One of Savannah’s most well-known modern musical exports, Passafire has spent the last 15 years charting their own road map to success in the reggae world.
Although none of the members still live in Savannah, Passafire continues to claim the city as their home base and make sure to return a couple of times a year for live shows. In recent years, The Jinx has become a staple stop on their tours. They'll return July 13 to play The Jinx with Athens’ Polar Waves.
“Savannah always tends to be a little more of a rock show,” bassist Will Kubley said. “A little more rowdy than other shows. The Jinx just brings that out of you. It turns every band into a rock band. We’re always in good spirits in Savannah, too.”
In 2003, drummer Nick Kubley and guitarist/singer Ted Bowne started jamming while studying at SCAD. The foundation of Passafire has always been reggae, but over the years the band began including a variety of rock and hip-hop influences that have created a unique tone in the vein of Pepper and Sublime.
“Reggae is the centerpiece,” Kubley said. “It’s not like we’re always trying to work in a reggae element; it’s just come naturally over the years. I think I am definitely more rock and pop-leaning influences. Ted and Nick are definitely more of a reggae and hip-hop side to them. The crossover thing ... is our different backgrounds coming together.”
Passafire self-released their eponymous debut album in 2006, and toured relentlessly behind it. They signed with LAW for their second and third albums, “Submersible” and “Everyone on Everynight.” After launching their own imprint label, Flame Guy Records, and releasing their third album, “Start From Scratch” in 2011, the band redirected their path.
In 2012, they signed with Easy Star Records for their fourth album, “Vines,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Reggae Charts. The album was produced by Paul Leary (Sublime, Pepper, U2). Following an EP in 2015, “Interval,” Easy Star Records released their sixth studio album, “Longshot,” last year.
Rather accidentally, the album focused on the band’s years of touring and recording. As the band has literally grown up on the road, they began to take a look at what that’s meant to them.
“We wrote the songs not thinking about that in that framework, but when we went back and analyzed like, what the songs were about, we realized there was definitely a theme of our lives on the road and us growing up on the road and becoming a family,” Kubley said. “Working hard and missing home and our relationships have been filtered through growing up on the road. Things like that. Trying for that dream that’s not the easiest. Once we realized that, it made sense that 'Longshot' kind of summed all of that up.”
Rather than tying themselves to an idea to start the creative process of writing new material, Passafire opts to ease into it, allowing whatever they’re feeling to inform what they’re writing.
“That’s my favorite part of songwriting,” Kubley said. “When you’re writing the song, sometimes, you yourself don’t even know what you’re trying to say. When you go back and figure it out, it kind of lets you know what was going on in your subconscious.
"It’s weird; if you let that voice out, without thinking too hard about it, it will show you what’s going on. Or, it will be really dumb and you’ll be like, this is a dumb song to write," he adds with a laugh. "‘Longshot’ was a product of us being a working band in 2018. There’s a lot that goes into that.”
After years of touring, Passafire has downshifted to about one to five shows a month. They all live in different parts of the country, and work on their own solo projects when not touring or writing for Passafire.
“We all lived in Savannah for a long time,” Kubley said. “I left about five years ago. We all just kind of slowly phased out. Ted was the last to go. Ten-plus years is a long time for anyone to live in a certain area. We love Savannah, but you know, life happens. We will always tell people that the band is from Savannah. That’s where it all happened.”