This has proved to be a monumental year for Los Angeles’ roots-reggae maestros, The Expanders. Not only have they remained busy year-round through touring and playing multiple headlining shows up and down the West Coast, but the band also released their highly anticipated third studio album back on June 16, the appropriately titled Hustling Culture. Not even a broken leg can slow down this band (more on that in a bit).
In an interview at their album release show, held on June 26 at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, lead guitarist John Butcher explained the meaning behind the name of the album. “It was a philosophy and kind of a lifestyle of the band that we were already living by playing, recording and expressing our thoughts lyrically about certain topics. As we were trying to think of a title for the album, [Hustling Culture] came to mind because it represents what we do.” The album went on to reach No. 1 on the Billboard reggae chart, and The Expanders continue to perform in support of its release.
All members of the band are also involved in several side projects, which range from playing music and recording with other local artists to spinning classic reggae records on vinyl at various bars and lounges located throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Bassist Chiquis Lozoya actually broke his tibia (aka the shin bone) while filling in overseas with L.A.’s Jr. Thomas & the Volcanos, but wouldn’t let that stop him from finishing out that band's European tour and has been nonstop since his return. Lozoya, along with Expanders lead vocalist Devin Morrison, also just recently joined early-'90s ska/rocksteady legends Hepcat for a special performance in honor of the very talented and influential Ikey and Aaron Owens at the El Rey.
Other key highlights of The Expanders' remarkable year include embarking on the nationwide Summer Smokeout Tour with fellow L.A. musicians Arise Roots and headliners Tribal Seeds. While out in Florida, the band also made it a point to record a second acoustic set with the popular Sugarshack Sessions. Upon returning to California, the band has continued to hustle with several headlining performances as well as plenty of show announcements to close out the year.
Most recently, it was announced that The Expanders would be returning to the annual California Roots Music and Arts Festival for the third year in a row. “Cali Roots is unique because unlike some of the other big festivals, its focus is largely on the modern American reggae movement," Morrison explains. "As such, it’s the one weekend a year when all the bands who are constantly touring around the country come together and catch up with one another, and do some epic hanging. The audience at Cali Roots is really in tune to what’s happening in the scene, and the whole thing makes for a great community vibe and atmosphere.”
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True to their claim, The Expanders’ hustling culture continues as they work on new music and plan to record two new albums in the near future. “We’re always working on new material, so we’ll continue to do that for the rest of the year," Morrison says. "We also have a couple projects we are about to start working on. One is an acoustic album, and the other is volume two in the Old Time Something Come Back Again series, which means picking some ‘new’ old-school reggae tunes to record.”
The Expanders perform Friday, Nov. 20, at SOL Venue in Carson with Wakane, Skanks Roots Project and Bad Apples. Tickets and more info.