Meet Boulder mountain reggae band Policulture
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Policulture is an original mountain reggae group based in Boulder, with a focus on positivity, unity and environmentalism. In the musicians’ decade together, they’ve released the three-track “Brain Power” EP (2013), 11-track “The Bridge” (2014) and 10-track “Mountains to Cross” (2018).
The group features Matt Niederhauser on lead vocals, guitar and melodica, Nick Sumner on keyboards, Kyle Jerome on saxophone and backup vocals, Thom Holum on trombone and backup vocals, Christopher Ball on bass and backup vocals and Casey Theriot on drums. The crew will be rolling into Steamboat Springs for a Saturday show at Schmiggity’s, then touring on through Oregon, Washington, California and Arizona through the end of November.
Explore Steamboat chatted with Jerome and Ball to hear more about the band’s story and music.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Explore Steamboat: How did Policulture form?
Chris Ball: The lead singer and I met in the dorms of UC (University of Colorado Boulder). He was from Hawaii, playing in one of our favorite bands, Groundation. I walked over and said “hi.” Everything else happened really naturally; we all were going to UC and met through a love of reggae and a love of music in general. By 2010, we were really a full band and started gigging together.
ES: What have been a few highlights of the band’s time together so far?
Kyle Jerome: In the past 10 years, we’ve had the opportunity to have a lot of experiences in and out of the state that have been quite awesome — supporting and playing with nationally and internationally touring acts, like The Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, SOJA, Rebelution and John Brown’s Body, that we’ve grown to love.
CB: What’s also been a really fun experience is moving on to being a headlining act, taking on bigger venues and trying to move forward. It’s a big step as a band when you can open for amazing acts and also be a headlining act. Also, it’s been a big step to grow a fan base that we’re super grateful to have.
ES: A big part of the Politiculture premise is that music can change the world. In what ways would you like to see the world be changed?
KJ: As we all are aware, we’re living in a serious time for sure. As a band, we also like to give back to our communities and the communities we play for. If it isn’t for the communities, we wouldn’t have the success as we’ve had. That’s the way we envision music wanting to change the world.
CB: We’d like to see the world influenced by music … to have people start to open up and understand how everybody else is seeing the world and try to work together and move together. In music, you have the gift to have the microphone and everyone’s attention; if everyone can form together under that one message and sound, that would be cool.
KJ: I’m inspired by some other artists — like Rising Appalachia, they do permaculture action days. On tours, we like to get involved in communities. In Boulder, we volunteered with Boulder Parks and Open Space, removing old barbed wire fencing, which helps with ecological restoration and helping animals move freely through those spaces. We all envision wanting to do it more on tour; just, logistically, it’s tricky.
CB: Another thing we take pride in is all our merchandise is sustainable. Our shirts are made out of plastic bottles, sewn in Haiti for five times the typical rate. We have reusable tote bags, compostable keychains and wildflower download cards, which, after you download the music, you can plant.
ES: Tell us the story of “Mountains to Cross” — how it came to be and what it means.
CB: “Mountains to Cross,” the album title, comes from the song “What Would it Take” — it means there are barriers in life, there’s ups and downs, peaks and valleys. You’re going to encounter those in life, but how you handle them and overcome those obstacles is something to take pride in and focus on.
ES: Once a Politiculture show is finished, what feeling or lesson would you hope your audience has taken away or learned?
KJ: We hope to lift people’s hearts and souls up with the music we play. We hope our listeners can feel awesome and ready to go, look at the world with a different perspective and be uplifted. Reggae is all about uplifting. Also, to have a funky fun time and be tired from a night full of dancing.
What: Policulture and Dubbest
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9
Where: Schmiggity’s, 821 Lincoln Ave.
Cost: Free (21 years and older)
ES: Politiculture will be touring with Dubbest. Tell us about how the two bands linked up.
KJ: They’re originally from Massachusetts, and they pronounce their name “da best.” They’re another progressive American reggae band about our age, late 20s, early 30s. They’ve been together since late in high school and took a leap and moved out to San Diego together. They’re really hitting the circuit, and we really love their music. It’s unique and in an East Coast reggae influence with West Coast flavor. They just released their album, “Gold Fever,” on Nov. 1. We’re excited to share the stage with them for a tour of the West.
ES: When you’re on tour in a new place, how do you like to explore the area?
KJ: We all have our own individual ways of exploring. Often, it’s getting away from everyone else, since we’re stuck in a small box for so long, that when we’re free, it’s like we’re a free wild animal. Chris and I particularly like to get out and exercise and go for a hike and enjoy the beauty of wherever we’re at; we’re always happy to go to new towns.
CB: Gotta go to the thrift stores, gotta go to the record shops, gotta experience the city and the people living in it.
ES: For people who haven’t heard Politiculture before, what three songs would you recommend listening to to get a good feel for what the band does?
KJ: 1. “Karma,” 2. “Family,” 3. “Time Before,” 4. “Breathe In.” There’s four.
Julia Ben-Asher is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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