Iration's Joseph Dickens talks about the modernization of reggae rock, the power of fan interaction on social media and more
Next week marks something of a homecoming for Joseph Dickens.
He spent a large chunk of his childhood in Clearwater, living there until eighth grade, when his family moved to Hawaii. That’s where he met his future bandmates in Iration, one of the most popular bands in the ascendent reggae-rock genre.
But he still has fond memories of Pinellas County, especially Jannus Live, a venue where he saw bands like Korn, Counting Crows and NOFX as a child. Iration — which has sold out Jannus Live as a headliner — will return there next week, opening for Rebelution during a two-night stand.
Iration has played Tampa Bay something like 10 times over the years, a testament to reggae rock’s growth and enduring popularity in Florida.
“With a more professional sound and image and approach to playing live shows, and approaching it as a business, the fans notice that this is real and it’s growing and it’s not a gimmick,” Dickens said. “They’re catching note of that, and it’s spreading rapidly.”
Like a lot of reggae-rock artists, Dickens grew up listening to a wide variety of music, from ska to punk to hip-hop. He also remembers his parents listening to Bob Marley records, but it wasn’t until he moved to Hawaii and discovered Sublime that a light bulb flickered in his head.
“I do remember not knowing of Sublime when I lived in Florida, and then moving to Hawaii, I was a freshman in high school, and one of the older kids was like, ‘You gotta listen to this,’” he said. “Sure enough, I just spanned off of Sublime. My best guess is that this all evolved from Sublime.”
That’s taking nothing away from Marley and other Jamaican roots reggae icons, he’s quick to note. “Everybody loves Bob Marley, obviously, but he’s speaking to more of an older generation,” Dickens said. “Our generation, we have newer problems. I feel like this music — Sublime, Pepper, Slightly Stoopid, Reblution — all those people kind of speak to our generation a little better than Bob Marley. And it’s a little more poppy and palatable to young kids.”
As an example, he points to the current hit Rude by the Canadian pop band MAGIC!, whose singer has written for artists like Pitbull, Justin Bieber, Chris Brown and David Guetta. “If he can do a stong mainstream like that, it just goes to show that it’s possible. You’ve just got to write the right tune and make it catchy and radio-friendly.”
That, and work social media like crazy. Both Iration and Rebelution have stayed independent — “We own all our music and the rights and everything, so it’s doable,” Dickens said — but to do that and be successful, you have to be as irie with your fans as you are on your records.
“Fan engagement is so crucial — getting out there, shaking fans’ hands, looking them in the eye, saying, ‘Hello, how are you?’” Dickens said. “If you like a photo on Instagram, they’re just ecstatic. It means the world to them. Little stuff like that goes so far in this genre.”
Iration will open for Rebelution at 5:30 p.m. June 25 and 26 at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg. For details, click here.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*