people and lot of friends here. You’d be surprised how many Hawaiian people actually live in New York. There’s a lot of transplants so it’s good, it’s good fun.
TP: And it seems like you’re getting a bigger fan base here too.
Zion: We’re trying to plant seeds and we feel like it’s happening. We can see it happening. It’s interesting to see it.
TP: The Green has been on touring on the road for 6 weeks now. How has it been?
Zion: It’s been great. We’ve been lucky to tour with great bands. Giant Panda is awesome. We’re from the same management family. Cas Haley has been our boy for a while. We started the tour with Chris Boomer from Guam and so the first half the tour we had him and he’s, we’ve gone to Guam a couple of times and it’s just the island vibe.
Chris is our boy too, it’s been super fun, we’re super stoked. We got these cool vehicles that have these bunks in them, going from a 15 passenger van where you sit down with your knees bent all day to being able to stand up and walk around, it’s been fun. It’s like a cross between and RV and a tour bus. It’s got bunks in it and you can drive it yourself. That’s been nice.
TP: And for the tour, you’ve been promoting “Ways & Means” which has been doing very well recently on the charts.
Zion: Thanks, I mean, it’s not doing as good as “Legend” is, but it’s doing good.
TP: How long did it take you guys to write the album from start to finish?
Zion: We probably had half the material, at least half the material written already, some of it recorded in pieces from the beginning of this year. We finished it when we came home from the last tour, we got home in May. So from May, June, we were in the studio pretty much every day, 12 hour days.
It was nuts, it was crazy. It took about two months to do all that stuff, another couple months to get the mixing and the production tight. The process took a while. We had some other songs written that were almost on the first album. We knew those songs were going to be on the next album. Since there’s four of us who sing and write, we have a lot material.
TP: What was the hardest song to write on “Ways &Means”?
Zion: Hardest song to write? I don’t know, that’s a tough one. Sometimes songs get written over the course of a week, or a day or two, or a couple years. Sometimes we finish it and come back to it. The title track “Ways & Means”, I wrote that a few years ago just for my own. It really didn’t change much other than just the boys adding their instrumentation.
We collaborate a lot so the writing tends to go pretty smoothly. We all bring something to the table and everybody just jumps on it and collaborates. I wouldn’t say the writing was too hard, it’s more of getting to the studio and taking the song where it needs to go.
It’s a constant thing, we’re never totally happy with anything but there’s a point where you have to just let it go, you know, release it and leave it out there in the world. It’s a snapshot in time. That’s how we sound right now.
TP: It seems like everybody here enjoyed it tonight.
Zion: Right on, thank you. We had fun, New York is always good fun. And this venue is great. We have a good time in this place.
TP: Have you performed at Highline Ballroom before?
Zion: No this is probably one of the nicest venues we’ve played at in New York. We’ve done a bunch of great venues, but first time at the Highline.
TP: How do you see The Green in five years from now?
Zion: I hope we’re traveling outside of the U.S. Sooner than that though, I hope we go to Europe, Asia, and down to New Zealand, Australia and Japan. We have a lot of fans down there in New Zealand. Trying to keep spreading it out. In five years I’m hoping we have at least two more albums out, to have at least one album out every two and a half years.
We just love to play music and spread it everywhere so we’re just going to kind of keep doing work and see what happens.
TP: It seems like it’s been working out for you guys so far.
Zion: Thanks. It’s a great experience and we’re very humbled to be able to play music for a living. We’re just blessed. We get to travel, we get to see places. We’re from Hawaii, we’re not used to driving more than hour anywhere, we drove like nine hours the other night to get here. We’re just soaking it all up.
Image Courtesy: Tammy Moniz