The Expendables’ killer new album, Prove It, was released a few weeks ago. I sat down with lead singer/guitarist Geoff Weers (on their posh tour bus!) before the band’s gig at the Ventura Theater last night with Tomorrows Bad Seeds, Big B, and Dirty Penny to chat about the album, the tour, and the genre, which seems to be increasing in popularity by the minute. I’ll have you know, this interview was my first experience on a tour bus, and man, it made me feel like quite a golden god.
When I climbed on board, Geoff was watching the final moments of Karate Kid 2, and shortly thereafter, DUNE began (and was muted for our interview, but still visible on screen for our viewing pleasure, due to its epicness and David Lynch weirdness, of course).
Cheese: How has the tour been so far?
Geoff: It’s been really good. On our tours we like to take out bands that not only we like their music, we also like them as people, so having Tomorrows Bad Seeds out, we like all the guys, we like their music, having Big B, DJ Klaw, we like them, they’re awesome musicians. And then, our friends Dirty Penny from Santa Cruz, we like to have a bill where it’s, you know, this tour starts with Dirty Penny, they’re like throwback hair metal, rock & roll, and then Big B, which is like rap/hip hop. And then we’ve got Tomorrows Bad Seeds, which is kind of like what we do, and then us, so we have a very diverse bill, so people hopefully don’t get bored.
Cheese: Going along with that, the Dirty Heads seem to be blowing up everywhere with Lay Me Down, Prove It is doing well on the charts, Tomorrows Bad Seeds’ album is doing well on the charts, and Pepper & Rebelution keep getting bigger and bigger. I’d say it’s a good time for this kind of music, right? Where do you see this kind of stuff going?
Geoff: I’d see it keep going, you know, getting more and more popular, because we’ve been around for quite some time, almost 13 years now. It’s good to see the bands that started a little bit after us keep it going, and some of them are really starting to make a name for themselves.
Cheese: I went to the West Beach Festival last year in Santa Barbara, and it was a great show, they were in trouble with the zoning or whatever, and I heard that they saved it and it’s going to happen again this summer. Everybody was there, pretty much, except for –
Geoff: Except for us, we were recording our album.
Cheese: Well that’s a good reason not to be there.
Cheese: In my review of Prove It, I mention that I usually don’t like to use the phrase “it’s the most mature album” any band has made, but that’s kind of what I felt with this one. You guys have done the reggae stuff, you’ve done the hard rock stuff on other albums, but not as cohesively as it’s done on this one –
Cheese: And I’ve seen some fans on your Facebook page saying things like “There aren’t enough reggae songs, it’s too polished”, and all that, and I’ve defended it a few times, saying “what are you guys talking about, are you listening to the same stuff I’m listening to?” –
Geoff: Haha, yeah.
Cheese: How do you feel about Prove It and how it’s doing?
Geoff: I agree with you that we’re maturing; we went into the studio pretty much the most prepared out of any time going into the studio. This is our fifth full-length album, we’ve kind of learned a lot by trial & error, but for this album we really came in with a lot of songs. Each song that we had was pretty much ready to go, as far as it was written, the arrangement was there, all of our parts we kind of honed in on and picked what we were going to play, so that, and plus we had some really good producers and a good studio.
Cheese: Yeah, I wanted to ask how was working with El Jefe from NOFX, he was there on a couple songs, right?
Geoff: He tracked a lot of songs, he didn’t mix them, but he tracked like half? A little less than half of the record. It was good to have him in there, he went to music school, he knows how to sing really well.
Cheese: The song Wells, in particular, my friends saw the tour a couple months ago, and it was just you playing it by yourself. Then the song became more fleshed out, and G. Love joined in. How did that come about?
Geoff: It worked out because we used to call that song ‘G. Love Song’ because when we went on tour with him, we didn’t think our music really blended well with his music, because we’re more reggae and metal, and that song was our only song that we had that we could play that was sort of along the lines of his genre, so we could get some fans from his fan base during the tour, so we wouldn’t alienate ourselves with our music. It never had a name, we played it that whole tour, and during that time I always thought it was kind of like his vibe, and thought he would sound really good on it.
Cheese: The song 2 Inch Dub, off of Prove It, caught me off guard at first. It’s like seventeen minutes long; your older dub songs are shorter songs, but this one is so expansive, and the horns midway through are really cool. It’s sort of like Pink Floyd-ish, I thought –
Geoff: Yeah, there’s a lot of Pink Floyd in there, for sure.
Cheese: Did that come out of a big jam session, or what?
Geoff: Yeah, I mean, it’s called 2 Inch Dub because basically, we took two inch tape, and we had this chord progression and we just jammed it out for however long the tape lasted, and pretty much all the effects on the guitar are done with our own pedals, and all live in the studio. When we’re at home and we jam, we sometimes just dub, jam out a weird trippy reggae song and go for twenty minutes and just not think about ending it or where it’s going to go; you know, we just play.
Cheese: I don’t assume that’s one you guys play on this tour, right?
Geoff: No, people would get bored, but that’s pretty much how we jam when we’re at home.
Cheese: The first time I heard Sacrifice, I thought it was cool enough and then it broke into the second half and I was like “oh shit, this is awesome”…how do those harder-edged metal songs come about as opposed to the easier reggae ones like Drift Away and Tight Squeeze, songs like that?
Geoff: It’s not really a conscious decision, I mean when I try to write a song, I try not to have a definite plan, and a lot of times the way we write music is someone comes up with a chunk of a song, a chorus of a song, a verse and a chorus, or a whole song, and we jam it out in the jam room, and see what happens from there. Sometimes, when we’re jamming it out, someone will push their distortion pedal, and play the same progression in a distortion or a metal fashion, and we’re like “wow, that sounds pretty good”. It’s really not planned out.
