featuring: passafire

for those of you that don’t know, i write for an online newspaper called TIMESSQUARE.com! i’m an intern for the music section, which focuses mainly on artists/bands out of NYC – that means anyone from or touring new york city gets a little feature on the website. i’ve been writing for timessquare since september, and it’s been a pretty sweet gig so far. mostly i write album reviews – – – this is a fun opportunity to discover new music!! you can check out my reviews in the music section (i’ve done articles about everyone from COMMON to COLDPLAY to THE BLACK KEYS)!

a couple weeks ago, i sat down to chat with WILL KUBLEY from PASSAFIRE! i was really terrified, as i’d never done an interview before, but it actually was surprisingly awesome. will was a super down to earth guy, and i had a great time interviewing him. PASSAFIRE has a really funky sound, infused with reggae and synth – very chilled out stuff! check out my interview with will after the jump!

Passafire is a Savannah, Georgia-based reggae/rock/punk-funk band with a ton of character. Passafire has been around for almost 8 years now, and the band has truly seen it all. Their tour, Start from Scratch, began on January 19th 2012 and heads to New York City on the 31st. Times Square chats with Passafire vocalist/bassist, Will Kubley about their upcoming tour, their new sound, and how it feels to truly start from scratch.

Times Square (TS): Hi Will! Thanks for taking the time to chat with Times Square! So, tell me a bit about Passafire – what does your band’s name symbolize, how did you come up with it?

Will Kubley (WK): No problem. Actually, the band name was created before I joined Passafire. I joined about 2 years after the band had been created. But Passafire was born when…I don’t know, the guys were tossing around names and it was just something that sounded cool. But Passafire has meaning behind it if you want it to; passing on music from us to our fans, that kind of thing.

TS: So Passafire as a name and as a band has a lot to do with interaction with your fan base?

WK: You could definitely say that, yeah.

TS: Which artists or bands would you say are Passafire’s greatest influences?

WK: Early on, John Brown’s Body was our biggest influence. They really influenced our early sound, we drew a lot of inspiration from them on many levels.

TS: John Brown’s Body? I’ve never heard of them, what are they like?

WK: They’re really cool, they’re an American reggae band that fuses with ska, electronic, hip-hop, etc. Their reggae sound has been a big influence on us. Other than that, all 4 of us listen to a ton of different styles. Everything from folk, to metal, to hip-hop.

TS: So, what are some of your personal favourites?

WK: Nine Inch Nails, maybe Wilco.

TS: Passafire has been around since 2003, how do you think you’ve evolved as artists since then?

WK: Mainly, I think we’ve evolved a lot as far as live shows – they’ve really come a long way from when we first started out. We’re a lot more comfortable on stage now and it becomes easier to tailor our music to our fans. That reflects in our studio albums as well. I think over the years, we’ve become more and more comfortable just playing, doing what we do.

TS: You guys have welcomed a couple new members to your team. How have your new label, new band member and new producer changed Passafire?

WK: We’ve made some big changes. Having Mike [keyboardist] as a new member has really opened up a lot of opportunities for us musically. He’s really talented – his ability to play piano, guitar, his key song writing ability and awesome musicianship has opened a lot of possibilities for us.

TS: But the piano isn’t new to Passafire?

WK: Right. We’ve used the keyboard in the past but Mike has a different ability to play it, a really different technique. It’s been a good change.

TS: And your new producer, Paul Leary?

WK: Our last album was actually our first time using a producer at all but it’s going really well. The collaboration with Paul has been really great. He’s like the sixth member in the band, another person to run ideas past, another critical mind. He helps keep everything up to par.

TS: “Shoulda coulda would but we didn’t so we fade away” is a pretty powerful line from Start from Scratch, your album’s title track. Is this the kind of thinking that influenced the direction you took with your newest album and the new sounds you’re experimenting with – no regrets, etc?

WK: I think that lyric is contained more in that song, specifically. Start from Scratch was written by Ted [guitar, vocals]. I’m not sure it necessarily dictates the album’s entire lyrical concept. The song itself  is definitely born from the fact that we started all over, musically and personally in our lives. So, yeah, I guess you could relate it that way.

