Photo Credit: Josh Lumsden (joshualumsden.com)
California based, Arise Roots is a band comprised of six veteran musicians who have been bringing back roots reggae with the common goal of preserving its true message. While they’re currently busy in the studio working on their next album, their lead frontman Karim Israel took the time to chat with us.
AltWire [Omayra Lopez]: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with us! Can we please start by you telling us about yourself, the band and any other fun facts you want the readers to know?
Karim Israel: My name is Karim Israel and I am the lead vocalist for Arise Roots. I am the son of a roots reggae singer who immigrated here to the US from Jamaica back in the 70’s. Reggae music has always been my first love so finding the rest of my bandmates was a fulfillment of one of my biggest dreams. We have been playing since 2010 and are currently working on our 3rd full length album.
As a band, we are all students of the foundations of reggae and its predecessors. Multiple members of the band have have backed many Jamaican legends as they have toured through the US. This love and appreciation for the pillars of reggae mixed with the drive to explore new territory has helped to create our current and unique sound.
AltWire [Omayra Lopez]: It clearly shows! So given your upbringing and your experience, how do you feel about the way that reggae has been changing and evolving? Anything you like or dislike?
Karim Israel: I get that question a lot (laughs)!
People assume that because I’m a hardcore roots reggae fan that I might not get into other variations of reggae and its evolution. Just like with a fruit tree, there are roots, branches, stems and leaves. Each segment has its part to play and we are able to benefit in different ways from those parts. I love that reggae has carved out a scene here in the US. I wish I had that growing up. It just did not exist for me so seeing all of this growth is unbelievable. I do wish that there was more of an overall reverence for the the foundations of reggae but that’s the way things usually go in popular culture.
AltWire [Omayra Lopez]: What advice would you give up and coming artists on the scene, given all the changes and evolution in the genre?
Karim Israel: To go out and trail blaze their own path. I would advise them to explore sounds, techniques and playing styles. I would definitely stress to them the importance of becoming students of the genre because having that foundation is invaluable and would help to preserve this art form that they have chosen to pursue.
AltWire [Omayra Lopez]: What is your writing process like? How do you decide which songs go into your albums and EPs and which do not?
Karim Israel: Most of our songs come out of jam sessions. Usually at rehearsal we will jam on some chords and if the vibe is right it will keep grooving for a while. I generally mumble and fumble around with melodies and cadences until something comes out that I really dig. Melodies come first for me, then the words. Sometimes the words come pretty quickly, and sometimes the words take weeks or even months [laughs]. We used to try new songs at shows all the time. If they passed the live test then they would be on the list for the next upcoming album. This current album that we are working on is a very different. This is the first time we have kept most of our new songs under lock and key. Its a little more vulnerability on our part because there is no guarantee that people will dig the tunes but that’s a risk we are willing to take. We have have explored new sounds and new avenues this time around with these songs and we are really excited to get it out to the people!
AltWire [Omayra Lopez]: Who will you be collaborating with or would like to collaborate with for future songs?
Karim Israel: I can’t let the cat out of the bag on who we are going for this go around with collars but I think people will dig it!
My list of people I want to collaborate with is crazy long! It includes The Congos, Clinton Fearon, Tribal Seeds, Slightly Stoopid, Sizzle, Vaughn Benjamin, Pressure, Jah Cure, Rebelution…I could go on and on and on; Common Kings, JBoog, Hirie again!
AltWire [Omayra Lopez]: Having been raised by a roots reggae musician, what has been the best advice you’ve received that has helped you in your journey and your career?
Karim Israel: First and foremost: self control! Don’t let any of it cause you to become something you never intended to be. Family will be there after the music stops playing so keep family first!
AltWire [Omayra Lopez]: That’s great advice! Family truly is everything. What would you say is your fondest memory in relation to music?
Karim Israel: What initially drew me to the music was the music itself. It just had a groove that nothing else had. I was the only kid in my whole neighborhood listening to roots reggae in the 2nd grade [laughs]! Youth of Today by Musical Youth was my first album and I absolutely fell in love with it!
AltWire [Omayra Lopez]: Throughout your childhood what was it that initially drove you to follow in your father’s footsteps?
Karim Israel: My fondest memory would be dancing around the room all by myself wishing that I could be in a reggae band myself. I had no idea that dream would take three decades to manifest!
AltWire [Omayra Lopez]: What are some things that you enjoy when you’re not in the studio, on stage or on tour?
Karim Israel: I’m a beat eater so I’m always looking for beats and riddims to play with. I’m a big kid at so playing with my own kids usually takes up a LOT of time. Really just being with the family all the way around. My wife and I make it a point to spend as much quality time together as possible. I didn’t have that full family experience growing up so I try to make up for it now that I have my own family!
AltWire [Omayra Lopez]: How do you manage to balance your time with your family while pursuing your music?
Karim Israel: Lots of communication! It definitely gets tough sometimes through. We aren’t constantly touring so for now it’s doable. Where there’s a will there’s a way!
AltWire [Omayra Lopez]: Before I close this, is there anything else you’d like to add, maybe a message for your fans and our readers?
Karim Israel: Two things…be on the lookout for the new album! Follow your passion and your gifts! Never let fear get in the way of what you were put on this earth to accomplish!
AltWire [Omayra Lopez]: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. We look forward to your new album!
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