Cheese: I’ve seen 311 twenty-some odd ridiculous number of times, and I saw you guys open two different tours, including in Central Park in NYC last year. How was it playing with them every night?
Geoff: It was great, I mean personally, I kind of got along with P-Nut the most, because we played basketball a lot out there. I didn’t really get a lot of personal time with those guys, but whenever I hung out with them they were super cool guys. They run a really tight production ship, they really take care of their crew, really make sure their people are happy on the road. Whenever I think about it, it was kind of like ‘rock n roll summer camp’. I forget how many buses there were… and then there were two or three crew buses, and the Ziggy Marley buses, and then we had our bus. So every day at the venue we’d come in and everybody would get out of their cabin and go into the cafeteria because they brought catering every day, so that’s a common meeting place. From the Ziggy Marley band to 311, there’ s a lot of older, more wise rock & roll people, so we learned a lot. There was a lot of listening going on; it was a good learning experience to see how a top notch rock & roll band really does the goods. They’ve been doing it for years, with radio play or not, they’re extremely successful, so being able to learn from them was huge for us.
Cheese: Coming from a fan’s perspective, the whole band has always been really cool and they always go out of their way to interact with us, but I’d say P Nut’s always been the most approachable, the most outgoing, at least to us –
Geoff: Yeah, me and him, and Ryan, our bass player, and one of the Ziggy Marley guys, we were on a basketball team, whenever we played together we were undefeated. It wasn’t my fault, I’m really the worst basketball player of all time, but that was really fun, getting all the crew and bands out there, playing a little basketball.
Cheese: When you’re back home in Santa Cruz, what do you do besides recording and band stuff?
Geoff: I try to not travel that much, hang out with my family, my girlfriend, my friends that I haven’t seen in a while, I like to golf with my good friend Cam. I’m employed at a golf course right now, but my buddy that got me the job, he quit, so I don’t know how much longer I’m going to keep doing that when I get home.
Cheese: What’s next for the band? I mean, you have a new album, you’re touring, and all that –
Geoff: Right, right.
Cheese: You guys are very proficient when it comes to recording albums, you take your time to make them, but then they keep coming out.
Geoff: I feel like waiting the two and a half years since our last album was a little bit too long. It’d be nicer to give the fans more stuff to listen to more often, but rushing an album is the worst thing you can do, probably. When the music comes, it comes. We always try to push ourselves, the metal songs are always the way we push ourselves, as far as musically. It would be nice to start exploring different styles but still keeping it The Expendables, you know?
Cheese: I remember seeing you guys about six or seven years ago in the Bay Area, you were playing some really random show that you didn’t really fit with…I forget what it was –
Geoff: Yeah, we’ve done some weird bills, but…I mean, our music’s weird too.
Cheese: You think of Dirty Heads and Rebelution, they’re basically reggae. But then you guys throw in...
Geoff: Yeah, we can play with a lot of bands, even though it’s a little weird, it still works for the most part. We can go out and tour with NOFX, or a harder rock band, and still go out and tour with Slightly Stoopid and Steel Pulse, coming up in a couple weeks. It’s going to be great.
That concluded our interview...I got off the bus, and returned to normal civilian life. But it was a pretty kickass 20 minutes.
A few hours after our interview, it was time for the actual show to start. Leading things off was Dirty Penny, another band made up of Santa Cruzians (Cruzites?).
Their twenty-five minute set was full of glam-soaked fist-pumping 80’s arena throwback metal, set to songs with titles such as If I Were You I’d Hate Me Too, Runnin’ Wild and Push Comes to Shove. They were fun, the sort of band I’d expect to have seen all over Sunset Blvd. in the early 1990s.
Next up was Big B, a Las Vegas rapper who I’ve seen at various shows over the past couple years. He and DJ Klaw busted through a set filled with tunes about partying, odes to white trash, and being a hooligan.
Big B also performed the song Sinner (the studio version features Scott Russo of Unwritten Law, and was a moderate hit on rock radio last year).
Hermosa Beach’s Tomorrows Bad Seeds were direct support for the Expendables, and they played a few tunes off of their new record Sacred for Sale, including Reflect, Uplift, Slow Down, and Creation, as well as ones from their first album Early Prayers (such as Vices, Early Prayers, Love Street, and the set-closing, metal-infused Warrior Poet).
I’ve seen them a few times, and they have a really powerful live sound that transitions well from the studio recordings.
I’ll review Sacred for Sale in the next few days, so stay tuned for that.
The Expendables hit the stage to the tune of the Lonely Island’s I’m on a Boat, which was great, before ripping into Down, Down, Down and Drift Away. Over the next hour and a half, the band (Weers, guitarist Raul Bianchi, Ryan DeMars on bass, and Adam Patterson on drums and vocals) touched on a lot of their back catalog, even going as far back as No Time to Worry (with the song Strive).
Highlights, for me, were their fun cover of Eek-A-Mouse's Ganja Smuggling, Burning Up, and the new tunes from Prove It: DCB, Positive Mind, Get What I Need, and Wells (which began the encore).
Eric Rachmany of Rebelution came up to play acoustic guitar on Bowl for Two, which was a neat surprise.
Then, at the end, everyone from all the bands came onstage for a goofy sing-along of Paradise City, with the Dirty Penny guys doing guitar/drums/vocal duties. It was a great way to end the show.
In all, the show was a lot of fun. Even McLovin was there!
I know I say this in most of my articles, but if you haven’t seen the Expendables before, make sure you do. They’re always on tour, so you don’t really have any excuse to miss out.
Thanks to Geoff for devoting 20 minutes of his day for this interview, and the folks at Silverback for making it happen.
Until next time…