More Than Reggae


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Music can be defined by many genres, but normally, every artist or band will stick to one style throughout her or his career. This is not the case for Public Property.

Usually labeled a reggae band, the Public Property members say they play a mixture of numerous styles of music. Lead singer and originator of the band Dave Bess tries to pin down the group’s genre.

“I would say we are more of a hybrid,” he said. “[We are] reggae, ska, soul, hip-hop, and rock.”

Public Property will perform its signature sound at 10 p.m. Friday at the Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn St. Admission is $10.

With the combination of sounds, one may think Public Property makes music that is disorganized and chaotic, but Bess said all the music meshes through the combination of instruments.

“Reggae is the foundation, but we have lots of different influences,” Bess said. “All the songs are different, and it all comes down to how you initially start writing a song.”

Drummer Ben Franklin said the genre Public Property is defined as is not so important as the rhythm of the music. Because reggae is the prominent sound of the band, the drums and melodic components are crucial.

“Our drums and guitar are the most important parts of reggae,” Franklin said. “It takes the drums to really emphasize that feel.”

Reggae is clearly the sound that comes through Public Property’s music, but its second biggest is the somewhat unknown genre of ska.

Originating in Jamaica, ska is described as a mix of reggae and rhythm and blues. Once again, rhythm comes to the forefront when talking about Public Property.

While rhythm is a large focus for the band, songwriter Bess said the lyrics have been equally as important as the instrumentals.

“[We have] songs about social and political commentary or simply about having a party,” he said.

However, sometimes-heavy lyrics do not lead to a lackluster live performance.

“Public Property shows have always been about us executing a party atmosphere and very danceable music,” Bess said.

He also said the group is not a “jam band.”

“We never appealed to the jam-band philosophy of long, extended solos; it is built around a structured song,” Bess said. “[It’s] high energy dance music in our own style.”

Public Property has been together on and off since 2003, when Bess started the group. The show in Iowa City will be the band’s 10th anniversary.

Over the past decade, 17 members have been a part of the group. Bess considers the band a seven-piece set, which usually includes keyboard, bass, drums, lead guitar, rhythm guitar, ukulele, and two to three female vocalists to “mostly sing harmony.”

One of the singers, Margaret Larson, who has been with the band since the beginning, says it has been important to have so many band members over the years.

“One of the great things about working with all of the musicians in the various incarnations of our lineup was that we all brought a flavor to Public Property’s music, and those became a sound and an experience that we loved to create and that our fans loved to listen and dance to,” Larson said.

Public Property
When: 10 p.m. Friday
Where: Yacht Club, 13 S. Linn
Admission: $10

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