Incorporating drum and bass driven grooves, nuanced harmonies and the positive vibrations that have made Jamaican reggae an internationally embraced music since the early 1970s, Hawaiian band The Green's sophomore album "Ways & Means" debuted atop the Reggae Album chart and Regional Pacific New Artists Albums chart for the week ending November 12. "Ways & Means" holds the Reggae chart's pinnacle position again this week, additionally appearing at No. 47 on the Top Independent Albums chart and at No. 6 on Heatseekers Albums. Released on the New York-based reggae independent Easy Star Records on October 25, "Ways & Means" could surpass the success of The Green's self-titled 2010 debut album, Which ranked at No. 9 on Billboard's year-end Reggae Albums recap and has sold 23,000 copies to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Hailing from Oahu, the Green consists of lead singer Caleb Keolanui and keyboardist/vocalist Ikaika Antone, with JP Kennedy and Zion Thompson as the group's guitarists/vocalists. Veterans of various bands since their teens, the Green's wealth of musical experience belies their mid-20s age span.
"We've only been together two years so we are completely overwhelmed by everything that has happened; we have had huge support in Hawaii ever since our first single 'Love I,' so everything started there," says Zion Thompson on the phone from Eugene, Oregon. The Green is currently on a seven-week co-billed U.S. tour with Rochester, NY, -based jam-reggae group Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. The tour arrives at New York City's Highline Ballroom on November 16.
The Green is performing in 300-1000 capacity rooms on their current tour with the larger venues predominantly on the West Coast, where the band enjoys immense popularity, particularly among transplanted Hawaiians in major cities including Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Los Angeles-based Dave Poe of the Agency Group, the Green's worldwide booking agent (except for Europe) booked the west coast dates; Giant Panda's New York based agents Val Wolfe and Anthony Paolercio, also of the Agency Group, handled the tour's East Coast arrangements.
"A lot of acts especially on the reggae scene take a long time to get to where the Green is already," acknowledges Poe. "Their first U.S. tour, a year and a half ago, was supporting as the first of three acts; now, they are headlining. It's very exciting to see how well they are doing."
The term Hawaiian reggae (sometimes called "Jawaiian" reggae) often evokes images of lei-festooned, tropically clad musicians performing hackneyed ukulele or slack-key guitar renditions of Bob Marley songs. However, the Green's powerful sonic identity fuses late 1970s-era dub-heavy roots reggae (reminiscent of English bands like Aswad and Steel Pulse) with strands of contemporary rock/pop/R&B and sporadic indigenous Hawaiian musical and lyrical references. That appealing synthesis has catapulted the Green to the forefront of the Big Island's thriving reggae scene.
"The Green stand out because they sound different; we get requests for their music every hour. I'm glad they are pushing on, letting the world know we are making great music out here," says Phat Joe, on-air talent and music director at Honolulu's Island 98.5 FM (KDNN), the only station in the Clear Channel cluster designated as an Island-Reggae-Hawaiian format. Island 98.5 FM is currently playing several tracks from "Ways & Means" including "Gotta Be" and "She Was The Best" (the latter track was initially released on the Green's five-song digital EP "Love and Affection," released on August 9. The EP got the band to No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart in the Pacific). The EP's upbeat title track, also included on "Ways & Means", will get a further push when its music video debuts this week.
With MRI/RED handling physical distribution in the U.S. and Canada and digital distribution worldwide, and Music Allies working radio and promotions with additional support from Curtis Bergesen of Herbivore Publicity, Easy Star will build upon the momentum of tracks that are already doing well in the Hawaiian market. "We've never had an act so heavily connected to one state so we will tap into the band's enthusiastic Hawaiian fan base to break them in the continental mainland," notes Eric Smith, CEO of Easy Star Records and label co-founder (along with Michael Goldwasser, president/musical director; Lem Oppenheimer, COO; and Remy Gerstein, VP). Various online and social media platforms, which include nearly 44,000 likes on The Green's Facebook page, will also play significant roles in the promotion of "Ways & Means". "Every week on the band's website, we will be offering free song downloads or releasing video clips," Smith said.
A two part documentary is also slated for release in early December, which will integrate the Green's live shows with their fans' online experience.