Policulture, a Boulder based band, combines conscious lyrics, horns and roots rhythm into an authentic group best described as original mountain reggae music. No doubt that their environment growing up has not only affected their sound, but transcended them into a modern, mindful and inspiring collective.
Formed in 2010, deriving from the grounds of CU Boulder, Policulture now consists of Matt Niederhauser (lead vocals, guitar, melodica), Kyle Jerome (saxophone, vocals, percussion), Christopher Ball (bass guitar, vocals), Casey Theriot (drums), Nick Sumner (keyboards) and Thom Holum (trombone).
Niederhauser and Sumner were both raised in Hawaii and brought a great deal of those deeper reggae roots from one of the reggae capitols of the world to the mainland. Their background helped to dig those roots even deeper for Policulture.
Sumner explained, “In terms of calling ourselves mountain reggae though, I think it's more of our collection of backgrounds with reggae we love combined with us living in Colorado. We are influenced by the music popular out here but more importantly the vibe living out here. There's definitely something to be said about the lifestyle living in the mountains.”
Ball talked about how taking time to go out by the river and be outside to breath everything in around them, including the people, really encapsulates their inspiration as both individuals and as a band.
Ball continued, “The excitement over reggae music and being in Colorado is really what helped us dive into this music and become so passionate about it all. We are so influenced by our environment that we make our music in and I think that’s really made Policulture the way it is. The outdoors, nature and beautiful surroundings of Colorado really shows in our music and lyrics. That mountain reggae vibe.”
Ball also took the time to talk about why their sound was perceived as more modern. Although Policulture is based from those old Jamaican or Hawaiian fundamental roots, their sound has developed into new age contemporary music coming from influences of American music, including the East Coast, as well as New Zealand, Germany and South America.
Policulture also stressed that this new age feel comes from all the new technologies that are intertwined to modern music, such as the synthesizers and different effects that Policulture completely integrates into their tunes.
Mountains to Cross is Policulture’s newest creation. This is their second full length album and it was recorded in Rochester, NY at Black Dog Studio. Their supporting producer and part-owner of the studio is Matthew Goodwin of Riot City Sounds.
“We wanted to get away from our every-day lives and really take the time to focus on creating and recording the best music we possibly could. We had a lot of the songs written out but we also didn’t want to eliminate any kind of creativity that could happen in the studio,” Ball explained.
Policulture has a good deal of their favorite music stemming from Upstate New York where they find a lot of their favorite bands and influencers such as Giant Panda Guerilla Squad and Easy Star All Stars. Members of these bands also have guest appearances on Mountains to Cross.
Matt Goodwin, producer of Mountains to Cross, was described by Policulture as being one of the best things that could have happened to them. Coming from an admirable background of reggae music, Goodwin encouraged the most creativity and invested some serious studio time into the band. Policulture took ahold of this opportunity and spent ten days in the studio from roughly noon to 4 am.
“A lot of the songs on the new album are about overcoming hard ships on any platform… where the world is today, beliefs, or our relationships. If there is one word the album is about it is perseverance. The mountains that are inevitable in all of our lives,” Ball said.
When asked about how this material was different from previous recordings Ball talked about how much better musicians they were at this point. From taking lessons, getting better at their own craft, and adding guest artists, Policuture aspires to have people invested in their musical craft more than anything.
“It’s a total democracy in our band, it makes everyone have really unique ideas with everyone chiming in. It makes us very hypercritical about things also. Reggae music being so refined also, with very important lyrics, it allows us to try out a bunch of different ways and challenge each other. All six of us," he elaborated.
Policulture explained some of the challenges that they faced during their writing and recording period. The pre-producing stage was somewhat difficult to them as a group, not having much experience with at home recording. The band stressed that this whole learning process really helped them to grow and discover the process together.
Ball continued, “Once we got to the studio that was the easy part. All of us sang on the album. The back-ups are epic, and we all contributed to new ideas, lyrics and melodies. Matt was so open to our creativity also, so everything just blossomed during the recording process.”
Policulture’s group was described as resilient throughout the whole process and took on the challenges with positivity and passion. Ball gave a shout to Jerome for taking a main lead in the exquisite vocals that were produced and helping the band with booking their album release tour.
He also stressed that from this new album they have more concentrated and focused practice sessions, “We no longer run through five songs really quickly and then chat about what we want to fix. We will go through two songs specifically and really ask what we liked and didn’t like about what we played. Focused writing and playing is now a huge part of our routine. The time and effort is there.”
Interestingly enough, Mountains to Cross is not a track on the album but a lyric of a brand-new song on the new release. Their leading track on the new album is called, “What is Right,” and was described as an up-beat, danceable song that frames the vibe of the new album perfectly in terms of melodies and composition.
One of the coolest aspects of Mountains to Cross is the sustainable Kickstarter album campaign associated with the new album. Raising more than their goal of $10,000, Policulture promised to make their campaign as environmentally conscious as possible.
Talking more on the campaign, Ball explained “As a band, we wanted to make a positive influence any way that we could. Obviously, we need money to do things such as record an album, so we definitely wanted to give back what people were generous enough to give us. Also, being a band is a really great way to do that… It’s our main goal as musicians, to change the world in a positive way.”
This includes eco-friendly merchandise including shirts made of plastic bottles, compostable keychains, reusable cups. Also, each reward came with a member of Policulture returning a volunteer action such as picking up trash, homeless care kits and planting trees. This method completely tied into Policulture’s roots, meaning and overall essence as a band.
Ball dove into what a pre-show ritual looks like for them, “We always want to take the time to talk about a lot of the things we want to go right. Our intro, eye contact, the cover songs, speed of songs and the breaks in between songs and our transitions are our main focus.”
Policulture’s album release show is on July 28th at their hometown venue, The Fox Theatre. The band often reminisces on going to their first reggae show there together their freshman year at CU Boulder and truly wishing to be at that level. Since then, Policulture have headlined numerous times at The Fox and developed quite a fan base.
Holum added his thoughts on their Fox Theatre show, “It is so amazing to have the opportunity to release this music to so many friends and family. Boulder, and especially the Fox, have had such a profound influence on our growth and development as musicians and individuals, and we literally could not imagine a better place for the release. It is a powerful experience looking out from the stage and seeing hundreds of people that you love, and know love you.”
Policulture is going to be playing their new album in its entirety but will also be scattering in their classic tunes. They will go on right around 11:00 p.m. following their supporting bands and friends Elegant Plums and Dub Haiku. Guest appearances during Policulture are to be expected and anticipated.
Ball concluded with excitement about the album release show, “To be able to release an album there that we believe is our best material yet is so amazing. Also, to be able to do it with our family members and friends there and being supported by two bands we have known for a really-long time is going to be great. We have been working with the sound engineer and light designer at the fox also for the best production possible for everyone involved.”
Catch Policulture flourishing throughout their album release tour in the Pacific Northwest at the dates listed below; supporting monumental artist such as Soja and Satsang in the process.