I just listened to the latest mix of Against the Current, and it’s hard to believe how close we are to being done with our 2nd album. This is especially rewarding for us because many of these tracks were written even before Gold in Rule was released in 2009. I wrote “Songs of Zion” while camping in the fall of 2006. Johnny wrote an early version of “United Nation” even before that. Some of these songs were put on the back burner for a while before we revisited them, and others were toyed with over the years until they became the solid pieces we perform today.
There’s one song from early 2007 that has a great story behind it. James Hoy, aka P. Dub (long story for another time), had recorded a few ideas with his guitar and the built-in drum machine on his BOSS BR-8. One of these went on to become “Guidance,” another is “Rise Up” on the new album, and there’s one we haven’t worked on yet, which we labeled “P-11.” But there was a slower track that James recorded, and we called it “P. Dub’s Chant” because of the “ooh”s he added to it (yes, he can sing, too!). Just as we had done with “Guidance,” Johnny and I each wrote a verse for “P. Dub’s Chant,” exchanging our ideas over email.
My lyrical contribution was, to say the least, far from uplifting. I was going through a rough time, financially, had recently ended an unhealthy relationship, started watching my grandmother suffer from Alzheimer’s, and was disillusioned by a recent job change. This was reflected in what I wrote for the first verse:
I don’t feel at home no more
I gotta pack a few things, hit the road, throw away the key and lock the door
But I don’t know what I’m leaving for
There’s something out there, I know
I’ve seen it out on the horizon in the evening glow
And the longing just grow and grow
I’m never satisfied, I’m just a hypocrite
I sing, “Give thanks and praise,” but I get sick of it
And then I whine and bitch and take it out on others
When I’m envious of my more wealthy brothers
I’m told there’s a reason for the place I’m in
But I feel like I’ll never see grace again
Mama always said, “Just be patient, Ben”
But I’ll never learn my lesson unless I face the wind
And move on, against the current
Move on, against the serpent
Move on to a place where I’ll be positive
Move on to a place where I know Jah Jah live
Part longing, part confession, part last-ditch effort to motivate myself, this verse (and the chorus) reflected the sort of hopelessness I was going through. It didn’t help at all that it was February, and winter makes me virtually useless.
Then Johnny wrote back with an awesome 2nd verse:
I have to be honest,
I’ve never gone hungry for too long
Never had to worry ’bout where I’d be sleepin’
or where I belong
My parents broke their backs so I can live my life
the way I want to live
To express myself the only way I know how,
Through the music that Jah Jah give
For that I’m thankful,
It didn’t have to turn out this way
I could be roamin’ the streets with no direction
What will I be eatin’ today?
So everytime I’m down about life and how its goin’
I try to think of all the times
My parents stayed up late fussin’ and fightin’
Wonderin’ what tomorrow they’ll find
But they pushed on…against the current
Pushed on against the serpent
Pushed on to a place where they’d be positive
Pushed on to a place where Jah Jah live
This was exactly what I needed to read. He starts off by basically saying, “I may not exactly be able to relate to the hunger or the uncertainty about where you’re going to live in a few months,” but continues by remembering how much his parents went through so he could be where he is today. He didn’t give me the “how can you complain?” treatment, and he recognized that I was literally not eating enough. But he indirectly gave me the kick in the ass that I needed, showing me an example of perseverance and its fruits. I’m not sure if I ever thanked him for that. I’ll try to remember next time I see him.
This song eventually came to be called “Against the Current,” and it’s a regular in our repertoire now. When we were trying to figure out a name for the 2nd album, we had a few different ideas, but as soon as one of us said, “Against the Current,” I think we were pretty much all in agreement on it. Mark pointed out how it sums up where we are as a band, and that really rang true with me. In a world where egos dominate the radio (and yes, even the “reggae” “scene”) and originality is the direct opposite of profitability, we’ve often wondered if we’ll ever “feel at home,” if there is a place for the music we’ve put so much thought and love into. But there are always a few dedicated friends and fans who come out to support us, reminding us just how rewarding it can be to stick with what you believe in.
Several of the songs on Against the Current echo this theme, reminding us that there are far worse situations we could be in, so we need to make the most of what we’ve been given, and try to make the world a better, more just, and more hopeful place in the process. We hope you’ll reap the same inspiration from this album. You all deserve it.