Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival headliner Iration focuses on up-tempo songs
Fresh off of a national tour and with a new album forthcoming, Iration is Tahoe bound, headlining the Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival at Hard Rock Casino June 27 and 28, along with Matisyahu.
“We just got finished with our ‘Tales from the Sea’ tour,” guitarist and vocalist Micah Pueschel said. “We recorded a new album, so we have a new album coming out in the beginning of August.”
If you’d told Iration a decade ago that it was destined to become a successful, national touring act, there’s a fair chance that you may not have been taken seriously.
“The band has gone through some changes,” Pueschel said. “When we first started it was just basically a garage band. Any of our friends, if they could mildly play any instrument, they could be there in the band and just play and be a part of it.”
Iration is Pueschel, Micah Brown (guitar, vocals), Cayson Peterson (keyboards), Adam Taylor (bass), Joseph Dickens (drums) and Joseph King (dub controls, live sound). Past members include Kai Rediske and Catlin Peterson.
Originally hailing from Hawaii, Iration’s members began playing together while attending UC Santa Barbara starting in 2006.
“No one was really playing reggae music out there,” Pueschel said. “Because no one was playing it, we wanted to hear it; everyone picked up instruments and started playing and it just kind of snowballed and went from there.
“We literally started at ground zero; we had no idea what we were doing, some of the guys had never even played instruments before.”
The group began gaining traction as a party band around town, and was soon taking its sound to other college towns across California. In 2008, Iration got its first taste of national recognition, playing a tour across the country with Pepper.
Commercial success soon followed with the release of the EP “Sample This,” which saw a number of tracks gain popularity on the airwaves, among other mediums.
“When we put it out, ‘Falling’ especially took off and became a pretty big success in Hawaii on the radio and some other limited sessions on the West Coast,” Pueschel said.
The tune was also featured as the first track on “Tap-Tap Revenge,” an Ipod game similar to “Guitar Hero.”
The band followed up the EP with 2010’s “Time Bomb,” which topped the Billboard Reggae Albums Chart.
“That’s when we really began to get serious, around 2010, 2011” Pueschel recalled. “At that point, we were able to stop working other jobs and started being a full-time band.”
Much of Iration’s appeal lies in its laid-back, fan-focused approach to performing.
“I think that we, as far as the production goes, we try to keep things fun. We try to keep things pretty light,” Pueschel said. “We want to keep everyone going; we don’t take a lot of long breaks in between songs. We like to kind of keep the momentum going throughout the show. We try to take them on an up and down ride.
“At the end of the show, we like to have everybody feeling a lot better than when they got there.”
Iration fans should be feeling pretty swell by the end of summer, with the group’s next album, “Hotting Up” scheduled for upcoming release.
“ ‘Hotting up’ ” is, it’s more of a British term, but I’m a huge soccer fan and always hear them say it,” Pueschel said. “It basically means livening up, tension building, kind of just becoming more energetic.”
The band decided to mix it up for “Hotting Up,” placing more of a focus on percussion and rhythm than in the past.
“We really wanted to make a record that was more beat driven, more rhythm with fuller and harder rhythms,” Pueschel said.
In order to achieve the desired effect, the band brought in new talent on the production end.
“We worked with a different producer, Tim David,” Pueschel said. “He kind of comes from the hip-hop world. He’s worked with hip-hop guys like Lupe Fiasco, Snoop, Method Man and Red Man.”
Iration also holed up in a Hollywood sound studio that is renowned for its percussive effects.
“We recorded at East West Studios in Hollywood, where pretty much every gigantic rock record of the last 10 years has been recorded, if they recorded it in LA.,” Pueschel said. “ Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, you name it.
“The thing about it is it has a really, really good drum sound, which is why people go in there.”
The group also recorded at a hometown studio, Santa Barbara Sound Design.
Outside of the percussion, Iration worked to bring a number of other new sounds to this album.
“We used ukulele, we tried to use kind of a lot of different beats; not just the standard reggae thing that has been done a bunch,” Pueschel said. “We tried to mix it up; we tried to use different drum tones, we tried to use different bass tones, synth tones. It was a focus on making more up-tempo tracks, for the most part.”
The group plans to release the record in August, but is wrapping up the pre-release process.
“We did release one song, but we haven’t quite finished the business side of it,” Pueschel said. “So until we do that we’re going to hold off on promoting it.”
This summer, Iration is taking it somewhat easy, holding off on large-scale tours until late summer and early fall.
“We’re just in a little bit of a break period, just doing a few of these festivals and one-off shows for the summertime,” Pueschel said.
Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival fits this schedule nicely; a weekend festival in a locale that the band is familiar with and fond of.
“We love Tahoe,” Pueschel said. “We have a lot of people that we know up there and we’ve spent a lot of time up there being in California the last few years.”
Iration has appeared numerous times in the area, having sold out shows at MontBleu Casino on multiple occasions, as well as other venues, including the 2105 Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival in Kings Beach.
With the band 10 years into a self-made success story, Tahoe Onstage asked Pueschel what advice he would offer to aspiring bands and musicians.
“I always tell the bands that we work with, that are kind of up and comers, work on songwriting and get with people who know how to write songs and put a lot of time into the art and craft of songwriting,” he said. “If you have a good product and good songs, everything else will fall into place. It’s just like any other business in life, if you’re a chef and have the best food, you’re already ahead of the majority of the pack. Work on your product, work on your songs, and play together as much as possible.”
The third annual Lake Tahoe Reggae Festival will be from 12:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 27 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe. Bands: Iration, Matisyahu, Don Carlos, the Green, the Expendables, Fortunate Youth, Vokab Kompany, Squarefield Massive, DJ Ras, more. General admission is $45, VIP $90. Children 12 and under $10, and free for 6 and under. Children’s tickets must be purchased at box office. After-party inside at Vinyl. Tickets: http://www.ticketfly.com
ABOUT Josh Sweigert
Josh grew up on the California coast with a deep appreciation for bluegrass and string band music as well as the great outdoors. A guitarist and singer, he plays solo acoustic gigs in South Lake Tahoe.
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