It is the most classic of teenage dreams: four best friends start a band and launch a career crafted of cool tunes, world tours, and performances of hit songs in front of hoards of loyal fans. Countless aspiring rock stars hold this dream, but only a miniscule percent of musicians are able to transform their hopes into reality.
In 1997 Geoff Weers (guitar/vocals), Adam Patterson (drums/vocals), Raul Bianchi (lead guitar), and Ryan DeMars (bass) formed The Expendables. This group of friends has spent the better portion of the last two decades performing reggae rock music to crowds of laid back surfers, skaters, stoners, and good vibe lovers at sunny and loud music venues the world over. The energetic and free spirited band has created a sound uniquely their own by fusing metal with punk, ska with reggae, and rock with funk. The independent musical powerhouse has been able to continuously keep fans jamming to ever-evolving fresh beats by feverishly remaining true to an evolving sound and performing whatever rocks their socks at any given moment. By freeing themselves of labels, genres, and niches, The Expendables are able to explore new sounds and incorporate different vibes into their constantly expanding catalog of music.
Moment, the upcoming EP from The Expendables, will be released in its entirety this May, but the band has already treated fans to the first two singles. “Stay Now” featuring Eric Rachmany of Rebelution was the first song to be released this February. The second single, “I Won’t Give Up,” with Hirie, was made available for download this month. In a clever twist, The Expendables have relinquished control of the release order of the album’s songs to their fans through an exciting online voting portal. The innovative platform serves up exclusive 30-second snippets of each song and encourages fans to vote for the next single.
The band’s current tour has them playing with RDGLDGRN, Tribal Theory, Snoop Dogg, Pepper, Common Kings, MAYDAY!, and Suburban Sensi, among others. Drummer Adam Patterson caught up with me following the band’s gig in New Orleans to discuss the truth about life on the road, to share the secret of the band’s success, and to let me in on what fans can expect next from our favorite funky foursome.
You just wrapped up a show in New Orleans. I trust you had a good time in the Big Easy?
Too good of a time. I had to recover yesterday.
Awesome. A New Orleans’ recovery can sometimes last a few days.
Yeah. Yeah. Definitely.
When you and the guys are on tour are you able to buffer in time to play tourists or do you move quickly from one city to the next?
If we get the time. Sometimes we just show up and play so we don’t have a lot of time to go explore. In New Orleans we had days off before and after so we got to hang out and check out the city. We have been to most cities like five to 20 times and have seen a lot of stuff too. We have been to most places a lot of times, but I try to explore a little when I can.
Do you have a favorite spot to explore or city you look forward to hitting? I know your hometown is probably high on the list, but is there anywhere else you can’t wait to visit?
New York City is always fun. There are so many cities in this country that are really fun, but New York definitely. You can always find something new to do there. Every city has its own charm about it. You can find something unique and awesome about each one.
Your current tour has you playing with incredible bands like RDGLDGRN, Tribal Theory, Snoop Dogg, and Pepper. How do you determine who will join The Expendables on each leg or city of the tour?
We are opening for Snoop Dogg. We didn’t pick him to tour with us! That would have been cool if we could have done that. We try to bring a band we didn’t tour with last year so it’s new and fresh for the fans. Usually it comes down to relationships. We are friends with a lot of bands and if it makes sense and we can work it out we do. We try to pick bands that fit the genre a little bit at least, but sometimes we will pick a band outside the genre like RDGLDGRN, which has been awesome.
I always make sure to see openers because you never know who you will discover. The Expendables don’t necessarily fit one specific genre, which can make it really fun.
Yeah totally. We are a weird band in a weird genre so we can kind of play with anybody, which is cool. We tend to stick with reggae or ska punk. We haven’t done a country band yet but we could. We could very well play with a country band.
In the past the band has toured with G-Love & Special Sauce, Slightly Stoopid, The Roots, and 311 to name just a few. At this point you have become good friends with a lot of kick ass bands. Can you share any funny, epic, or embarrassing tour war stories?
Ohhh… Some I can’t share! It seems like it is super crazy, but it’s kind of like we are hanging out every day doing the same thing. Most times we are just sitting around talking. It’s not as crazy as you think it would be. There have been tons of stuff, but there’s not really one specific thing I can think about. A lot of times it’s just us after the show hanging out, drinking some beers and talking. I know that sounds lame but it’s fun.
What was one of your most memorable moments behind the drum kit on stage?
We have toured with bands like 311, which I grew up listening to. When you are a kid you’re not thinking you are ever going to meet these people and then you end up opening a show for them. NOFX is like my favorite band ever and we ended up doing a few shows with them. It’s hard to explain but it’s really strange when you play a show with your idols or your heroes. It’s surreal.
