A single moment can change a band. It can alter their direction and sound.
That’s what happened to Boston’s Dubbest when the group went into the studio in 2011 to record the single “Heat And Water” with producer Craig Welsch (10 Ft. Ganja Plant).
What they learned working with him affected the entire way they approached their next album, “Avoid the Pier.” And the product of that new maturity will be on show as the band undertakes it first headlining tour, more than a dozen dates all along the East Coast of the U.S.
“When we went in to record ‘Heat And Water,’ it was eight minutes long and had several different parts,” explains Dubbest guitar player Andrew MacKenzie. “Craig helped us simplify it. We shortened it and he worked with us on the arrangement.”
Perhaps the biggest development from the recording was that singer and melodica player Ryan Thaxter also began using keyboards.
“That really filled out the sound,” Mackenzie says, “and it gave us so many more possibilities.”
By the time they worked with Welsch, the members of Dubbest were just two years out of high school. MacKenzie and bassist Sean Craffey had already been playing together for several years, and in high school they’d met guitarist Cory Mahoney and Thaxter, along with drummer Kyle Hancock.
“We discovered we all like those pop-punk bands like Blink 182, and we decided to jam, playing punk and ska. We did a lot of shows together. But after a while it was hard to really find a release or reward in that music.”
Meanwhile, a classmate had played them Augustus Pablo’s seminal 1974 reggae classic, “Ital Dub,” a record that affected the band members profoundly.
“We loved the grooves and the feel of things,” MacKenzie recalls. “The way things went in and out of the mix really struck a chord with us. We realized that reggae and dub would add a whole new feel to a modern sound.”
And so Dubbest was born in 2009, while the members were still high school seniors. After a year, they recorded their debut, “Off Dubai.” That led to appearances all over New England, and eventually to that fateful session with Welsch.
After that, the band followed its instincts, experimenting with their fuller sound at rehearsals and integrating the dub element seamlessly into their songs.
Working in their rehearsal space, they began to record. Over the next eight months, in between playing shows, they laid down the tracks for what would become “Avoid the Pier.”
“He’s been a big influence on us,” MacKenzie admits. “When we made the single with him, he said the best experience we could ever have as musicians would be to tour as much as possible. That really stayed with us.”
It was the inspiration behind booking their first tour as headliners. “We knew the time had come. We’re going down to Florida and working our way back up to the North East, playing more than a dozen dates on the way.”
The shows promise to be adventurous, as Dubbest likes to stretch out when playing live.
“We change the set list and jam on stage,” MacKenzie says. “We touch the roots side of reggae more than many American bands, but we like to explore, too. It’s high energy, but there are also plenty of dub effects in the mix.”