“So much of modern Hawaiian music and culture is a direct product of the influence of reggae music and culture,” says Rian Basilio, lead singer and frontman of Rian Basilio and The Roosters. “This is really where the soul of The Roosters began, on a chain of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.”
Originally from the Big Island of Hawaii, Basilio grew up in an area greatly inspired by the message and overall vibrations of reggae music. As a film student in San Diego, he gravitated towards rock music, playing in a rock band for several years. After he completed school and landed a job working for a TV station in Los Angeles in the early 2000s, Basilio began to grow homesick for the culture, the food and the people of Hawaii.
As fate would have it, one of his friends had left a ukulele at his house after a night of partying. “The ukulele is an instrument synonymous with Hawaii and one that I played almost all my life growing up,” he explains. “I hadn't played one in years and from the moment I picked it up, it was like being in a time machine taking me back to my childhood, playing music with family and friends in the backyard. This is where my journey with reggae really began to take shape.”
Soon after, Basilio put up an ad on Craigslist, looking for musicians in the L.A. area interested in playing roots and Hawaiian-style reggae. This led him to link up with drummer/keyboardist Joey “The Hawaiiantist” Muraoka. After nearly three years of sifting through several other musicians, the two finally found the right pieces to form what would eventually become The Roosters.
When asked why they chose this name for the band, Basilio replies, “Almost anywhere you go in Hawaii, you are going to hear roosters in the morning. To me, that sound symbolizes the beginning of a new day. A new day to see, do, change and be anything you want. A fresh start and a blank slate to create whatever life you wish to live. So much popular music has turned to promoting negative and harmful messages to our people. The Roosters aim to take this opportunity of a new beginning to raise the visibility of reggae and its culture to the forefront of popular music.”
The band’s first release came in August 2011 in the form of a self-titled album, on which Basilio and Muraoka were the only two musicians who were featured throughout. Nearly four years later, Rian Basilio and The Roosters are set to drop their second full-length, Birds of Paradise. Due out Aug. 7, the new album marks the first time the entire nine-piece band was involved in the composing, arranging and recording of the project from start to finish.
Birds of Paradise was recorded in eight different studios with three different producers and a plethora of different instruments and guest artists, including Marlon Asher and Los Angeles’ own Karim of Arise Roots. The album’s first single, “Everything I Am,” has received major airplay on Hawaiian reggae radio, even becoming the most-requested song Oahu's 93.1 Da Paina.
A man of many trades, Basilio is also involved in other projects that keep him connected to his passions for film, photography and art. He currently runs a photography and videography business known as Tuntadun Ent., which specializes in music videos, social media content, and fashion and product photography. He also runs a sketch comedy channel called Tuntadun Films that can be found on YouTube. And two years ago, he discovered an interest in visual art, thanks to Roosters' guitarist Josh Cardinali, and has been sharpening his skills ever since, doing everything from family portraits on canvases to murals on walls. “It has become a very much needed artistic release when the music is not keeping me busy,” says Basilio.
But music remains Basilio's first love, and he's excited for fans to hear Birds of Paradise and for The Roosters to hit the road in support of the album. “When someone sits down and listens to this album as a whole, they will be able to get a glimpse of the ups and downs of my life. Every song is a real story, real emotion, real experience.”
Rian Basilio and The Roosters perform Sunday, August 16 at Basement Tavern in Santa Monica. For more info, visit www.roostersreggae.com.