Eclectic Reggae

By Laura Latzko

Reggae is increasingly becoming a more diverse genre as the style blends with other types of music. California-based Iration is a pioneer in combining reggae music with rock, pop, hip-hop and most recently soul and R&B sounds.

Iration will visit Rialto Theatre on Monday, February 10, as part of its Heatseekers Winter Tour with Ballyhoo and Iya Terra and the Ries Brothers.

Iration is made up of a group of friends who met growing up in Hawaii and started playing together while in Santa Barbara for college. Guitar player and lead vocalist Micah Pueschel, keyboard and synthesizer player Cayson Peterson, drummer Joseph Dickens, bass guitarist Adam Taylor and guitarist and vocalist Micah Brown make up Iration.

Pueschel says during the tour, audiences can expect to hear the multigenre music for which Iration is known.

“We always try to bring a show that is pretty diverse, eclectic and not just reggae or reggae rock. It is a lot of different things,” Pueschel says.

This will be their first time touring since summer 2019.

Over the last four months, they worked on their newest album, which blends reggae with ’70s R&B and soul, jazz, funk and Motown sound.

Pueschel says the album is going to be more cohesive than previous releases.

“I think it’s the first album that we’ve done in a long time that’s had a clear sound that is not so eclectic throughout the whole album. I think all the songs fit together nicely, and they all come from a similar style and feel,” Pueschel says. “It’s music that we really enjoy listening to and enjoy playing.” 

The music was inspired by artists and groups such as Hall & Oates, Marvin Gaye and Al Green, who the group has covered in the past.

The new album highlights the band’s evolution but is in a similar vein as its previous work.

“I think it’s timeless. We try to make timeless music and try not to make music that is following a trend or going with what is popular right now,” Pueschel says. 

During its tour, the group is playing some of these newer songs, along with other music from its last three albums.

Pueschel says the band has really started to find its sound over the last five to seven years. Whatever project they do, reggae is always at the center of it.

“I think that will always be a piece of what we do. We have a large portion of the fanbase that loves reggae,” Pueschel says. “We are trying to expand on it, do new things, have fun and push ourselves musically.”

Over the years, the group has changed and added new members, including California native Micah Brown.

Most recently, Iration started working with trumpet and trombone players. Pueschel says the horn section brings another layer of sound to the music, primarily on its 2018 self-titled album. 

“They really add another level of tone, power and energy to the show,” Pueschel says.

The band has been influenced by different styles of reggae, including Hawaiian versions.

Pueschel says Hawaiian reggae has a different focus and sound than reggae from other parts of the world, including Jamaica. 

“Bob Marley (music) had a very political and religious topical sensibility to it, whereas the reggae that comes out of Hawaii is more towards the Gregory Isaacs and Jimmy Cliff’s sound. It’s a little bit more songs about love and songs about everyday life,” Pueschel says.

The band members grew up listening to Bob Marley; Hawaiian reggae and the English pop and reggae group UB40.

Iration has been touring nationally since 2008. They now play in large concert venues and at major festivals such as Lollapalooza, but they began on a smaller scale, performing at house parties.

Formative years

The musicians of Iration started playing together in a garage and slowly built up their skills and an audience.

“It’s pretty crazy we have gotten to where we are. We didn’t have a lot of experience, really didn’t know what we were doing for a long time. We just made it happen and made it work,” Pueschel says.

They grew up jamming on ukuleles and guitars for fun in Hawaii, but they were new to playing with a band when they started Iration. Pueschel says over the years, they have grown together as musicians, with the help of their business peers. 

“It was everyone pushing each other. We definitely learned by playing a lot of cover songs and just learned by feeling the way that songs moved, songs that were written by really good songwriters. We were able to work with some really good songwriters over the years that taught us the art of songwriting,” Pueschel says.

“I think it’s just another thing that the more you do, the better you get at it. Every time we put out a record, we are still getting better as songwriters, finding a voice and finding what our sound is.”

The band has developed a fan base of people of different ages and musical tastes. Pueschel says, like him, fans of their music appreciate different genres.

Over the years, fans have shared with the band how their music has had an impact on their lives. Pueschel found it especially meaningful to hear that their music helped a soldier in the Middle East. 

“It’s still surreal and crazy. It’s a song written on your couch and maybe it changes somebody’s perspective on what they are going through in life,” Pueschel says.