An exclusive interview with The Expanders
Out of Los Angeles, California comes The Expanders with their fully-inspired, Jamaican-style reggae music! The Expanders may not appear like your usual roots-reggae band; yet, this band has more roots from Jamaican-style music than we have seen or heard right now! With backup vocals setting the tone just right for a roots-reggae rendition, The Expanders are expanding the meaning of North American Reggae to include the history of its genre- roots music from Jamaica!
our interest is stuff that was happening in Jamaica 35 to 40 years ago
Top Shelf Reggae joined The Expanders for their part in the In Roots We Trust Tour with The Simpkin Project, and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. Wow! The reaction from their fans, and the performance of their music left us speechless—no wonder this band is getting booked to join other current heavy-hitters to bring their roots music! Not only does their stage performance stand out due to the creativity of their music, but their sources of influence and use of components in their music-making standout too! As noted on their website, the band has worked with such names as Jay Bonner, Sergio Rios, and Blake Collie of other notable bands. Their website states they took their time making their 2011 self-titled album released by Broken Complex Records, and adding, they wanted to take their time incorporating authentic Jamaican sound in their music. They worked on this album from 2006-2010! It’s no wonder why the band toured with The Green last summer, and why they are currently touring with GPGDS and The Simpkin Project- a roots tour that really ties reggae music from the USA together!
In a recent interview with The Expanders, this is what Devin Morrison and Chiquis Lazoya added to the conversation:
How was the tour with The Green?
Great. It was an excellent tour. It was the Western half of the US. So, the farthest east we went was Corpus Christi, Texas, and then it was like Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and then the West Coast, California, Oregon, Portland.
Okay, that's cool. Was that last year?
That was in May and June. It was like a three-week tour.
What else have you guys been doing in the meantime?
Recording our next album. That's been our focus at the moment; it’s getting this new album done.
And how many albums do currently have to date?
We have one album of original material, and we have a second album we released last year. It's our rendition of rare and classic Jamaican songs from the '70s and '80s.
You mean covers?
Covers, yeah. But I don't say cover songs because it's like kind of our rendition of it. It's not straight, but yeah, they're covers. It was released on Christmas. We gave it out for free. Completely free digital download.
Okay, and that’s still available?
It's still up. Yeah, and tonight we're actually selling it on vinyl for the first time. So it's free online digitally and now we've got vinyl that we're selling and I don't think we're going to repress that. It's a limited edition. Once it's gone, it's gone.
You guys keep it pretty, and obviously a lot of influence from Jamaican artists.
Yes. We're more reggae and a lot less rock. We don't really identify with like these terms that are being used, like “Cali” or “Cali Reggae”.
Well, let's go into that actually, because the website - Top Shelf Reggae - is all about reggae rock. Is it that you guys aren’t that into rock?
No, no, no, no. We're like - all of us are like reggae nerds. That's all we listen to.
Highly influenced from Jamaican reggae, right?
Oh, yeah, and we're especially into like rare cuts and hard to find stuff, and obscure artists that the average frat guy that has Legend and a CD player won't know. You know?
Do you guys ever get out to Jamaica?
The music that we like was made in the '60s, through the early '80s, and it's not like we wouldn't like to go to Jamaica, but if there was some time machine available, then we'd travel by it. But some of us, like more individually, we have different tastes and some of us are into like more modern Jamaican stuff, but what we share as a band identity, is that we love old Jamaican music. So, our interest is stuff that was happening in Jamaica 35 to 40 years ago.
Right. What about bringing your music to Jamaica?
We've talked about that. Our drummer is of Jamaican heritage. His parents are Jamaican and he's been to Jamaica many times. He tells us that we have this perception like they would maybe not like us because we're not Jamaican ourselves, but he's like: "Dude, you don't even know. Like they would love it over there." So, yeah, we'd love to do that for sure.
So, tell us about this current In Roots We Trust tour right now.
Sure, yeah. It's funny. Like this tour kind of came about the same way The Green tour came about. I think it was Caleb. They were on some program called Audiotree. I guess it's like a video webcast. And they were asking, like, "Oh, who do you guys like, or what albums do you like?" And Caleb mentioned, like, "Oh, I really like The Expanders," and then, from there, like six months later we got an offer, like: "Hey, this guy wants to bring you on tour." It was a similar thing here with Giant Panda. I remember getting a message on Facebook from one of the guys, like, "Hey, we've been bumping your CD in our van, like on tour and stuff." And then next thing you know, hey, here's an offer to come. I think Panda was introduced to us through a band called Orgone that toured with them. The organ player in Orgone used to play in The Expanders and the guitar player in Orgone, Sergio, is also a recording engineer, and he engineers all our records. We record with him.
So how does it feel to know that people are bumping your music and really digging it? We've noticed too that you guys have been really moving up, getting good exposure as a band and the touring—I'm sure it's every musician's dream.
We're still struggling and stuff, like it's not like we're eating, you know, putting bread on the table from this, but yeah, that feels good—That's the fuel for the fire. You know, what makes us happy is that we're just starting to do our touring now and it's just the beginning for us, and I feel that where we've gotten so far and everything you're talking about with the exposure has come strictly on the strength of the recordings, because we haven't done a lot of touring, so it's just come from people passing around the record and hearing it like that. So, that's cool to us, and then it just lets us know, "Okay, we really can push it on tour. Then we can really expand the exposure."
We've had a lot of support from the other bands in the scene. Like don't get it wrong. Like when Chiquis says we don't really identify with the reggae rock thing, that doesn't mean strictly in a musical sense of what we play, but we love all these bands. We have great relationships with all of them. We love what they're doing, like they're really opening reggae music to a whole new audience and making it accessible, and in a lot of ways making it possible for bands like us to actually play roots reggae and be playing in front of people so, we're very appreciative of all of it.
So, what are you guys currently listening to?
Recently I asked them [band members] to make me a mix of Cornell Campbell, who I'm really into. That has not left my CD player for a month. Cornell Campbell was big hit maker in the '70s in Jamaica.
What about more current bands?
Well, we love The Green. We love Tribal Seeds. Those are some. Simpkin Project is one of our favorites, and those are kind of some of the current bands. Sorry, I'm speaking for everybody. I don't really like listening to newer stuff. I like listening to the old reggae, not to say that stuff they're doing is bad or anything. It's just my preference.
I don't think you like rock.
It's not that, man. When I was 15 years old, I used to be able to play every single Nirvana song on guitar. Shredding it. Of course I like rock. Yeah. We love Bad Religion to infinity too. We like old Bad Religion!