Issue 77

Monthly newspaper and online publication targeting 18 to 35 year olds. The ultimate guide to the hottest parties, going out and having fun. Music, fashion, film, travel, festivals, technology, comedy, and parties! London, Barcelona, Miami and Ibiza.

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Page 56 of 59

How's it going? Life treating you well? Life is beautiful! You've started your Hustling Culture tour right? We're covering most of the West Coast with our good friends and great young band Ital Vibes, and finishing off with four dates supporting The Green. I see that you were also performing with Collie Buddz as part of his Prescription Tour, what was it like being on the road with him? Collie Buddz was a great guy to travel with, and he is a killer performer! He absolutely murdered every stage. We are always thankful when we get to tour with artists of his calibre, because it affords us two big opportunities: to watch and learn from a great performer, and to bring our music to their sizeable reggae-loving audiences. So the tour was great! Let's take it back a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you started making music together? John Butcher and I grew up on the same street together and we've known one another since age 2. We were in punk bands in high school in the mid-90s, but at the same time were becoming huge reggae fans through being exposed to the music by reggae historian Roger Steffens. We were friends with his son and we would often go over to his house in Echo Park to dig through his crates. In 1999, while I was a junior and Butcher was a senior, we decided to ditch the punk thing and started The Expanders with Butcher's brother Brian on bass and Ben Malament (who went on to start The California Honeydrops in Oakland, CA) on drums. When Ben left for college, John and I started doing acoustic reggae, learning to sing harmonies in the fashion of The Ethiopians and The Gladiators. Flash forward to 2004 when we played our first gig in LA's legendary ska scene at The Bluebeat Lounge in Hollywood. It was there that we met Chiquis Lozoya, who at that time was playing bass in almost every notable ska band in LA. He quickly became a huge supporter of The Expanders and joined the band a year later, first as a third harmony singer and very soon after as bassie. At this point we still did not have a drummer. We had been playing since 2003 with our good friend Luis Chuquillanqui on congas, and we never felt the need to add a drum kit. But we slowly started experimenting with drummers from the reggae scene until around 2007 or 2008 when Chiquis called John Asher to come play with us at a house party we were doing. He did several more gigs with us that year, as well as recording in the studio for the majority of the tracks on our first album. In 2008 when we were recruited for a second consecutive year to back some foundation Jamaican artists at the Sierra Nevada World Music festival in Northern California, we called Asher for the gig. He's been with us ever since! You've been recording for almost a decade, what are your career highlights? We've been blessed with many, many amazing experiences so far, and it's tough to narrow it down. From 2006 to 2012, we were the backing band for more than a dozen of our favourite Jamaican artists including Alton Ellis, The Ethiopians, The Maytones, The Wailing Souls, Roy Shirley, Willie Williams, Prince Jazzbo, and more. Playing with those legends, talking to them, soaking up their knowledge and vibe, all of that was invaluable to us and we are forever thankful for those opportunities. Beyond that, we've been fortunate to tour with some of the biggest and best bands in today's reggae scene including Slightly Stoopid, Tribal Seeds, and The Green. And for the last year we have been truly blessed to team up with Rootfire and Ineffable Management, as well as Easy Star Records, and the forming of these relationships are easily some of the biggest highlights of our career. How did Expanders Sound Reggae Radio come about? Chiquis and myself spent years collecting reggae vinyl and DJing around LA. I started Expanders Sound Reggae Radio because although I love DJing, as a live DJ your main task is to keep the people dancing. This means that many slower roots gems never get played. Expanders Sound Reggae Radio was just a way to play some of my favourite old Jamaican 7"s and LPs that were often neglected in the dance. What is it about 70s and 80s reggae that is so special to you? So much. The music from that time has a sound like nothing else ever created. It's magical. Roger Steffens once read me a quote that he came across in his early days of discovering reggae that is as good as any other I've heard: "Reggae music creeps into your blood stream like some vampire amoeba from the psychic rapids of upper Niger." Ha!! I wish I knew who that quote was by. But yeah, it's unlike anything else. And beyond the musical sounds, reggae from that era is the spiritual outpouring of a people who were (and are) like the rest of the African diaspora living with the traumatising economic and social legacy of slavery and colonialism, a legacy that creates poverty, violence, racism, all