Rebelution vocalist/guitarist Eric Rachmany and renowned producer, DJ, and remixer Amp Live (formerly of Zion I) may possess different backgrounds, but they both travel the same creative road. Now, their paths—along with a myriad of musical genres riding shotgun—intersect in Unified Highway. The duo’s self-titled debut [Audible Collision / Strange Focus Records] explores this intersection via a fascinating fusion of reggae, electronic, hip-hop, alternative, and soul siphoned into unforgettable songs.
“It was simple,” says Eric. “Our goal was to get together and make good music that didn’t sound like anything else.”
“It was natural because the feeling, vibe, and friendship were already there,” adds Amp Live. “When you start out like that, everything else falls into place.”
Since 2009, the duo have shared the stage on multiple tours together, and their collaboration traces back to sound checks and late night jams after shows. However, during late summer 2014, Eric invited the Los Angeles-based Amp Live to his San Francisco home in order to formally record together. For the first time, the musicians found themselves in a studio environment with no distractions and a singular focus. That initial session sparked more in Northern California as well as in Santa Barbra and Los Angeles as the album’s 13 tracks solidified over the next year.
“Even after all these years, this was the first chance for us to sit down and create,” explains Amp Live. “That made a big difference. All of the boundaries opened up. I caught the feeling from Eric’s melodies and ran with it.”
“I’m more of a musician and less of a producer,” continues Eric. “I’m a huge fan of everything Amp Live does. His beats are wholly unique, and the way he produced these songs really stood out. We struck a very cool chemistry.”
This union proved so magnetic that it attracted a myriad of collaborators and friends. The first single “Stand Proud” boasts a striking hook from Shana Halligan and thought-provoking verses courtesy of New Kingston’s Tahir Panton and dancehall up-and-comer Keznamdi. Fueled by resounding percussion and horns, its lithe reggae bounce gives way to Eric’s powerful delivery and lyrics.
“As far as the subject matter goes, there’s a lot of injustice in the world,” he sighs. “Social media is so readily accessible that you can see injustice every day that much easier. I wanted to point out the corruption of the prison system in the U.S. It’s something you hear a lot about, but there’s no better way to educate than through music.”
Elsewhere, “Rainy Day In Autumn” struts along on a danceable synth, percussive handclaps, a sing-able guitar solo, and one of Eric’s most spirited choruses.
“It’s meant to make your head bob and get you dancing,” the vocalist grins. “When we were recording, it rained the entire time. It’s hard to believe because of the drought in California, but it was actually a ‘Rainy Day In Autumn.’ We had a groove blasting inside, and it was super inspiring to write.”
The boys also re-interpreted R.E.M.’s classic “Losing My Religion” from a fresh perspective.
“That’s one of my favorite R.E.M. songs,” remarks Amp Live. “I always wanted to remake it. I tried for years, but it never happened. I just thought Eric would sound dope on it. I was glad he was down. Now, ‘Losing My Religion’ adds a different vibe to the record.”
Eric and Amp Live certainly aren’t strangers to “different vibes.” Rebelution ushered reggae into the 21st century with an alternative vision that’s led to chart-topping albums such as 2014’s Count Me In (which bowed at #14 on the Billboard Top 200), countless sold out shows, and festival appearances everywhere from Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo to Glastonbury, Hangout Music Festival, Outside Lands, and more. Along with touring as a solo artist himself, Amp Live has lent his talents not only to producing for Bassnectar, Big Gigantic, Goapele, The Grouch & Eligh, and the hip hop group Zion I, but also to doing official remixes for the likes of Radiohead, MGMT, Linkin Park, Beats Antique and many more.
Now, they’re sharing this new road together in Unified Highway.
“We’re two separate cars, but we’re going the same direction,” Amp Live leaves off. “We come from opposite worlds, but this highway—the music—brings us together. Hopefully, it makes everyone feel the way we do.”
“It’s all about that feeling,” Eric concurs. “I hope our music can inspire, motivate, and spread some positivity. This is a brand new project. People don’t know what to expect, and we’re excited to show them something they haven’t heard.