By: SD Liz
The Aggrolites are from Los Angeles, California and formed in 2002. The band has six albums out, including a recent release of a live performance at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, which front-man Jesse claims is his favorite spot in all of the U.S.A. The Aggrolites consist of Roger (organ), Alex (drums), Ricky (guitar), Jesse (vocals), and Geoff (bass). They have been playing their dirty reggae all over the globe and show no sign of slowing down!
The Aggrolites appeal to a unique group of people who appreciate early rock and ska/reggae. They definitely have a rockabilly feel, because when I caught them at the Belly Up with Buck-O-Nine, they were all dressed in black, short-sleeved, button-down shirts. They pumped up their crowd the whole night, and I could tell the crowd was familiar with their dirty, gritty sound.
With fans in Europe, Australia, Brazil, and Canada, The Aggrolites have toured the globe with their dirty, funky reggae. They claim their music is influenced by 1960s reggae and European tunes. In an interview during their recent stop in San Diego, NUG Magazine had the chance to discover how dirty their reggae really is.
Why â€œDirty Reggaeâ€?
We are influenced by the reggae that first started in the late 1960s. Weâ€™re also influenced by American Soul. Also, before everything was recorded in digital, everything was recorded through analog. But, we coined it â€˜dirty reggaeâ€™ because weâ€™re playing our own niche â€“ early reggae, and how it first went to the UK. Thatâ€™s why we also say weâ€™re â€˜skinhead reggae.â€™ If you do the research and see where the term came from, itâ€™s more of an indigenous sound. Lots of bands back there had the hot mics, a saturated sound, and were justâ€¦ gritty! Plus, we donâ€™t take showers!
Yet, there is a lot of funk in your music, right?
Yes, there is a lot of funk. Like The Upsetters, who had a lot of funk tracks versus just reggae stuff, funk definitely falls into the category of reggae that we are influenced by, which is also influenced by American Soul. Plus, we smell funky!
Does anyone, in particular, influence your music?
Weâ€™re big Whitney Houston fansâ€¦ha, ha, just kidding! No, what we said earlier with regard to early music â€“ The Meters and James Brown. Stuff that Jesse liked from the early times is the same stuff we have liked too, versus how other bands may like different music and bring that to their band. Weâ€™ve been doing this for five years, living together, being on the road together, so stuff like life experiences is what we bring to our music too.
What part of L.A. are you guys from?
Well, L.A. is such a big county and all the members are from different parts of the city; weâ€™ve all been living in L.A. at one time or another. But, the main thing is that The Aggrolites are from L.A., band members have been from L.A., and the scene for us has been in L.A. If there wasnâ€™t an L.A. ska/reggae scene, there would be no Aggrolites.
You have played in the Vans Warped Tour a few times. How was it this year?
Warped Tour was great! Some of us did it in 2008 too, and some before that; but, it was also a couple of membersâ€™ first time. For them, it was fun and like a â€˜traveling circusâ€™! It also felt like school because of the different clicks. The whole thing about the Warped Tour is to broaden kidsâ€™ minds and hear things they werenâ€™t expecting to, because you can go hear a screamo band and then hear a reggae band like us. They are also fair to the bands because we donâ€™t know when weâ€™re playing until the day we play.
What are your most memorable international stops?
Brazil was amazing. As a whole, Europe is always great! Itâ€™s amazing to go to a country and not expect people to know your music; itâ€™s a great honorâ€¦and beyond that, itâ€™s good to know there is a huge scene going on which is listening to the music you are influenced by too. Australia had a really comfortable feeling, like that of California. We were down there for a week, and we did a few dates in Australia and then went to Auckland, New Zealand. We did the Blues Festival, and that was a huge opportunity for us, playing with such influential names as Ernest Ranglin, Fishbone, Los Lobos, Elvis Costello and even Bob Dylan. The people are down to earth and laid back. They really enjoy reggae music too.
Letâ€™s talk about cannabis and whatâ€™s going on right now in California and throughout the nation. Do you have any thoughts on this current issue?
We donâ€™t really care about the issue because whether itâ€™s legal or not, you can get it whenever you want it. Itâ€™s closer to becoming legal, and it shouldnâ€™t be such a problem in becoming legal. If you get 20 people in a room with booze, youâ€™re going to end up in a fight. If you get 20 people and blaze them out, itâ€™s just going to be a pretty good time! Weâ€™ve heard about millions of crimes regarding alcohol, not pot.
What do you consider the message of your music?
Basically, go and have fun. I mean, our music isnâ€™t particularly trying to inform anyone of anything. We all have different views and just try to get along and play. We have respect for bands who have political views, and who use music to get away from things. But for us, we just want our audience to enjoy themselves.
Anything else you would like our NUG Magazine readers to know about The Aggrolites?
Check us out on our website, www.aggroreggae.com, or Facebook, if you choose. We have a new Aggrolites app for iPhone users, and weâ€™re doing a U.S. tour before heading back to Europe.
The Aggrolites will be hitting up parts of Europe starting in November. For more information about this dirty band, or to hear samples, visit their website, Facebook page, or www.silverbackmusic.net. Gritty!