TS: You mentioned “starting all over”? Can you tell me a bit more about that?

WK: Well, our old keyboardist, Adam has a different sound from our new keyboardist, Mike. This year, we had kind of a blank slate to write songs, which has made us re-evaluate where we were at with Passafire. After having worked at our sound for 4 years, we got to really see where we were at and start rebuilding from there.

TS: Start from Scratch covers a lot of ground. There are reggae vibes and punk-funk sounds and some acoustic in there as well. What were you guys thinking when you were creating Start from Scratch?

WK: Part of what was so different about creating Start from Scratch were the time constraints we were under. We wrote and recorded the album in 4 months. There was pressure on us to get up, get together and get down to business, without wasting time because we had so little of it. A lot of the new sounds and arrangements came from knowing that Mike could accommodate all the different instruments. We experimented because we could, and songs came to flourish because of that.

TS: Your lead vocalist and guitarist, Ted Bowne, has said that “We always wanted to have a good balance of organic and synthesized sounds, and we finally had time to make that happen this time”. What are the pros/cons of this kind of balance? Is it something you’ll stick with in the future?

WK: Well, the balance has always been a part of our sound, I think. It’s definitely something that we’ll continue working on, experimenting with a heavier and rock and roll vibe or something a bit lighter. But the mix of organic and synthesized sound is definitely here to stay.

TS: Great! So, your Start from Scratch tour starts in a couple days, and you perform in NYC on the 31st – are you excited? How do you feel about the music scene in New York?

WK: We love New York. We’ve been playing shows in New York, Manhattan and Brooklyn for years now, and every time we go it’s always very memorable. The crowds are always awesome.  New York is always a good time, we’re very excited to get back there and do it again.

TS: So you guys are pretty in-touch with your fan base?

WK: In general, yes. We make it a priority after every show to try and connect with the people that came out to see us . The band runs all its own social networking personally as well, we really try to stay connected as much as we can. We’ll all be online responding personally on Facebook and stuff, we’re definitely very connected.

TS: What can we expect from the Start from Scratch Tour? What makes this tour different from your previous ones?

WK: Actually, today we were just rehearsing new songs for the Start from Scratch tour. You can expect a lot of songs that you haven’t heard live previously, a lot more obscure Passafire songs and some new ones that we didn’t play on our last tour. Oh, and you can also expect a keytar [laughs] – Mike got a keytar and it’s pretty sweet.

TS: Awesome! Your songs have a really high energy level – is it hard to carry that kind of energy over to your live performances, night after night?

WK: Not at all. High energy sonsg are actually way easier to pull off, everyone is so hype and excited, we really feed off the crowd. That also makes lower energy, slow songs a little more difficult – it’s harder to keep the vibe up with songs that are slower.

TS: You did a tour preview a couple weeks ago and you have another one coming up in a couple days! Tell me a bit about the previews, how does it work?

WK: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. It’s basically just an online broadcast of a small show that streams live from our living room. Tickets go on sale online and once you’ve purchased yours, you can log in at the designated time and watch, from anywhere.

TS: And do you take requests as you’re performing?

WK: Yeah, there’s a chat feature, so we take requests when we can! The show we did a few months back was all acoustic but this one will be electric. It’ll also feature new songs that we didn’t play on the last tour.

TS: What can we expect from PASSAFIRE in the future?

WK: In the future [laughs]!  Well. We’re gonna be on the road a lot in 2012. More and more music. More and more shows.

TS: Great. I’m going to end this off with a broad question – What is your definition of music? What does music mean to you?

WK: Music is…everything for me, personally. Music conveys all the feelings and emotions that I think we as humans are unable to express. I think someone else has probably said that in much more eloquent words. Don’t quote me on this but “music is there when words fall short” – I totally agree with whoever said that. I relate to music more than anything else.

TS: I know exactly what you mean. So, I guess that about wraps it up, any last thoughts?

WK: I think that’s it. See you all at the show!

check out PASSAFIRE’s new album START FROM SCRATCH! it’s pretty dope, be sure to give’er a listen!!

also – – a big big thank you to tumblerica, who was my personal motivator/encourager/go-to-helper!! love!

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