After debuting at #1 on the Billboard Reggae Chart, The Movement will be making their way through NYC on tour for their new album Golden next month. They are playing a Rocks Off Concert Cruise, which if you haven’t been is an amazing way to see the city and hear great music. In preparation for their visit we sat down with lead singer, Josh Swain and talked about the new album, song writing and the future of independent music.
RN: Reggae In NYC
MOV: The Movement
RN: In 2014 you released Beneath The Palms, a surprise acoustic album as a free gift to your fans. Tell me about that, why a free album?
MOV: We were having a little lull in the stuff that we had released and we had gone and done these Sugar Shack Sessions in Florida. It’s just like this cool little studio, really low key and they have this outside area where they set up cameras and some mics and stuff. We did like four songs out there. Just one take vibe kind of things. We got some good feedback on that and were like, these acoustic recordings of our songs are actually going kind of well, they are not that bad, and we ended up going back out to Compound Studios, which is our base out there in San Diego and doing a couple hours and recorded maybe eight or nine more songs. Just one take, like that, and ended up putting it together. It was super cheap for us, relatively free and we didn’t make any actual physical copies or anything like that. It was a really easy way to put a digital record together and we got some artwork made for it. We said we don’t really want to charge for this, there is no reason. Let’s just put it out there and see if the fans like it. It was kind of a little low key, not really produced, acoustic record and I think all-in-all turned out pretty decent. The fans really appreciated that.
RN: How did you come up with the sticker project, to make a giant print out of your upcoming album and then divide that amongst the fans?
MOV: That was a promo for our latest record Golden. We just brainstormed on what a good and different way was to promote the record and to make the fans feel a little more involved. We basically blew up the (cover) artwork into a giant print. Then we numbered each little one. I think there were 800-900 pieces per print, we did two prints. We cut them all up, our management team did a great job they did it all in-house at our managers house.
I didn’t think it was that great of an idea at first. Like who really cares? The idea was as you had a certain number you could go to our site and plug it in as a puzzle piece and people could start to decipher what the cover of the new record looked liked. I don’t think it got to where people were actually doing that, but I think the concept was understood and appreciated by everyone. It actually went over better than I thought and the fans really appreciated having it. It was just a different idea when it comes to releasing and made them feel like a part of it.
RN: Tell me about the Rootfire Cooperative? This is a cooperative built on the concept of micro loans? It sounds like the next step in the future of independent music?
MOV: It is. We got involved with Rootfire right after we released Side By Side in 2013 and we were really directionless. We had a line-up change. I quit the band for a while then I came back into the band and the other singer left. It was a really tumultuous time in the bands career. We went out and did this record, really independently, with no guidance, no marketing campaign, no producer. We were lost. A bunch of fucking retards out there trying to put a record out and the record is what it is. We were sitting around, we just got rid of management and we don’t have anything, what can we do to get back on track?
I think our bassist Jay called up Seth (Herman) out of the blue. We had some mutual friends and had heard that they were managing The Green at the time as well as John Brown’s Body and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. I talked to Curtis Bergesen, who does all the digital stuff for the artists on Rootfire, a few weeks earlier and he said “there was no way that Rootfire could take on another band at that time and blah blah blah.” But Rootfire kind of accepted us. There were I think, words of caution from other people not to, because we were pretty crazy at the time. We were really focused on partying and not really focused on music and our careers. It was really such a blessing that they accepted working with us. They took us to a really different level in terms of being focused and put us on the right path in terms of getting a new booking agency and things like that.
We started working with Seth, Reid (Foster) & Curtis and before too long it came down to putting out this record Golden and what label we wanted to release it under. We got a few offers from different labels and one in particular that I had always wanted to work with and ended up kind of seeing the model of how. When we started looking at percentages and numbers, it didn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me. It does in some respect and it doesn’t in other respects. The industry standard these days needs to be looked at differently because its not the same industry. I had talked to Seth before about the capabilities that Rootfire had as a management company. Their reach, dedication and passion for reggae music and the reggae culture in general, American reggae culture, and what their capabilities were when it came to say putting together a marketing campaign for a record and being able to promote it properly. It turned out that the work ethic and dedication and the reach that Seth and Rootfire had compared to, if not surpassed the other labels that were interested. They hadn’t been around for as long, seeing as it wasn’t around when we were talking about it, but I said “let’s try to do this in-house. I don't see why we need to get a third party involved in releasing this record. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m not exactly sure what a record label is going to do for us that you cant do.” Seth kind of had this epiphany to start a cooperative and let our record be a first record under the label. It just makes sense. Like I said they have the capability and it’s mutually beneficial to the artist and the label, in the sense that their only offering micro loans to bands that they manage.
