Roots reggae and rock blend Rise Up is one band that lives up to their name — they are rising up! Heralding from Salinas, California, founding members Chris Alcantara (vocals/rhythm guitar) and Alex Cortez (drums) gained recognition up and down the coast of California before linking up with locally-renowned players Leland Smith (lead guitar) and Rich Mihalek (bass) in 2019 to form a well-rounded act.
Now signed to Roots Musician Records, with mix master E.N Young at the helm, Rise Up rockets out of quarantine with a brand new EP, ‘The Pursuit’.
‘Pursuit’ of what, you may ask? We wanted to know the same, so we reached out to the Rise Up boys, asking what inspires them, what obstacles they had to overcome in the making of the EP and what could be next for this fire reggae roots act. Here is what they said.
With so many Cali reggae bands, what do you feel sets you apart?
- RU: We love roots reggae — the heavy edgy stuff with a strong message, but we didn’t all necessarily come up playing that style of music. The songs we make are our interpretation of our favorite Jamaican musical influences, being told through our own life stories that makes our music different and intrinsic to Rise Up.
It seems that Rise Up really picked up momentum in 2019, only to be faced with a global pandemic shortly after. How did that energy shift affect you?
- We had just brought Danny on board to play keys for us and had some great shows lined up when the shelter-in-place order came down. We didn’t want to lose our momentum and had a lot of energy built up, but since our members are spread out over almost 200 miles of California, we weren’t able to get to get together in person like we normally would.
- As a band, we decided that we would try to write an album using a method that none of us had tried before: we developed ideas from concept by emailing recording files back and forth and having regular Zoom meetings to discuss our new songs, work on our strategy and stay focused. The most important thing for Rise Up was that we decided to use that time positively and wanted to channel the crazy energy that most people were feeling during those moments of frustration into creative productivity. We like to think of The Pursuit as something super positive for us that came out of that time; this record would not have turned out the way it did without the circumstances it was created under.
Let’s talk ‘The Pursuit’! What was the driving force behind the album?
- The driving force behind this album was really about ‘pursuing’ new ways of moving forward as a band and honing our style despite the physical limitations of the pandemic. It was important to all of us to have something to show for the time we couldn’t play shows… something we could all be proud of, especially considering this was going to be our first record with our new lineup. We did not want to fall victim to the situation, so we embraced the technology and techniques it would take to not only write songs remotely, but also to have the album produced by E.N Young when we couldn’t be in his studio.
- Aside from that, there were situations going on in the world and a myriad of human emotions that we were dealing with in response to everything. We really needed to address these things and couldn’t wait for the world to be ‘normal’ again to do it. We were really focused on ways to still connect with people through music. The world needed the vibes and energy of reggae music, so we took upon ourselves to help answer the call.
So, wait, you weren’t in the studio with E.N Young?
- What’s really crazy is we didn’t get the chance to go to his studio to record this record, because of the pandemic and the restrictions around “essential businesses”. We recorded The Pursuit ourselves at our guitar player’s house in Santa Rosa and sent the tracks to E.N for him to produce. It was a totally unique and first-time experience for us to create a record through remote collaboration, but we all feel like it opened the door to a new way of working that could create opportunity to collaborate with artists we might not have considered in the past and for us to make more records in general.
- We were lucky enough to have recorded our Lion Roar EP at Imperial Sound and look forward to recording our next round of tracks down there with him in person. E.N is the best — because of his skill, we were able to record our Lion Roar EP in a single day! We’re currently writing new material that will inevitably be recorded at Imperial Sound Studios.
So, what’s next for Rise Up?
- Rise Up is looking to play as many cool shows as possible. We recently played our first live in over a year and it felt amazing to get that spark back. That was the longest many of our members have gone without playing a show in their adult lives! So, needless to say, we’re jonesing to get in front of crowds everywhere and share these new tunes with as many people as possible.
- So far, the vibes from the fans have been so great: you can really tell that people have been needing to get back to congregating with each other and satisfying that primal urge to hear live music. Aside from that, we’re writing new material and plan to release another EP this year. We’re also going to make a music video and have plans to release a single with a guest singer, so we’re staying busy and very excited to accomplish these goals that we have for 2021.