Yellow Dubmarine: If the Beatles met the Wailers

Yellow Dubmarine, a reggae and ska Beatles tribute, performs Saturday at The 8x10.
Yellow Dubmarine, a reggae and ska Beatles tribute, performs Saturday at The 8x10. (Jordan August, Handout photo)

The melody is instantly familiar but the other sounds are not — horns boldly announce their arrival, the patient tempo crawls along and the voice is more Maryland than Liverpool.

When the plea to stay kicks in — "Believe me when I beg you, don't ever leave me alone," he sings — the song's identity becomes clear. It's "Oh! Darling," the Lennon/McCartney classic, but this bouncing version comes courtesy of Yellow Dubmarine, a Rockville eight-piece that plays reggae versions of Beatles songs.

It's a risky concept — does the world need another Beatles cover band, especially one infusing the tracks with reggae and dub influences? Bassist and singer Aaron Glaser says he's aware of the skeptics and purists, but that his band only wants to celebrate the songs so many people enjoy.

"We do all of our arrangements out of a love for the original Beatles songs," Glaser says. "We like to wake them up with a fun, danceable groove and a different sort of musicianship than what the Beatles offered."

Glaser, 24, and his band — which ranges in age from 23 to 28 and includes Robbie Cooper (drums, vocals), Danny Davis (trumpet), Jonathan Drye (percussion), Mario D'Ambrosio (saxophone), Matt Hotez (trombone), Luke Schuster (keys, vocals) and Jonathan Sloane (guitar) — will bring that groove to The 8x10 Saturday night.

The set list will include many songs from "Abbey Dub," the band's debut album and tribute to the 1969 landmark record, "Abbey Road." "Dub's" track listing remains faithful to the Beatles'.

Glaser, a self-described "diehard fan," can't remember his first time hearing the Fab Four. He says he's jealous of people that can recall their first Beatles experience.

"The Beatles' songs are a part of my earliest memories," he says. "A lot of 'Rubber Soul' songs evoke memories of my parents' living room."

Reggae came later. In high school, Glaser discovered his love for Bob Marley and the Wailers and Sublime, thus beginning his love for reggae and its more relaxed, rhythm-based sounds.

"It turned me on to a lot of the performance-side of music," Glaser says.

In 2007, Cooper, Schuster and Glaser agreed to play a memorial concert for a mutual friend who had died. They knew they wanted to celebrate their friend's life, so the band played a set of originals and covers, which included Beatles songs.

"A lot of the [Beatles'] songs apply to life in a very meaningful way," he says.

Everything about Yellow Dubmarine grew — more band members, including a strong horns section, and more shows. Glaser says the group knew it was on to something, and the time had come to plan a record.

While many Marylanders were holed up in their houses during last year's record-setting blizzards, the members of Yellow Dubmarine were composing arrangements for "Abbey Dub." With the rhythm section living together in Rockville, the band unanimously agreed to tackle one of the Beatles' most famous recordings.

"It's got a great flow to it," Glaser says. "It really translates to the live setting and it's an exciting Beatles album that everyone knows."

Produced by the Bridge's Kenny Liner, "Abbey Dub" is a smooth listen, with enough imagination and musicianship to make the odd pairing of Jamaican aesthetics and the original's timeless songwriting seem sensible. Lyrics such as "In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make," sound at home on "Abbey Dub."

Glaser says the group is kicking around ideas for its next Beatles tribute, but that touring in support of "Abbey Dub" is the main priority. Yellow Dubmarine will spend most of November on the road, playing the east coast and a few Midwest dates. Glaser says next year's plan is to book tours out west and other cities they've yet to play. Texas and St. Louis are already on the itinerary.

"We think that [the band] can take us far," he says. "There are Beatles and reggae fans everywhere."

The typical tribute band conundrum — will they ever find success with original songs or are they content playing another band's material — doesn't bother Glaser, because Yellow Dubmarine celebrates songs "people know and love" with a twist.

"We are offering our own artistic vision and having that ownership of the music makes it much more satisfying than being a cover band," he says. "It's the best of both worlds."


If you go

Yellow Dubmarine plays Saturday at The 8x10, 10 E. Cross St., Federal Hill. The Lever and Rail featuring Lael Neale and Trevor Garrod also perform. Doors open at 8 p.m. $10. Call 410-625-2000 or go to the8x10.com.

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