What happens is; we are given the opportunity to make a really quality record, one that we wouldn’t make without a micro loan from them. They get 100% of the money they gave us, they get it all back and hopefully it blows up the band in a way that the management company receives higher commission in the future. The band does better, the management company does better and the label grows in terms of recognition. A way to bring the name and gain acceptance in the culture and it really just mutually grows every aspect of everybody. To me it just made sense and at that point I wasn’t really concentrating on what they could do for us. It was these guys are my family, my friends. They have done so much for us and I wouldn't want to work for everybody else. At that point it was like “it’s on let’s do it.” They did a great job. The marketing campaign and the promotion, getting out to radio stations and everything we needed and really kind of blowing up the record in a way that I thought it should be. This is the first one and they are starting to do some other bands under the cooperative in the future and hopefully getting better and better.
"It was these guys are my family, my friends. They have done so much for us and I wouldn't want to work for everybody else."
RN: Tell us about the new album Golden. Pier said “the best reggae rock album of 2016 so far…" It debuted at #1 on the Billboard Reggae Chart and you said, “By far the best and most important stuff we’ve ever done.”
MOV: Normally, I am super sick the record we do immediately when we release it. I can’t stand to listen to it anymore. This one I think lasted longer than most. I am just getting to where it is a little played in my ears. I’m really proud of it. I think that as a band we are a different band than we used to be. I know I am a different person. Like I said before we used to be really focused on the wrong things when it comes to drugs, alcohol and girls. Being really dumb when it came to our career and I think a lot of the choices that we made. The music that we played, our performances at shows, really showed where we were as a band in the past . This record was different. We came into the studio and went to Louisa, Virginia, to this farmhouse in the middle of the woods and stayed there for ten days. We were just really sober and focused on the record. Eating healthy and chilling out there in the peace, quiet and calm.
We had a great producer out there Danny Kalb, who did the last The Green record and has worked with Giant Panda. He’s doing a Hirie record. He’s worked with Beck and just a great dude, great producer, great engineer. We were so lucky to have him. We had Matt Goodwin out there as well from JBB (John Brown’s Body), Giant Panda and Easy Star All-Stars doing keys and horns and really putting together a lot of solid ideas for us. I went out there and I thought I don’t have any songs. I’m not really sure what we are going to do. Seth kind of heard maybe a demo or two that we had done and forced us to go out there. I really didn’t want to and I didn’t think I had any songs that were worthy of actually trying to record. We ended up going out there with a few scratch ideas and the more we were out there the more I was like “oh yeah, I think I got this other one.” It just really came together pretty naturally and now I think the big difference was our level of focus. Also having Matt and Danny there was pretty well…the level of professionalism was just raised. The last record we had done was Side By Side and it was just the three of us dicking around in the studio and not really caring at all what was happening.
I remember on Side By Side we had Mark Boyce from G-Love come out and cut keys for a day. I think I stayed in a different room all day drinking. Didn’t come out of the room, didn’t even care what the keys sounded like on my record. I remember I came out at the end of the night and said bye to him or something. Didn’t listen to the keys, I’m sure its good lets move on. That was just really indicative of where our mindset was at the time or at least where mine was. It was such a difference now to really be involved and care about every little minute detail of the record. To be involved in these little particular chord changes and stuff. Sitting up late night with Matt and Danny going over it, “oh this might sound cool if we do this” and “let me tweak this”. At the end of the day, just the level of professionalism, the care and expertise that went into it the little decisions in the songs really put the record over the top. Having Danny produce and engineer it, we came out polished and just better. That’s my opinion of course but that’s how I feel and I think the content of the songs is a lot better too, considering where my mindset is nowadays compared to where it used to be. I’ve got more to really talk about and a different way of thinking. I think all-in-all the fans can see the difference in the production and the content and I think that is what is making it more special then our last record.
"I think that as a band we are a different band than we used to be.