California-based band shows its eclectic side

Not all musical acts can boast lasting a decade, and fewer can say they’ve had the same lineup for that long. The Expendables, a mixed rock band out of Santa Cruz, California, is one that can.

The Expendables (comprised of guitarist/vocalist Geoff Weers, drummer/vocalist Adam Patterson, lead guitarist Raul Bianchi and bassist Ryan DeMars) have been playing music together since 1997. In an interview last week, Bianchi gave The Northern Light the scoop on how the band has stuck together so long, as well as offer some stories from the road.

TNL: You guys have been a band since 1997, right?
Bianchi: Yeah, well, we started messing around in high school; we didn’t get really serious about being in a band until about 2001, I think.

 TNL: So you knew each other in high school?
Bianchi: Actually, I’ve been friends with most of the guys since we were in elementary school. So we’ve known each other right through.

 TNL: How do you guys keep from killing each other on the road?
Bianchi: [laughs] Oh, we definitely can’t stand each other. It’s kind of like that “knowing someone your whole life” thing: you fight all the time, but it’s usually over pretty quickly and never that big of a deal.

TNL: What’s your worst road story?
Bianchi: To make a long story short, I would say that a girl, one time in New York City, had used the back seat of our van as a toilet. And a Cup of Noodles cup, and left it there. And I was the one who found it.

 TNL: And that’s why you don’t like Cup of Noodles?
Bianchi: [laughs] That is exactly the reason why I don’t like Cup of Noodles.

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TNL:And how about your fondest road story?

Photo by Iain Stratton

Bianchi: One of the first national tours we did, we had a day off and we were in St. Petersburg near Tampa, and a good friend of ours’ dad owned a charter fishing company. So, on our day off, we got to go out for the entire day, drinking beer and fishing. And as soon as we were done, we cleaned the fish and cooked it right there, and just had a huge meal at their house right on the dock by the ocean. It was one of the best days off, to this day I think, that any of us had. Sometimes with touring you get into a kind of rut, we call it zombie-mode, just kind of going through the motions, and a change, even bowling, is just great.

TNL: When you finally sat down and started to get serious about this, whose idea was it?
Bianchi: It wasn’t really anybody’s. After we graduated high school, we kind of all drifted apart and went to different schools. We would kind of come back and practice in the summer, play shows on the weekends and play around California. After the first year or so, we just kind of all decided that we enjoyed playing music and we couldn’t really think of anything else that we wanted to do for a living, and of course it would probably take four or five years after that for us to make a living, but it’s what we’ve always enjoyed doing; it was kind of a no brainer for everybody just to say: “Yeah, let’s just give this a shot and see where we can go with it.”

TNL: When you went to school, where did you go?
Bianchi: I went to Stanford, our other guitar player/singer was at Cal. State Northridge, and our other two guys stayed at home at the local community college.

TNL: And what were you going to school for?
Bianchi: I was undeclared; I was considering going into public policy or political science.

TNL: You were considering political science, and then you turn around and are a guitarist in a band. You know, some people might consider that a leap, even though you’d been playing already.
Bianchi: [laughs] Well I mean, I was never really interested in school, at all. I was just kind of there because my parents said that I had to go to school or I had to get a job and pay rent. In hindsight, I probably should’ve just not gone at all and saved them the money. But, music was always my passion. It was all of our passions; I think it just took a while for us to realize that.

Photo by Iain Stratton

TNL: How supportive has your family been? Especially with quitting school and the whole college deal?
Bianchi: Well, uh, they’re supportive now. In the beginning it was a little tougher and, um [laughs], it definitely put a strain on our relationship, especially since both of my parents are educators, and I went into the artistic field that doesn’t have a high success rate. Eventually when we started doing a little better and taking care of ourselves financially, they started to turn around. And now they’re very supportive.

TNL: What would you describe your music style as?
Bianchi: People have tried to put a lot of different labels on it, I know a lot of people outside of the circles that we play will say “California reggae,” or the label that we’re with in Japan calls us “mixture rock” and I heard a fan at one of our shows the other day call us “new age reggae.” [laughs] It’s pretty much just an eclectic mix of music. We all have musical ADD, so we enjoy listening to and playing all sorts of stuff…We’re basically just music lovers, and it’s a hodgepodge of all different kinds of music. I think “mixture rock” would probably be the best at describing it.

TNL: That being said, which musicians inspire your music, as a group?
Bianchi: Everyone has different ones; I think for each individual member it changes on a weekly basis, you know. I know that Steel Pauls were big influences, The Police, even bands like Metallica and Pantera, metal bands, Led Zeplin, The Beatles. There’s just so many different ones, but that’s a few off the top of my head.

TNL: A lot of the students who’ll read this article, and even some at your show, have probably never heard you guys before and are trying something new; what sets you apart from other bands?
Bianchi: We’ve got a lot of energy, and we play an eclectic show, as far as music goes. We cover a wide range of styles, and have a lot to offer that way.

The Expendables, presented by the UAA Concert Board and UAA Student Activities, will be playing at the UAA Student Union on Thursday, Feb. 23 from 7:30-10 p.m. Tickets are available online at uaatix.com and the Student Union Info Desk for $10 (advance) for students and $15 at the door. General public tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.