I am, admittedly, not much of a spiritual man. I’m a drinker and sometimes a smoker and usually find myself pondering my chances with a girl at some dive bar rather than brooding over existential questions about my place in the universe. But I do have genuinely spiritual moments, and most of them come in the form of musical events. The first time I saw Indubious live, it wasn’t merely an excellent concert–it was a moment of transcendence, of ethereal bliss wrapped in a surprisingly accessible package of reggae/dub-step/electronica, or “Rootstronica” as the band’s website aptly calls it, though keyboardist/vocalist Evan Burton may have reservations about the label. “I’m not really a fan of genres,” he laughs casually over the phone, his voice a bit hoarse due to a mild cold spell, “I know they’re necessary for bands to market themselves, but I think genres are limiting. Good music transcends genres, and what matters is the intention behind it.”
A lot of bands nowadays use broad genre terms to describe very limited music, but this trio hailing from Ashland, Oregon doesn’t have that problem. To paraphrase Evan, their music incorporates everything from “EDM to psychedelic rock,” with all sorts of reggae elements blended in, including Rasta mysticism, ebullient dancehall energy and hypnotic rocksteady beats. And there certainly is a great deal of intention behind the band’s unique sound, championing a message so positive that it is guaranteed to relieve a little bit of San Francisco’s class tension as they pass through the city this weekend at the Neck of the Woods. During our conversation, we touched on some pretty deep topics but throughout it all keeping an eye on the silver lining.
The Bay Bridged: Where did the inspiration for “Rootstronica” come from?
Evan Burton: It’s really hard to say. It just kinda happened. After years of taking in our surroundings and absorbing our universe as a band, this is what came out on the other end. Each of us listens to all kinds of music and that certainly plays a part in it, but I believe that true inspiration comes from a divine, unknowable source. We’re all tied into the same channels of inspiration and, in some ways, we can’t even take credit for the art we produce. Good art, I feel, has to be removed from ownership, from the ego. Once you move beyond selfish means, once you stop raising one person in the band over another- that’s divine inspiration, that’s true art. You have to be in this for more than just yourself otherwise it’s meaningless.
TBB: Does that same philosophy hold true for the lyrics you write?
EB: Again, I wouldn’t even say they come from me. They’re certainly not meant for me. They’re meant for everybody. Songwriting is all about communicating things that everybody already knows, that everyone holds as the truth. Take the personal out of it and make it universal- that way you can appreciate the unintentional meanings that other people perceive in the words.
TBB: Your music is full of positivity and hope and tackling the challenges of life with an optimistic mindset. How can you communicate that positivity in a world that is bombarded by bad news on a daily basis?
EB: Yes, our media is incredibly negative, but that’s how the system is built. In reggae there is the concept of Babylon, the state or entity that attempts to control how we think and act, and they control us primarily through fear. Fear, however, is a state of mind as much as a state of events. My positive reality, in relation to the media’s overtly negative one, is also correct. I believe there is so much good going on all the time that we could credibly have a news station dedicated to all the under-reported positivity in the world.
I understand that our collective consciousness feeds off fear. Our consumer society capitalizes on feelings of fear and insecurity, pushing us to buy things because we want to look and feel better. I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I’ve been jealous and fearful and depressed and jaded but you also have a choice to be positive and happy. My brother (bassist/vocalist Spencer Burton) and I were born with Cystic Fibrosis and given a life expectancy of 18 years. I realized, though, that you can either dwell on all that negative energy and feel sorry for yourself – take pride in being a victim – or do something positive and uplifting with your time on earth. It was a instance of mind over matter. I, we, chose to fight against the odds, and we’re still here. Everyone has a choice. Music is my choice, my medicine, my way to forge a new perspective and challenge the status quo.
TBB: I remember you discussing the concept of ‘we are infinite’ the last time I saw Indubious live. Could you explain what that phrase means to you?
EB: Anything that is infinite goes on forever and encompasses everything around us. I’m talking to you, you are a reflection of myself and my inner universe controls things in the outer universe. Everyone you talk to is a form of communicating with yourself. We are all connected. Once we realize this, we will no longer have millionaires and billionaires hoarding all the world’s wealth. They’ll learn that there is positive selfishness in the act of sharing, in being generous and giving away yourself for the benefit of the community.
TBB: So I assume you are genuinely optimistic about the future of the human race?
EB: Yeah, as long as we realize the present moment is infinite. When we realize we no longer have to be victims, that we can control our universe, then the potential is limitless. It is an intimidating prospect in one sense, because once you stop seeing yourself as an innocent in the game of life, you now have a massive responsibility on your shoulders to make the most of it. Your problems don’t define you as a person. When we have the power to look into our hearts for love and patience and gratitude, we’ll learn to see our reality through new lenses and all the positive possibilities that come with it. It’s not a religious thing- it’s just about trying to be a better person. Through this we become enlightened and we awaken to a higher self.
Indubious, The Stu Tails, Terry Got Fired, Skunk Funk
Neck of the Woods
August 22, 2014
9pm, $8-10, 21+