Iration has always been a band that likes to push boundaries when it comes to their sound. Now with 7 studio albums under their belt, and each one examining different influences in terms of genre, the Hawaiian-bred and California-based quintet’s latest tour expands more so on the idea of thinking outside of the box.
The ‘Sunshine & Summer Nights’ Tour pairs reggae with hip-hop by bringing together Iration with Atmosphere— aka rapper Slug and DJ/producer Ant. And according to Iration’s lead singer, Micah Pueschel, that combination is what continuously makes their shows, and songs interesting.
Philadelphians can catch it all for themselves when Iration hits the stage at Franklin Music Hall this week in support of their most recent album, ‘Coastin’, and Pueschel sat down with Metro to give the scoop on what inspires the band, chat about why music is meant to evolve, and discuss what to expect from their tour this summer.
What went into your latest album, ‘Coastin’?
As soon as we finished our self-titled album, we were in a good vein of writing—so we just kept [at it], and we didn’t really take a break except to tour. At the time, what we were really into was just going back and listening to a lot of 70s funk and R&B and soul music, and that’s just kind of where we started moving. The first two songs we wrote actually were not necessarily in that vein, but they had a certain sound that we really liked— ‘Chill Out’ and ‘Zen Island’. So from that point on, everything evolved from those two songs.
The way it shaped up, the album has four different avenues: It starts with more of a reggae vibe, and then it moves into something slightly different and then it has an R&B section and then more of a rock and acoustic section. We’ve always been a pretty eclectic band and one that likes to experiment and move around genres, so, it’s just another one of those type of albums for us.
As a band, why do you enjoy experimenting with different genres?
The biggest thing is that we have such varied tastes in music. The main focus of this band and our business is performing live, so, songs really have to work live and a big part of that is being able to switch it up as far as tempos go and sounds go. We really enjoy it. We want to stay engaged and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones as musicians and into places we aren’t super comfortable with, and that helps us evolve as a band and keeps us interested because we do have to play these [songs] for years and years and years.
If you look back to the first albums that we put out—there have always been elements, multiple elements, happening. I think having those avenues open to us makes it very fun to write, and record, and play. We just enjoy playing so many different styles of music that I just don’t think we ever thought limiting ourselves was something that we wanted to do.
How about for audiences, what does the sound and genre evolution bring to their experience?
I think there’s definitely a trade-off. In another dimension or something, we just recreate the success we had on ‘Time Bomb’ again and again and go that route. Maybe there’s another world where that route takes it somewhere else. But, ultimately, as a songwriter myself and as somebody that has to perform these songs, we always just felt like we were the ones who wanted to push the boundaries. That’s always been our strength, that we are different than most of the bands in the genre in that sense.
Obviously, it’s a trade-off because certain fans are going to want you to play reggae and reggae only. If you don’t they think you’re abandoning the scene, or you’re not being true to the fandom. We’re just like trying to explain that we love reggae music and we grew up playing it and listening to it… But, as a band, and as musicians, we just want to try lots of different things. That’s what makes it interesting for us and I think what makes our shows interesting.
‘Coastin’ came out in June 2020, at the height of the pause on live music. Does going on tour feel any different after COVID?
When we made the album ‘Coastin’, we had no idea we were going to release it in a pandemic. But, we couldn’t hang onto the music any longer. We knew people needed music in general—and oddly enough the themes on the album were very suited towards helping people get through isolation and the pandemic because it’s all about living in the present and appreciating the small things in life. What’s happened, when we took a year and a half off—which is the longest we ever have in our career — when we did go back in the room, it was very surreal.
You’re co-headlining with Atmosphere. Why pair up with them for the ‘Sunshine & Summer Nights’ Tour?
Our manager really had the idea. In the early days of touring, when we were doing these long, hard tours across the country, we would listen to Atmosphere in the van. It was one of the artists in our rotation that everyone could agree on. Obviously, we had no idea that kind of tour would work, but our manager had the idea and he put the feelers out a couple years back, and they were open to it. This year, we were figuring out what we wanted to do as far as the summer goes, so, we revisited packaging us together.
It’s obviously very different, but it’s the theme of us and our whole career. It’s pushing the boundaries of what goes together—reggae and hip hop. The last time I saw a tour like this was 6 or 7 years ago when Slightly Stoopid went out with Snoop Dogg… and both of our fan bases have been really receptive to it. We always really pride ourselves on Iration fans just being fans of music, and the Atmosphere fans are kind of the same—they just enjoy good music.
What do you hope people take away from the show on Aug. 2?
We’re playing a new song, one we’ve been working on and opening our set with it— which is something we’ve never done before. Then, we’re playing a blend of stuff from our whole catalog. When you play these amphitheater shows, and its outdoors, and its the summertime, it’s the one big show that a lot of our fans come to every year. So, they want to hear a mix of sounds. We don’t want to only play our new stuff… we’re here to please the fans rather than thumb our own ego or do whatever we want to do.
Our focus is always trying to give the fans what they want. We’re going to bring a high energy show and something that we really want people to be up and moving for. If we only have a limited time with them, we want them to feel good and we want them to leave the venue smiling and in a better mood than when they showed up, always.
Catch Iration on their Sunshine & Summer Nights Tour at Franklin Music Hall on Aug 2.