Four albums in and Vancouver reggae-rockers Redeye Empire have realized the format is dead.
Well, maybe not dead, but it's certainly not a profitable way to send music into a world where singles are downloaded at the click of a mouse. That's why the group is taking a slightly different approach for their fifth release. "People aren't going out and buying CDs," says Mike Redmond, singer/guitarist for the group. "It's good to have them at shows and have something tangible, but the whole attitude of releasing and entire album online is kind of funny. People hear one song. We decided that we'll take our best couple of songs and help spread the word about us that way."
The band is currently working on those new tracks, which Redmond says are a departure from the songs that made up their 2011 release, Last Chance for Sunshine. "Things are coming back a little bit simplified," he says. "When Gabe (Davis, singer/guitarist) and I started writing music it was heavily reggae-based stuff. We tried to make our songs a little complicated, we're going back to a simplified version of what we originally started playing. It's been refreshing."
The group enlisted the help of acclaimed Canadian producer Garth Richardson — who has worked with everyone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to The Melvins — in the studio for the batch of singles, which will eventually make up an EP. "He's a wicked producer," Redmond adds.
Inspiration for the songs has run the gamut from love to family, but at their core they're all laidback jams. "We try not to take ourselves too seriously," Redmond says. "If you take yourself too seriously it comes across in the music. It can make your music melancholy and too predictable. I like to write about something that's affecting my life or just sounds good."
To that end, the band has been chipping away at new songs the way they always do: with Davis and Redmond strumming away on their acoustics. "It hasn't changed since we started," Redmond says. "Gabe and I do most of the writing. It usually just starts with us playing acoustic guitar. I can't say where an idea comes from, but we generally approach the rest of the band and say, 'This is our idea' and they come up with their own part. It kind of morphs out of that."
But the band shines in a completely different way on stage, he adds. Redmond promises a high-energy party for fans who come out to their Whistler show Dec. 8 at the Longhorn. "We love performing and jumping around and getting people into it. People can expect a good show with a lot of excitement. We give it our all," he says.
Mountain towns — especially this one, where Redmond grew up and his family still resides — are particularly receptive to the group's blend of reggae and ska. They might cater to a niche in Vancouver, but out here, all kinds of music fans want to party. "Where that music started was very a very surf-oriented culture," he says. "There are definitely similarities between (snowboard and surf towns). The culture aspect is similar. People live their lives for those sports. It's something that's reflected in the music; there's a relaxed element. It doesn't take itself too seriously. That mimics the sport. People are up there to have fun. That's what the music is about."
The band, which has been playing music since 2006, has two members who are professional, full-time musicians (one of whom has been touring Asia, postponing the writing process temporarily) and three — including Redmond — toiling away at day jobs, which can make touring difficult.
Luckily, one of their next major shows (after Whistler) is a hometown gig with their musical heroes. "We just got asked to open for Slightly Stoopid at the Commodore in January," Redmond says. "It's literally my favourite band on the planet. That will be a highlight."
But so too is Whistler, he adds. "We'll probably end up drinking and having quite a party too. We get really excited. It's our favourite place to play."
The band will also dedicate one of their three sets at the show to a Sublime tribute, covering tracks by their ska-reggae forbearers.