Santa Cruz, California’s The Expendables have been blending reggae, ska, punk and metal for the last 16 years, releasing five studio albums along the way. Monday Magazine’s Michael Luis caught up with guitarist Raul Biachi.
MM: So a just a few years ago, if you Google searched The Expendables, you guys would probably be the only result. But then some movies came out. How has their popularity affected the band?
Raul Biachi: They screwed us a little bit. They’ve got money, so they can buy all the Google ad space. We used to be the only thing that came up on YouTube, too. Maybe it hasn’t been that noticeable, but in terms of people mistakenly finding us on facebook, Instagram and Twitter, we get lots of people asking us about the movies and stuff. I mean, hopefully it’s helped us. Maybe people are looking for the movie and stumble upon us.
MM: One of things I find remarkable about you guys is that you add metal into that mix-up of genres you guys play. I’m curious as to what some of your favourite metal bands were growing up. Who inspired you?
RB: The first metal album I had was probably Master of Puppets [by Metallica] and then after that it was Cowboys From Hell by Pantera; those were probably my two favourite bands. All of the early Metallica and almost everything by Pantera I absolutely love. I also still listen to lots of Iron Maiden.
MM: You guys recently put out an all-acoustic album (Gone Soft), which I really liked by the way. I liked the way the older songs were reimagined.
MM: So would you guys ever consider putting out an all-metal release? Maybe just an EP with some heavier tunes?
RB: We definitely have. One of the things we’ve thought about doing is a split with ourselves, where we do two EPs in one: one all metal and one all reggae. And one of the ideas we approached was doing newer versions of some songs. Like maybe doing heavier versions of some of our reggae songs and doing reggae versions of some more rock or metal songs. We don’t really have time for it right now, but it’s something that we’re definitely considering.
MM: You guys have done it before though. I think “Die For You” has both a reggae version and a metal version recorded.
RB: (Laughs) Yeah, that’s one song we’ve done like three or four times. It started out as a straight-up rock song, and then we tried it with a ballad-y acoustic vibe, and then again on the acoustic album. When we do it live it’s a hybrid.
MM: Cool, and speaking of playing live, you guys are approaching a tour with The Dirty Heads and you’re playing three Canadian dates. Are you excited to make the trip north?
RB: Yeah, we haven’t been to Canada since we were on Warped Tour in 2011, so we’re excited to be back.
MM: And you guys are playing with Australian band Cat Empire here in Victoria. Are you excited for that?
RB: Yeah, this whole tour we’re excited about. It’s two months away but it can’t come soon enough.
MM: You guys are also currently working on a new album, and you’ve decided to let your fans name it. What are the best and worst names that people have come up with?
RB: (Laughs). They’ve pretty much been all bad, both what we came up with and the fans. Most of the fans just came up with pretty generic weed references. But the best one that a fan came up with was My Mom Can’t Wrestle But You Should See Her Box.
MM: So that’s the title we can expect to see on store shelves is what you’re saying?
RB: (Laughs). I hope so.
MM: You mentioned that your fans came up with weed references. You guys have many songs about weed and have even done merch such as Expendables-brand glassware, but are you ever worried about being pigeonholed as a “stoner band?”
RB: Yeah, it definitely has occurred to us. And a lot of times that’s the only way that people associate with us. I’m not a big marijuana smoker myself — some of the other guys in the band are — but I personally have no problem with it and support it. Like, I smoke occasionally. I don’t mind being associated, but I think that sometimes that’s all people see us for. We are a band who does this for a living – this is our career – and we spend lots of time and effort trying to create good music. Not necessarily about weed, but sometimes sex or love — anything. I’d like people to see us for everything we do as a band. But so far, being so closely associated with marijuana culture has helped us. I hope it doesn’t hurt us in the long run, but so far it’s been nothing but positive.
Catch the Expendables Friday, July 19 on day one of the Phillips Backyard Weekender at Phillips Brewery alongside The Cat Empire and The Dirty Heads. Some tickets are still available at Ditch Records, Phillips Brewery (2010 Government), Lyle’s Place and http://tktwb.tw/11TeTVp.