Interview with David Bess of Public Property

Whether it's the searing social messages, the party uke songs, or the three lovely ladies harmonizing that seduce you to the groove, one thing is undisputed: Public Property is hot.
By: Patrick Knibbs

HGMN: For those unfamiliar with Public Property how would you describe the band in one sentence?

Bess: Public Property is a 7-piece reggae act out of Iowa City, IA, complete with female vocalists, full harmonies, a ukulele, and songs that speak to our modern struggles without relying on any religious context or contrived assumptions of what reggae should be.

HGMN: One doesn't usually picture Iowa City as a hot-bed for Reggae. How did this all come about?

Bess: I could say that it came about because I was born and raised in Hawaii and reggae is huge there. I grew up with it and wanted to represent what I loved about the music I grew up with in Public Property. Or I could say that these days it doesn't really matter where you're from, because music is readily available all over the world and cultures across oceans are constantly influencing each other. It all depends on what you're exposed to.

HGMN: With seven members, and soaring gas prices. How will Public Property survive on the road? Have any your upcoming "road" gigs been hampered by this?

Bess: Not yet. We try and keep a tight budget as much as possible. We eat cheap on the road and are always watching what we spend and what's coming in. Our van runs on diesel and has fairly good gas mileage considering the weight it's pulling, so we probably don't have it as bad as some other bands. Plus we can run on biodiesel when we can find it. We will most likely become part of a biodiesel coop in IC very soon to help cut the cost and help support local biodiesel and for obvious environmental reasons.

HGMN: Where does Public Property foresee the future of music, in general, heading? And how will Pub Prop fit into that vision?

Bess: Right now it looks like all sorts of styles are merging and established styles continue to push on and evolve. As Jaco said, we don't play fuckin fusion, we play music! That being said, many of our heroes and influences are dead, so it's good that we maintain some sort of line of evolution. I am proud to play reggae music and keep reggae music alive. I don't believe any established "style" or genre will ever die. Hip-hop will never die, reggae will never die. They will just keep evolving with the times. I met a Rasta in San Francisco who had played horn with Bob Marley way back in the day. He must have been in his late 60s or early 70s. He said he was happy to see that our generation was continuing reggae music, the evolution of it, etc. That was one of the best things anyone could have said to me about our band: that he was happy to see we were continuing what he and so many others had started. I'm not sure where we fit in this future, or this present. Hopefully we can fit on your iPod or in your CD player.

HGMN: Has playing and traveling with the two ladies (Margaret, and Marvena) made the gents in the band behave a little differently?

Bess: Mareva is spelled like so. Traveling with the ladies has never been different for me, since they were pretty much in the band from the beginning. We would probably be more disorganized, eat worse food, and argue more if they weren't with us. But who knows? I was dating Mareva before she joined the band, so that is a whole different set of circumstances. I imagine that if the girls weren't in the band we'd all be a bit more slutty, though maybe not, cause some of us don't get much on the road anyways. We'd be a more boring and predictable bunch without them, and probably say more stupid shit because of it.

HGMN: What can we expect from Public Property in the immediate future - new album, touring, ect?

Bess: Right now we are rehearsing and writing new material. We are crossing our fingers that our 4th album will be released in 2007. Right now it looks promising. We are pretty much constantly touring. After Wakarusa we are going to Colorado for a couple weeks, then Returning to the Midwest for touring and some recording, then back to Colorado after Dogstock. We are taking a 2 week vacation in August after which we are jumping back into touring the Midwest. We are planning an east coast tour in the fall and tentatively planning a tour to the West coast and Hawaii in early 2008.

HGMN: Are there any groups you guys are playing with this summer that you're looking forward to see, from a fan's perspective?

Oteil and the Peacemakers were great to see at Summercamp. Unfortunately we will miss a lot at Wakarusa because we have to keep moving after our show. Looking forward to playing a couple shows with Euforquestra and playing at Camp Euforia in July (a local festival they put on). If we get into the 10,000 Lakes Festival, we would all be pretty stoked to see Dweezel. Crossing our fingers.

HGMN: How do you feel about the mission behind Dogstock? And our any of you guys pet owners?

Bess: I think it's a great mission. Unfortunately we are not pet owners. We all live together and all tour together, so it's too much to properly take care of a pet. Margaret has a cat that she had to give up to her mom because of all the band touring. Right now the rabbits in the yard and our pit bull of a merchandise man will have to do.