With a sound straight from the islands, John Brown’s Body has played a pivotal role in the American roots reggae scene.
Hailing from the quaint Ithaca region during the mid-nineties, John Brown’s Body has been creating music and spreading positive messages for more than 20 years.
I had the pleasure of conducting an interview with the group's bassist, Dan Africano, who offered an insightful view on the band's history and future projects and gave me a peak into the band's inner workings.
John Brown's Body had humble beginnings. Africano recalled when Kevin Kinsella started the band after the disbandment of The Tribulations. Kinsella started JBB with the intention of forming a reggae group with a more roots-driven sound, according to Africano, and enlisted the help of some former band members from The Tribulations as well as hometown friends of his, including the current lead singer and band leader, Elliot Martin.
With these few steps, history was made in the roots reggae scene.
The group’s 2008 full-length record, “Amplify,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Reggae Chart, 2012’s “JBB In Dub” EP reached No. 1 on iTunes’ Reggae Chart, and “Kings And Queens” in 2013 topped both Billboard and iTunes Reggae Charts at No. 1.
Today, JBB’s signature style has become the norm for U.S. reggae bands.
“A lot of the bands in the reggae scene count JBB as an influence,” Africano said. “The original members in the band are still pushing hard, and the newer members are just as excited to be in the group. It’s an honor and quite humbling to be included in a group with such vast influence and respect in the scene.”
John Brown’s Body recently released a full-length record, “Fireflies,” in September 2016, which can be found on Spotify, SoundCloud, iTunes and at the band's website, http://www.johnbrownsbody.com/.
There are also plenty of chances to see them perform live this summer, as they are booked across the U.S. from Brooklyn to California. Africano said he's excited about a few shows in particular.
“We’ve got a great summer on the books,” he said. “The boat cruise around Boston Harbor is always a great show, as is Grassroots Festival, which is practically in our backyard.”
JBB will also be making a stop at the Chenango Blues Festival in Norwich this July.
Africano said the feel of JBB's live performances hasn't changed much since the band started 20 years ago.
“We show up to deliver the medicine of good music with a positive message, and people show up to come together in that spirit,” he said.
Asked how he would describe the band in a few words, Africano said “Intense, Passionate, Progressive, and Profound.”
Hard work and a strong community helped the band become what it is today, according to Africano.
“I think JBB is one of the bands of a continuation of great musical tradition coming out of Ithaca,” he said. “It’s the result of a vibrant community that is genuinely supportive of arts and music culture.”
John Brown's Body is working on new music for the fall, on which Africano couldn't elaborate. The group is constantly creating, he said.
“Inspiration is everywhere. It’s all about being open to new things, sounds and otherwise, and allowing them to inspire and influence the creative process.”