Ryan DeMars of the Expendables: "I've Never Met a Reggae Band That Didn't Smoke Pot"
Although Santa Cruz' The Expendables play an energetic hybrid of rock, ska and reggae. Its members themselves take pride in being way laid back, and that's what led to the band's most recent offering: the all-acoustic Gone Soft.
courtesy of Golightly Media
Speaking from Tallahassee on a day off from the tour and in anticipation of playing the House of Blues on Saturday, bassist Ryan DeMars spoke with DC9 about his band's roots and how they know their fans would understand a quieter effort.
Have you ever received any royalties from the animated film called The Expendables seeing that you were a band first?
[Laughs] That would have been nice. Actually, that movie was a remake, so technically, that came first.
If there is a sequel, you guys should do the soundtrack.
We tried to get into that.
Are you comfortable with the reggae/rock label?
Yes, I think reggae/rock is a proper term. We are from the same southern California, surf music scene that produced Sublime. It's a genre of reggae, ska and punk. I would say our stuff is along those lines. Some of our stuff is a little harder. We actually do some acoustic stuff and some full on reggae. It's surfing music. It's beach music.
What kind of music scene is there in Santa Cruz?
In the actual, local music scene, there isn't too much going on. When we started as a band, things got a little busier. Punk music was big back then. There were a couple of music venues. Those places gave the local bands a place to start. That's how we got started.
In mixing different styles, is there a danger of people not being to identify the band with any particular sound?
I think that people who are at our shows and who may not be fans think that we are just some reggae band from California. But then we start playing all this different stuff. It's always tricky. It is hard to label.
You play bass. On the reggae tunes, isn't bass the dominant instrument?
That's what they say about reggae music: the bass is the brains and the drums are the heartbeat.
Besides Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, what other reggae acts inspired you?
I love Steel Pulse and Black Uhuru. There is another band called Israel Vibrations. Also, there is another band called Alpha Blondy. I also grew up listening to UB40.
You've toured with many bands of many different styles. How did the tour with 311 go?
That was a great tour for us. We played first and then it was Ziggy Marley and then 311. I thought our music went over really well, especially the reggae stuff. 311 have that rock/reggae hybrid going on in some of their songs. That worked well with what we were doing as well.
What do you think about the stereotype that all reggae bands smoke weed?
I don't know, man. Bob Marley started it. He was singing about weed. I've never met a reggae band that didn't smoke pot.
One of your relatively new songs is "Zombies in America." Did you ever think of approaching the producers of The Walking Dead and seeing if they were interested in using the song?
We all love that show. That is something to think about. We released it a few months back. We are always looking to get new music out there. I almost wonder if that song is too literal for the show.
What is the talk of the band doing a split EP or album with itself?
Yes, we have our own studio in Santa Cruz and we are always working on different stuff. We'll record an electric album and then we will go back and cover our own songs acoustically. We can turn a punk song into a reggae song. We can turn a reggae song into a country song.
You most recent album was the all-acoustic Gone Soft. Were you worried that fans would not accept a full on acoustic record?
Yes, some people didn't like it. We were worried a little bit. But we had always had people telling us that we should do more acoustic stuff. We've always wanted to do it and we finally got around to it. It was just something different to do. We thought it would be fun for our fans to listen to and check out.
You've been a band since 1997 and you still have the original line up. How have you managed to stick together?
I don't know, man; maybe luck. We are all from Santa Cruz and it's a small town. We have our group of friends that we all grew up with. It's just kind of one of those things that we are all best friends. All our families know each other and it's one, big group. That is probably the reason why we have been able to stay together so long. None of us have a big ego. We are pretty normal guys. We started a band, got an RV and then toured. It's been a slow, steady climb from day one. Nothing has gone to our heads. We are hard workers. We just want to get the job done and have a fun time doing it.
What were some of the jobs you had before you formed the band?
I worked at a surf shop. I did some landscaping work. Some of the other guys worked at Blockbuster. We just kind of jumped around from job to job. We had any job that would let us do our music as well. We would let our bosses know when we had to take off for a couple of weeks to tour. If not, you were moving on to another job.