The Green is a reggae band from Hawaii. whose music has earned it awards in Hawaii as well as a debut at #1 on the Billboard Reggae Chart for the album Marching Orders. The band's new album Black and White features acoustic versions of previously recorded songs. By phone, J. P. Kennedy (guitar, vocals) discussed the new album, the logistics of touring from Hawaii, and the most important lessons the band has learned.
AXS: The new album contains stripped-down versions of previously-recorded songs. What was the impetus for doing this album?
J. P. Kennedy: Once we got into it, it started feeling really good. The music around here is kind of that style. That’s what people are into at the bars: acoustic guitar, ukulele vibe. I think it catches more of the audience who aren’t really reggae listeners. As we worked on it, it grew on us. It grew on me. This is like no other album. When you’re creating new stuff, it’s a different process. It was really simple. Just kind of get the thing going. It just felt good. I don’t think there was any reason behind it. It just naturally happened.
AXS: How did it come about that you recorded the album at Hurley International HQ?
JPK: Hurley’s been so good to us over the years. Some good mutual friends started the relationship a few years ago. Since then they opened up their doors to help us in all kinds of ways. We recorded Hawaii ‘13 there. That was the first time we went through that studio and worked with their guy Davy. When this was coming about, we talked about this pretty consistently. They offered it. It’s good to get away to work sometimes. We took the opportunity to add it on to the end of a tour. We spent a week there and knocked it out.
AXS: Being from Hawaii, was it difficult for you guys to get started just logistically?
JPK: For sure. It was the most challenging about what we were trying to do. We didn’t really understand what it took. We didn’t have management or anything like that. We were guiding ourselves through the gauntlet and took a few hits here and there. We made some decisions we learned from. We just really wanted it. We haven’t looked back since the beginning, and we’ve become closer. We’re blessed to love it. Life on the road is tough sometimes. We’ve seen bands fall apart out there. The fact that we went out there in such a blind way and learned such tough lessons. We grew together through it. We figured things out, and it brought us closer together and made it a happy place. We could have looked at it in a negative way, but we love doing it, so we grooved through it. We’re working on this fifth album already, and we have too many songs for it. We’re here in 2019, but we have so much music from over the years. We’re overwhelming ourselves, but we consistently write more. It’s fun. We’re getting to really enjoy it.
AXS: What was one of the most meaningful lessons you learned when you were starting out?
JPK: We didn’t really understand what touring consisted of. We took a tour that we thought was a huge opportunity. The most valuable thing was learning the finances behind the tours. In Hawaii, there isn’t too much of a circuit as far as touring. People will maybe stop and do a show if they’re going to Australia. We have this unique scene with the bars and the bands with guys jamming. There was a radio scene. Touring with all your expenses figured out and settling at the end of each night, that was something we never knew how to do. We didn’t even know that existed until we went out there. You can imagine how things might have gone if you don’t know what you’re paying for. We were making money on album sales because the first album was doing well in Hawaii. Then we were just dumping it back into all these unexpected expenses because we didn’t know how to budget a tour.
AXS: What was it like for you to open for Bruno Mars at Aloha Stadium (capacity: 36,000)?
JPK: That was crazy. We’re lucky that he thinks of us. It was the second time on his shows here, and they’re the biggest shows we’ve ever done. That place is special to us. It was magical. So many of our friends and family were there. There’s not one word that can explain it. It was badass. He let us use the production to capacity. Usually, when you open for an artist, the sounds are going to be a little softer. They try to dull down the performance. His entire production told us “Bruno is going to take care of you guys. It was kind of surreal.
The guy is so busy. He wasn’t really around much. He comes and goes. We didn’t see him anywhere. His whole squad checked up on us. That’s rare for someone that big.
AXS: It must have been a trip for you guys to play in front of that many people in your home state.
JPK: It was massive. The green rooms were in the locker rooms of the stadium. The stage is on the opposite side of the stadium. As we got closer to showtime, we were in our green rooms getting ready. They had us get into these 15-passenger vans. Basically, we don’t see the crowd. The last time we were on that stage was for soundcheck. The stadium at that time was empty. The entrance to the stadium is in the stage. We walked underneath and up these stairs. I felt like I lost my breath. It was such a trip.
AXS: What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?
JPK: I would probably be fighting fires. My dad, my grandpa, and my great grandpa are all firemen. Or our family has some ranch property, and I’d probably be doing something with the land.
Black and White (Easy Star Records) will be available everywhere on March 22. Order your copy here.