We had a pretty crazy Red Rock show last year opening for Dirty Heads. It rained pretty bad and there was a two-hour delay. It was literally raining on our stuff, but we decided to play anyway. We said, “Screw it. It’s Red Rock.” It was a pretty cool, magical moment. It was weird being dumped on but once we started it was like, “Let’s go for it. A lot of people are here having a good time and they haven’t heard music for two hours. Let’s just play.”
You guys started to slowly release your new EP Moment and the whole thing should be out by May. The first single, “Stay Now,” features Eric Rachmany of Rebelution. What motivated you guys to get back into the studio and what was it like working with Eric?
We haven’t put out music in a little while. The idea was to do an EP so we have something to tour with. Two years ago we released an album and it was great. It’s fun to tour on new music. It gives people a reason to see a show. We want to try to put something out every year and decided to do an EP. On “Stay Now” there’s a part we thought Eric could do. The song was pretty much done but he added his part, which made it even better. We didn’t get to actually work in a studio together. We weren’t there at the same time but with technology you can talk on the phone, he can lay it down on his own little home studio and it sounds amazing. Within a few days he had it done and sent it back. It was awesome. The idea was to put out an EP, but I think we might be doing a full album by the end of the year.
Your fans are participating in the release order of the songs. Do you have a song you are pulling for as the next single?
I like all of them so it is kind of cool not having to make a decision. Giving fans 30 seconds of audio offers them a chance to say, “This is the one I want to hear,” which gives us feedback too. We don’t know. We just make the music. It’s kind of cool.
When you perform you will know which song the fans really love too. That could be helpful in determining your set lists.
Yeah, I would like to do more of this kind of stuff. Maybe have the fans pick our set list somehow. I want to explore this because it’s hard to figure out what people want to hear. We play stuff we think they want to hear or songs we haven’t played in a while but maybe there is a song out we don’t ever play that they want to hear. We are excited to explore this new style of fan interaction. It’s kind of cool I think.
I think so too. The band has near constant communication with followers. You guys do a great job posting pictures, sharing stories, and interacting with fans on social media. Can you talk to me about the connection the band has with your community and your culture?
We usually hang out with the people that come to our shows. We call them fans but a lot of times they are our friends. We go to the bars and just hang with them. It’s fun. There are some bands that are like huge that can’t interact I guess. I don’t know what the reason is but we have always been a band that goes and hangs out. They’re rad people. I think that carries over with social media. We try to interact. They like it and we like it and it gives us feedback. We are getting better but we are not the greatest at the social media thing. We are kind of an older band and didn’t grow up with social media. We had to learn that we needed to interact and post more pictures. Twitter is fun because you can really talk to people. Fans ask questions all the time and we answer them as truthfully as we can. It’s fun. It’s cool. Instagram obviously is like taking pictures of our lives. We don’t just do staged shots. We do something we think is cool that day. We are trying to get better at it. We are not the best.
I am following along with the guitar that is getting built now. That’s cool to watch.
With social media and band interaction fans are able to be part of the band’s experience. You guys are lucky in that you have a pretty chill fan base. Your fans are not Beyonce’s fans. They are people with similar interests to yours. You are doing a great job interacting.
We try to be accessible. There are a lot of bands that aren’t and that’s fine, but we have always tried to be accessible both physically and through social media. There’s no reason not to be, at least in our eyes.
The Blackout Tour is fully underway. How many years have you guys been doing that tour?
I think it was in 2010 when we did, Iration, Passafire, and Pour Habit. I guess this is the seventh year. There were a couple years when we didn’t do full blown tours, but we did something. For the most part we have been doing this tour every year. It’s cool, but it’s a hard tour because sometimes you can get insane weather. It’s not an ideal time to tour. A lot of bands don’t tour in the winter. That’s kind of why we do. It is a weird but good time for us to go out and play shows because not a lot of bands tour when there is three feet of snow on the ground.
One last question. You, Geoff, Raul, and Ryan have somehow managed to turn every teenage boy’s dream of getting stoned and playing surf rock, reggae and punk music with your best friends into a career which has already spanned 20 years. What advice would you give to all the dreamers reading this interview who are hoping to do the same?
It’s going to sound weird, but if you are starting out in a band, don’t have anything else to fall back on because you will. We have nothing else that we know how to do. When we were starting none of us had rad jobs or awesome girlfriends. There was no reason to not do what we were doing. I saw a lot of bands we grew up with and they had like a killer job so they would say, “I don’t want to tour. I can make money at home,” or they had an awesome girlfriend and would say, “I would rather stay home with her and not tour and make zero money or negative money and sleep in a van for four nights in a row.” My advice is to have nothing else going for you. Play music and you’ll be fine. It will work out.
Catch The Expendables at the Theatre Of Living Arts in Philadelphia on March 15, the Gramercy Theatre in New York City on March 16, The Stone Pony in Asbury Park on March 17, and Revolution Bar & Music Hall in Amityville on March 19. Vote for The Expendables’ next single: https://fanlink.to/TheExpendables_Vote. For more information, go to theexpendables.net.