From Hawaii to Boston with The Green’s Zion Thompson
Boston is not the most obvious place for a band like The Green – but then again, there are not many bands like The Green. The Green’s ability to transcend reggae, rock, and soul provided the spark to connect with audiences and build a fan base across genres and far from the shores of Oahu, where they formed in 2009. As a huge fan since (almost) their beginning, I was excited to see how connected they were with their material and creative process.
The Green recently released Black and White, their new studio album, offering new acoustic takes on some of their favorites. A unique strength of The Green is that four of the six members take lead vocals, allowing each to showcase their own style, but always within The Green’s signature sound.
Below is my conversation with Zion Thompson, where we got to talk about their early days, their process, and how they’re always moving up, even when they’re far from home.
photo by: Michael Barrett
You guys have been at this for ten years; was there a moment or a show early on when you thought this is it- we’ve caught something?
I’m sure everybody in the band has their own moments. I remember in the early days playing at this place called The Shack Waikiki. It was a wild sports bar in the heart of Waikiki and was notorious for just getting crazy. And our night we’re always crazy so the feelings and the raging crowds we would get in there made me feel like I was part of something that really had a good chance at going somewhere. Not only that, for the first time we weren’t backing up a local artist in Hawaii or a traveling singer, it was OUR band that felt like it had a chance.
After this long, and all the time on the road, how do you keep coming back to making music? What keeps you interested?
After all these years we’ve continued because we love music and are thankful for the chance to keep doing it. In the grand scheme of things we’re young and music keeps us young, although sometimes the stress may feel like its aging you. Still, the thrill of writing and finishing a song or performing well and connecting with a crowd at a show is a feeling you can’t experience anywhere else. We know we need to work even harder to get where we want to go and don’t take anything for granted either. I think everyone in this band is fortunate to have found music so early in life.
Has making music gotten harder to outdo yourselves, easier with experience, or does it feel about the same?
Can I say it’s all three of those at the same time?! I think the process flows a little smoother now because maybe we’ve sort of refined things a little but it’s hard to say. I think when people are in a creative space, it kind of ALWAYS goes up and down. You can go from feeling like you’re killing it one second and than all of the sudden just downright fucking horrible the next! It’s up and down like that but its just part of the creative process everyone goes through sometimes.
Do you (or each of you) have a song that stands out to you most?
photo by: Michael Barrett
There is a song right now that we’re recording and is almost finished that I can’t get out of my head. It’s called Blue Skies and Ikaika Antone, our keyboardist/singer wrote it. It’s frickin sick! It’s straight up just STUCK in my head. I can’t wait for it to come out. My favorite songs tend to change with each album and sometimes change over and over again. We’ll see after the next record comes out!
What’s the band’s process like- are you always working on new stuff, or do you take specific time off tour to really focus on creating?
We are kind of always writing and recording together in one way or another even if there’s no album coming out soon. Generally, we try to space albums out a little bit to give them time to catch on and grow but we also don’t wanna wait too long. So once we have enough songs that we love and we feel fit well together we’ll come up with a basic timeline and try to follow it. A series of steps to the finished product, which ultimately is both the album release and promoting it through various means and channels.
It sounds like the music scene in Hawaii is pretty tight. It’s awesome to see those relationships. Anyone else you’d like to be collaborating with but haven’t a had a chance to yet?
We’ve done a little collaborating recently with some more traditional Hawaiian Music artists and it’s been really fun and educational for us too. And I’d like to do more of that cross-pollination of genres kind of thing. There’s also some talented soul singers and players in Hawaii who I think we could do some cool stuff with. The music scene in Hawaii is definitely thriving. Reggae is easily one of the top genres in Hawaii, but we play and love a lot of different types of music out there.
What’s next for The Green?
Our tour finished in late September and once we get home to Hawaii we go right back to finishing the next studio album. We also do our own shows every year in Hawaii that we call “Aloha From Hawaii” and will be taking A.F.H. to the island of Kauai in November. I’m so excited to bring it to the most beautiful island in the chain (my opinion). Next year we plan on an album release and lots of travel!
photo by: Michael Barrett
How do you choose a set list? Does everyone always take a lead vocal, or is it just what people are feeling?
We choose our set lists based on how much time we have and even sometimes on what kind of crowd we’re playing for. Caleb, our front man and lead singer has the lion’s share of lead singing duties by far and everyone knows that, but as a band, The Green is known for more than one singer taking the lead sometimes. Plus, it’s nice to be able to give him a break sometimes cause what he’s singing just isn’t easy. So, we try and make a set list that will showcase all of our talents and what makes us, The Green, while still trying to be specific about the direction of the sets flow from beginning to end.
Are you guys getting involved in the issues on Mauna Kea, or just keeping it about the music?
We’re very much invested in what’s happening on Mauna Kea. As Hawaiians, we have a heart-felt obligation to be involved anytime there is an outright need to publicly support the land and our people. In this case, people who are standing up to years of false promises, mismanagement and lies from both powerful outside entities and from those who were sworn to protect our land and people. To sit idly by while this happens is to purposely walk down the dangerous path toward losing our culture. What the protectors of sacred Mauna Kea have accomplished right now is a beautiful thing. I wish everyone could visit and really see and feel how powerful and loving it is up there. I encourage anyone who wants to know more to read this link.
Although it doesn’t talk about the other option that exists for the telescope to be located in the Canary Islands, it does give a quick idea of the history of what’s happened on Mauna Kea. There’s much more out there on the subject. Remember, it’s not about science. Aloha and Ku Kia’i Mauna! Thank you!
This band, The Green, has meant so much to me over the years, and hearing their connection to the material and love of their fans is great to see. After an intense set at the Boston show, Caleb Keolanui stayed to talk to fans and it was clear he appreciated everyone coming out. The Green puts their heart and soul into its music and it shows.
Black & White by The Green is out now. For tour dates and more information visit TheGreen808.com