Iration brings island influence to the mainland
Most of the members of Iration were friends in Hawaii where they grew up, before they all met in Southern California to start a band on the mainland. That brother-like bond has led to a successful career that is on the cusp of something bigger.
“I think it’s a testament to how long we’ve been around that we are still friends,” said singer and guitarist Micah Pueschel in January from his home in Santa Barbara, California,where the band started out. “We’ve known each other for a long time and we are buddies. That’s a big part of it.
“But I also think it’s because musically, we’ve always evolved. It’s new and different every time we put out a record, and I think we’ve improved as a band on our records and in our live performance and overall presentation. It’s a big part of it, bringing new things to the band and evolving it naturally and not getting stuck in one kind of style or genre. That’s what still makes it interesting for us and keeps it fun.”
Iration’s next show in Reno is on Jan. 24 at Cargo in the Whitney Peak Hotel. It’s at an interesting time in the band’s career, when it feels to them like they are on the verge of breaking through to more of a mainstream audience after years playing to fans that love their rock-meets-reggae sound.
“I do feel like we are on the cusp, like we are one break away or song away from having a bigger opportunity,” Pueschel said. “Any band that makes it to a certain level needs certain breaks to fall their way, or to get their music into the right ears. Having the right sound and the right time, I think that’s what it comes down to.”
An island vibe
Iration’s start was on the campus of the University of California-Santa Barbara in 2004. Along with Pueschel, the band includes his three buddies from Hawaii: bassist Adam Taylor, drummer Joseph Dickens and keyboard player Cayson Peterson. The exception is Micah Brown, who joined the band on guitar in 2014.
Like many bands, Iration got things started on the club circuit, especially those in California with huge college following attuned to their mix of rock and reggae music. The group has sold more than 150,000 albums since it began and has twice topped the Billboard Reggae album charts. Iration has also become a draw on the festival circuit, including stops at Outside Lands, Lollapalooza and Riot Fest.
Its best known songs include “Turn Around,’ “Reelin’,” “Show Me” and “Automatic.”
Iration is one of several groups who either have Hawaiian roots or bring some of the island attitude to their music. Puescshel said the band members all grew up on reggae music, which has always been popular in the 50th state.
“We aren’t classically trained musicians,” Pueschel said. “We just picked up our instruments at first and said, ‘Let’s play a song,’ and you play at first what you’ve always heard and for me that was reggae. I think it’s a big part of who we are. What the band has is a bit of an island vibe, even if the song we play isn’t reggae. I think it’s our outlook on the world and the way we view it. It certainly has a lot to do with nature and the oceans and those are things that just go along with island living.”
The band’s latest release is an acoustic album called “Double Up,” its title a takeoff on its latest studio album, 2015’s “Hotting Up.” Pueschel said the title is a wave reference, when it doubles up but is part of the same entity. He also said that an acoustic record has been asked for by fans for years.
“We’ve done a lot of acoustic shows,” he said. “On YouTube, there’s a whole series of videos where we are playing in different backyards and places like that. It’s one of the things we’ve always do. A lot of our songs are written on acoustic guitar, so they really lend themselves to it.”
The album takes songs from the band’s entire catalog and gives them a relaxed, acoustic twist. Pueschel said that the new album “gives some of our songs a second chance to be something different, which I think is cool. Half of the song are our most popular ones, because that’s what people wanted to hear, and the other half are songs that we wanted to give that second chance to. We felt really strongly that they maybe this is the way the intended to be heard.”
As for new music, it’s on the horizon for sure. Pueschel said the band is working on new original material for an album release at some point when they take a touring break. He said the new song’s lyrics are similar to what he always thinks about: what is a person’s role in society.
“We don’t really make it expressly political, because we don’t want to alienate anybody,” Pueschel explained. “We want everyone to vibe with what we are doing. But in this day and age, and with everyone getting older and getting more personally involved in politics and what is happening around us, I think it’s important to delve into that realm. Maybe not picking a party or writing expressly about this or that, but just giving our perspective and trying to write about our lives in a way that’s more understandable and relatable.
“I just want to try and make music that is positive and helps people. That’s always what we’ve wanted to do, songs that have universal topics and that anybody from any place can sit down and listen and understand what it’s about and can relate to it. That’s always been the goal.”