Los Angeles is home base to many a style of Ska & Reggae. It’s practically a mini Kingston with sound systems, club nights, live concerts almost every night of the week it seems. Every style of Jamaican music is represented in some form or another from Ska, Skinhead Reggae, Rockers, Dancehall and more. There are some groups though that stand heads above the rest. Hepcat does the Ska for example and The Expanders do Rockers. After nearly a decade of playing and slowly coming together, developing as a unit, taking meticulous attention to detail to craft tunes that go beyond just another reggae band they’re ready to take that sound to the masses.
Tom Orr from NiceUp.com says “The Expanders are clear standouts in a region with a lot of reggae and, for that matter, among the very best you’re going to hear in the larger picture of homegrown U.S.A. reggae.” That’s saying a lot but it might not be such hyperbole though when you sit down and listen to the full debut album released earlier this year. No act next to Hepcat has been able to so closely recreate a certain style being so far away from the source experience. These cats are from LA not JA or UK!
The band of self-taught musicians includes Devin Morrison on lead vocals/rhythm guitar, John Butchern on harmonies/ lead guitar, bass master Chicquis Lozoya who provides the ride for Hepcat, See Spot, Irie Beats, Chris Murray Combo, Allentons, Boogalo Assassins, etc. on harmonies/bass, one of LA’s best John Asher on drums and Luis Chuquillanqui on percussion. Tom Cook from the Debonaires/Revivers provides keys. These cats know what they’re doing as evidenced by the fact they have been the backing band of choice for many of the legendary Jamaican singers that have come through town in recent years such as Alton Ellis, The Maytones, The Ethiopians, The Wailing Souls, and more. They’ve been a featured performer at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in Mendocino County for the past 2 years as well.
The self-titled album took 4 years to complete for one reason and one reason only. It wasn’t time yet. They wanted to make sure it sounded as authentic as possible in the tradition of classic 1970s groups like The Ethiopians, Culture, The Mighty Diamonds, etc. To achieve this hey enlisted the mixing skills of engineer Jay Bonner (JanDisc, Aggrolites, Black Emeralds) and recorded in Killion Studios operated by in demand musician, Funk band Orgone’s Sergio Rios. They also brought in some friends as featured guests on the album including Alex Desert from Hepcat, contributing vocals on “Merciless Deeds” and Jah Faith of Black Emeralds/ Dub Club toasting on “Turtle Racing”.
Tom Orrs review of the album went on to say: Opening track “Evilous Number” gets right down to it, hitting the mark with a bubbling ‘70s vibe, an Abyssinians-like spirit and superb vocal harmonies by rhythm guitarist Devin Morrison, lead guitarist John Butcher and bassist Chiquis Lozoya. Then there’s no lapse in niceness as the disc continues through the self-examination of “Something Wrong,” conscious declarations like “Think Ruler” and “Merciless Deeds,” the wistful “Gone Away” and the oddly moving love-gone-wrong song “Snow Beast” (a depiction of which would seem to be on the CD’s rear cover). The backing tracks- all real instruments and expertly played to boot -are lean and stark, with sonic influences of Studio One, Channel One and Lee Perry’s Black Ark in evidence.
You can listen to the full album via the playlist below.
Gabe @ Musical Occupation sat down with bass master Chiquis Lozoya earlier this year for an interview. You can listen to that podcast here.
They will be playing select dates next week including the 25th Annual UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival on Monday May 30 with Steel Pulse, Gyptian, Tanya Stephens, The Wailing Souls plus more and The Bordello on Friday, June 3 with The California Honeydrops. The Bordello show will also be the first time you can pick up the debut self titled album on vinyl. RSVP and get more info on that show at the Facebook event page. UPDATE: VENUE IS CLOSED FOR JUNE – CHECK FB FOR UPDATES ON WHERE IT WILL MOVE TO.
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