those things. Once you tune into that vibration, it's nearly impossible to tune out; I know I never have. Jamaican reggae is obviously a huge influence, do you travel to Jamaica often? Never been! Why did you decide to record and release Old Time Something Come Back Again, an album of covers? We've always incorporated our favourite Jamaican tunes into our live set, the same way jazz bands are constantly recreating old standards. We decided that it would be good to have a project to work on in the studio and release while we were writing what eventually became Hustling Culture. Also, since we played many of those tunes live, we thought it would increase the audience's enjoyment if they could familiarize themselves with the tunes and sing along at our shows. Beyond all that, we just love to pay tribute to our musical heroes, and we hope that through that album modern reggae audiences can become exposed to some of our favourite artists. Your new album Hustling Culture came out in June, what was the inspiration behind the record? The songs on the record cover a variety of themes and there are definitely different sources of inspiration for different songs. To be honest, I think as a songwriter I identify more with the old Jamaican model of writing material to be released as singles, rather than "writing an album". That being said, this record definitely showcases the band as a cohesive unit more than the first record did. I think you can hear how comfortable we've become playing together, and how much we trust each other musically. If there is a unifying theme for this album it's that we are going to hustle our brand of roots-and-culture music, and we will stay true to that hustle no matter the financial rewards. In the end the most important thing to us is to attempt to carry on the Jamaican tradition of social commentary through music, and to pair those sentiments with the style of reggae music that we love. You've partnered with Easy Star to release this one, why did you decide to sign with them? And why now? We've always respected what Easy Star has done in the reggae community. And once we started really going deep and talking to people in the know, the overwhelming consensus was that these were the guys to work with, who treat the artists as they should be treated, and who have the same passion and belief in the music. Beyond that, they attract a kind of attention that we just felt we could not do on our own. We are STOKED on how things are progressing so far. We love everyone on the team, and we are very happy with our choice. Would you ever form your own record label? Is that an ambition of yours? We always talk about it! We would love to one day have the resources to promote some of the great young bands that exist today, and the ones we know are sure to emerge in the coming years. So yes, yes, yes. What's the reggae scene like in California? I'm still trying to digest what's been happening in California these last few years. So many bands have just exploded onto the national landscape in such an impactful, meaningful way. The best part is that there is a real community that exists between the bands, between the fans, with everyone! It's a family vibe, and it's a beautiful thing. When will you next be playing in Europe? Hopefully soon! Bring us to Europe! Have you got any other exciting projects in the pipeline that you'd like to share with us? We are brainstorming this very thing at the moment. High on the "to-do" list is an acoustic album, and some incarnation of an Old Time Something...volume II. What are you listening to at the moment? The Itals, song called 'Temptation' off of the Nighthawk compilation Early Recordings 1971-1979. What's the first record you bought? Do you mean album, or literally record? If album, then I'm not ashamed to say it was a cassette tape of The Comfort Zone by Vanessa Williams. Ha!! If actual record, then Super Ape by Lee Perry. Which song do you wish you had written? So many! The one that springs to mind right now is the original rocksteady version of 'Happiness by Bob Marley and The Wailers. That hook "and if you don't come I'm gonna go looking yeah, for happiness." Man...I'm just gonna go ahead and say that in my opinion Bob Marley was the world's greatest songwriter, in any genre, ever. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and what would you do with it? I guess some kind of super strength that could be used to defend the defenceless. If you could fill a swimming pool with anything, what would it be and why? Come on now. Top shelf collie weed! 7 57 Issue 77 / 2015 REGGAE / DANCE HALL The Expanders have been perfecting their signature roots sound for coming up to ten years and the California crew are showing no signs of slowing down. They combined with reggae powerhouse Easy Star Records to release their latest album Hustling Culture, a partnership that is sure to see their fanbase grow further. We caught up with the band to talk about the Cali reggae scene, classic Jamaican tunes and touring with Collie Buddz " I'm just gonna go ahead and say that in my opinion Bob Marley was the world's greatest songwriter, in any genre, ever"

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