Reggae rockers kick off tour at Cal Poly

San Diego reggae band Through the Roots will play today at 11 a.m. at Cal Poly's Via Carta Mall near Campus Market. Courtesy photo

San Diego’s Through the Roots will play a free show at Cal Poly’s Via Carta Mall, near Campus Market today before going on to tour the West. They said they plan to play songs on the tour that no one has heard.

The band’s story isn’t entirely typical of many groups today. Through the Roots formed back in 2008 when the death of a good friend of the band sparked the band’s song writing, band manager Grant Betrix said.

The first song they ever wrote was ‘Man Down.’ “It’s about a good friend that died,” Betrix said. “The first guy to really get the band idea going was Chris.”

Chris Cruz met up with friends Evan Hawkins, Bryan Jackson and Taylor Boatwright and began playing music in their room. Brady O’Rear joined the band after being found on Craigslist to play keyboards.

At the moment, the band members have a lot of things on their minds. Practicing their songs as much as possible is one of them. Hawkins, the band’s singer, said the most important thing to the band is the crowd’s response to their music.

“For us, making it is getting good feedback from people. When someone comes up to me and says they don’t really listen to our genre of music but they like us, that makes me feel great,” Hawkins said. “We take this seriously. Some money in the pocket would be nice but ultimately it’s for the fans.”

It’s easy for bands like Through the Roots to be compared to the other American bands playing reggae music that have spawned over the past decade. Through the Roots likes to ignore that sort of thing. They say their biggest difference from those bands is their lack of help from a record company or big-name producer.

“Bands like that have a lot of help. We don’t have a record deal, we’ve had to pretty much do this on our own,” the band said. “We want to be as big as we can be but we don’t want to compare ourselves to any of the other bands out there like that.”

The music on their new album is different from bands like Iration, who Through the Roots is about to begin touring with, and 311, who has taken on the role of godfather to this now not-so-new genre of music.

“A lot of what’s on our new album is what’s going to set us apart. We’re using a lot of reggae bass lines and heavy in-your-face songs. We also use a lot of synth which is different,” Hawkins said. “We’re mixing a lot of genres, trying to come up with the best sound.”

Through the Roots will play today at 11 a.m. before going on to play another free show at California State University, Monterey Bay. They meet up with Iration for the Time Bomb Tour on April 23 and will play shows in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Washington.

Dave Carlsen is in charge of booking bands for Cal Poly’s concerts. He found them while looking at online profiles of bands like the Expendables, Iration and Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds.

“I look for something the Cal Poly students are going to enjoy,” Carlsen said. “I put my personal preferences aside. It’s about what the students enjoy.”

Carlsen said he looks forward to today’s show. He said that Cal Poly is contacted all the time by bands that are looking to get exposure to a crowd of college students and Through the Roots really caught his ear.

“My initial reaction to Through the Roots is that they’re going to be the next big thing in the genre. They’ve got a pretty clean sound, it’s really catchy reggae with a rock base,” Carlsen said. “It’s going to be a great show.”