DubSkin: Preserving the "Roots" in Reggae Music
Based in Ft. Collins, Colorado, DubSkin is a 6-piece roots and dub reggae band that has gained a constant following throughout the States and is gaining attention in the international realm. In preparation for the upcoming Reggae on the Rocks festival in Morrison, Colorado, DubSkin’s drummer, Cory Eberhard was kind enough to chat with me about DubSkin’s evolution, ideology, and their plans for the future.
Unlike me - who, along with many people, remember their first exposure to reggae music in their college years - Cory, being the only member that is originally from Ft. Collins, was exposed to reggae at an early age by hearing Bob Marley played by his brothers and his mother. By high school, he expanded his knowledge of reggae music, seeking other artists that carried their own styles into the genre. Ultimately, what drew him (and I’m sure many of us) to reggae is its overall style and the overarching messages of unity and peace that are often expressed in songs.
His love for and understanding of reggae has certainly paid off. Starting with exposure to the reggae music scene, having formed other bands, and going through a few guitarists, DubSkin formed into what the band is today. In the five years performing together, the band has evolved “a ton,” and regarding every aspect of the band’s career. At first, the band would jam more for fun, so they were not as serious about penetrating the business. Still, in that time they recorded their first album, Love In Spite Of… and eventually started touring. When the time came to produce their second album, No End In Time, seeing the influence they were having on audiences, they began to take their efforts seriously.
The band members cite various musical influences that are not limited to reggae, such as hip-hop, rock and even world music a la Fela Kuti. Ultimately, this contributes to the unique sound that DubSkin is known to design.
Speaking of influences and legends, DubSkin has had the opportunity to tour with reggae greats such as Burning Spear, Barrington Levy and in the early summer, DubSkin also opened for Toots and the Maytals. I asked Cory what it meant for DubSkin to tour with such greats, and without a pause, he stated that the experience and opportunity has been simply “amazing,” especially to perform for such established crowds and venues. What has stayed with them was the treatment DubSkin received from Burning Spear, who is also a big influence on the band, and rightfully so. Being schooled on operations, I found out that during sound checks bands typically keep to themselves. Yet Burning Spear approached the members of DubSkin and extended good wishes and respect to the band. The same happened with Toots and the Maytals, who accepted and respected DubSkin as established reggae artists.
As far as other reggae artists out there, DubSkin would like to collaborate and open for other bands, citing the Marley family as the ultimate collaboration. At the same time, ensuring they have control to maintain their unique sound - the product of a collaborative effort among all the band members with lyrics written by lead vocalist, Jamal Skinner - is a must. Their hope is to reach a more international crowd and to hopefully issue their upcoming third album, Release From Fear, worldwide.
From listening to DubSkin’s tracks, one will notice that there is often a socially conscious message, such as in “USA” and “Calm Before the Storm” from No End In Time. The overall message they strive to get out with their music is promotion of love and respect for one another and freedom (without infringing on another’s rights). A couple of the band members are practicing Rastas, but the band members’ beliefs are not “lumped into one philosophy.” They agree with the overall message of the Rastafari movement, but ultimately they are content to promote whatever medium a person wants to utilize for a spiritual connection.
Judging from the third album’s title Release From Fear, I assumed that there was a political message as well. Cory pointed out that the album was “political in a sense and also spiritual in a sense.” Political in that DubSkin wants us to open our eyes and see how media and the government tend to instill fear in us, regarding our safety and to fear other cultures. The album is spiritual in that one should not fear the unexplained or the inevitable, such as death. Overall, between the option of having to love or to fear, DubSkin wants to encourage their fans to choose love over fear, as Cory started reciting the all too famous lyrics of Bob’s “Three Little Birds”: “every little thing is gonna be alright…”
For those of you who have not heard DubSkin’s music, the band encourages all to give them a listen. On their website (dubskinmusic.com) they offered their first two albums to download for free to give people the opportunity to check them out. They’re going to continue to do what they do for the love of it, rather than for the riches that may come from their efforts. They want their message and their music to be heard, and the hope is that as a band, they will be able to reach far and wide.
People complain here and there about today’s music being the same and having no depth. Look no further than DubSkin my friends. No auto tune here. No dollar-flashing, “look at what we're driving” type of lyrics. Just pure roots reggae and dub with a unique twist, and conscious lyrics that could not be more relevant for this day and age. DubSkin reminds me of what reggae is all about.
Listen to a track from their second album, No End In Time: