The Iration Nation

By Steven Libowitz   |   August 23, 2022
Iration has come a long way from its early days of playing in IV (photo by Chris Colclasure)

Iration’s most recent album is called Coastin’, described as a record about being thankful for the moments that we have. The reggae/alt.rock band’s current tour, in which Iration co-headlines with the Minneapolis based underground hip-hop act with the cheery name of Atmosphere, is dubbed Sunshine & Summer Nights. So Iration’s lead singer-guitarist-songwriter Micah Pueschel understands why that might not immediately appeal to everyone, but he’s making no apologies for Iration’s upbeat vibe. 

“A happy, positive reggae-rock band from Hawaii located in Southern California? I get it,” Pueschel said. “I imagine my initial reaction would be maybe it’s a little too saccharin without enough edge. We do have some songs like that. But it’s not one-note reggae. There’s a lot more going on, too. It’s dynamic and it’s big and diverse with a lot of musicality.

Indeed, the sound has shifted a bit from its early days as Isla Vista favorites in the mid-2000s – when Iration would regularly draw thousands of students and others to its regular gigs on Del Playa – on the way to festival regulars who will be playing yet another show at the Santa Barbara Bowl on August 25. But the vibe has remained the same, even as evolving iterations of Iration continue to place albums on the top of the reggae charts and sell out venues across the nation. And Pueschel, the only band member who still lives in Santa Barbara, is just fine with that. 

Q. Did you ever imagine back in IV that Iration would be where you are now? 

A. We were just some dudes from Hawaii that decided to start this band, who got popular in a college town. But it wasn’t until we started doing original songs, sold out a club on the Sunset Strip where people were singing our songs, that it started to take off. The whole reggae/island music sound was getting popular, and we were able to carve out our own space. 

What was that first Bowl show like at the KJEE Summer Roundup a decade or so ago? 

We didn’t play our best because we were also nervous and playing on such a big stage, and in our hometown. We weren’t quite ready for it. But we love it every time we get to come back because it’s always a cool moment to play the County Bowl [sic] where we used to go see other bands as
college kids. 

Talk about how your sound grew over the years.

When [original co-lead singer Kai Rediske left] that threw us for a loop and took some of the momentum we’d been building. But it also allowed us to naturally evolve to where we could just let it go and be ourselves and let the songwriting take us where it wanted to go rather than trying to direct it in the same way… But now, actually, after making three records that had a lot of high production with drum loops and everything, we’re trying to go back a little bit, going back to more of an organic feel, focusing on hearing the room, hearing the band playing together. The idea is to draw as much energy from the live performance as we can, which is what makes us special, and get that onto a record as opposed to trying to make them sound perfect… In concert, we play stuff from our whole catalog, though, because we try to please everyone from whenever they became a fan. Feed them a good meal. We’re people pleasers. 

And still maintaining the positive attitude, even during the ongoing pandemic… 

Yeah, that’s just who we are. If we tried to do downer songs, or get political or talk about hardship, it would be bull—-. We grew up in Hawaii and we’ve all had pretty good lives and we feel very lucky. What we do is truthful and real. So even when we do songs about having issues, we still put a positive spin on it, and have an optimistic outlook by the end.

Looking back to IV days, when it was all about fun and keeping drunk college kids interested, how do you think it shaped the band and how much is still there now?

It’s in our DNA. We always want to do a higher energy show than people might expect to get that response of getting the crowd going. You seek that forever. What it comes down to is trying to recapture that Isla Vista vibe and that wild, crazy feeling of anything can happen. It’s that desire to feel that rush of those initial shows again. 

Speaking of which, you have a toddler daughter. Are you going to let her hit the IV scene when she’s older? 

No! God help me! Hopefully by then, UCSB turns even more into an Ivy League-type school, and I won’t have to worry. 


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