“Let me tell you, it’s harmonious, and when it’s going, it moves very quickly. It seems like lately ‘cause we haven’t been in the movement of the machine like there’s some kind of discourse. But that’s just because everyone has other projects going on,” says Long Beach Dub Allstars’ vocalist Opie Ortiz backstage at the 2018 One Love Cali Reggae Fest.
Right before the popular Long Beach locals took the stage, the band all packed into their trailer, to discuss LBDAS’ remarkable journey that spans over 20 years.
“Right now, we all have kids and lives going on. Marshall’s doing a lot, Tim does a lot, Jack does a lot, Ed has a life going on, I have a life going on, and Roger, he’s got other projects, Miguel has projects, so, it’s hard to get everyone together,” Ortiz continued. “But once we get everything locked down, it starts to move, and it’s quick.”
Ortiz is not kidding. After a 15-year recording hiatus, the band put out two new tracks near the end of 2017: "Holding Out" and “Steady Customer.” Long Beach Dub Allstars officially broke-up in 2002 and reunited a decade later, onstage, in their hometown of Long Beach, at the Queen Mary Events Park; the very place they were set to take the stage post-interview.
With the current lineup intact, these longtime friends/musicians are just now jumping back into the studio and playing frequent shows. Talks of putting something together first came about after the passing of bassist Dave Fuentes. Similar to the LBDAS’ original formation after the loss of Sublime friend and collaborator Bradley Nowell, Fuentes (who was a member of both Hepcat and The Aggrolites), along with the passing of other friends, gave the group some inspiration to get back together. “There’s stuff that we haven’t released that needs to be released, and stuff that we’ve been working on and compiling for years,” Ortiz says.
“A lot of it, too,” Tim Wu went on to explain, “is that this is going to be the 20th anniversary of Right Back. So, this project has been a huge part of all of our lives. Then adding Ed [bass] and Roger [organ], who we’ve known for years, all of this is a big part of us. Regardless of what we’ve got going on, it’s always going to be a big part. So, we’re just fortunate enough to get out to festivals like this and play in front of our hometown and just put the love out there. And play some music. Something we’ve obviously been good at.”
The origin of the Long Beach Dub Allstars dates as far back as the music scene that’s embroidered in the city itself. The members are all longtime friends and have been interchangeably playing together for years. “Every weekend it was like No Doubt, Sublime and Suburban Rhythm,” Wu recalled of when they got their start. “Local bands were out, and that’s really what broke the scene. So, having this festival, with this music here, obviously, it goes close to the vest for us because we saw it grow up. Late ‘80s or early ‘90s, we could never imagine that it was going to get to this level. We were playing music just to play music. It’s crazy, but it’s also very cool to see.”
What’s also cool to see, is how the band has evolved, while still maintaining their genuineness. “I think our vibe has stayed consistent,” drummer Marshall Goodman (aka Ras MG) says. “We’ve got an authentic style, that’s the basis of what we do. We don’t intend to be trendsetters or anything like that, or trend followers. This is how it’s always been. All of us guys come together, we write songs, some of it’s a little off-key, some of it’s a little off-tempo, but we do what we do. We do what inspires us, and it’s all of our backgrounds coming together.”
The magnificent part about the Long Beach Dub Allstars is that the different cultures you’ll find in the city are not only reflected in their music, but also in their circle of friends; which, for them, is usually one and the same. Fans can expect to hear all of that included in their upcoming full-length album, which should be out next summer.
You’re also likely to hear some additional longtime friends collaborating on their new album. Artists like Chali 2na from Jurassic 5, Notch, Half Pint and Tippa Irie. And, they’ve also enlisted a few other friends. People like Jesse Wagner from The Aggrolites and Moises Juarez from Tomorrows Bad Seeds.
While the band refers to their work as experimental, Ortiz says it’s still all very conscious. “We’ve graduated to this point where we want to make something solid. When someone’s listening to a live recording on their phone I hope it f*cking sounds incredible. No matter what it is, we try to put our hearts into everything. I’ve known these guys for a long time, I know when we go to record, I know they’re giving their all.”
“There’s a little more to what we’re doing than guys goofing around,” Ras added. “We’re in a zone where we all just kind of do this thing as an art. We’re not panicked musicians that have to be the best at everything all the time, except if it’s expressing ourselves.”
Everyone in the group finds their own way of expressing themselves outside of music. Ortiz, of course, is the well-known tattoo artist whose work covers Sublime’s most popular albums. While Marshall Goodman, the drummer who played on the majority of 40oz. to Freedom, is fixing to become the Mayor of La Palma. Yes, Mayor. No matter what, though, the one thing they all share is a love of reggae music.
“That’s why we’re here,” Ortiz pointed out. “That’s why we keep doing consistently what we’re doing. And that’s why we’ve stayed friends forever.”
For more on the Long Beach Dub Allstars, you can head over to their website.