Rock Mercenaries The Expendables Redefine the Beach Jam with Grand Rapids Tour Stop

The Expendables supporting Slightly Stoopid wsg Tribal Seeds
The Orbit Room, Grand Rapids
March 17, 6:30 p.m.
$22.50 advance/$25 DOS
16+, (616) 942-1328

Though the name may be deceiving, The Expendables is not based on the 2010 Sylvester Stallone film. In fact, the band has held onto that name since 1997, when the future of the band was up in the air.

"Our name came long before the movie," says Raul Bianchi, lead guitarist for the group. "We were in high school, and we were so bad we figured we could be replaced by anybody."

Originally, Bianchi, Drummer Adam Patterson and Bassist Ryan DeMars founded an informal band in high school before Lead Singer Geoff Weers entered the scene.

"Geoff was the only one who had begun to master his skill at that point. I started taking private lessons in high school and was basically self-taught after that," says Bianchi

After honing their skills beachside in their hometown of Santa Cruz, the group released two albums independently before signing with Stoopid Records, a company founded by fellow California rockers Slightly Stupid in 2007.

In addition to various reggae and rock influences including Bob Marley and The Police, The Expendables have shaped their sound into a fusion of seemingly laid back surf rock and soul tinged with blues. Think of The Beach Boys filtered through intervening rock genres of the 1980s and 1990s with a long detour to Jamaica.

In the same way campfire sparks interrupt night air, The Expendables' unique brand of rock brings an innocent urgency uncommon to surf and reggae genres.

The band's latest release, Gone Soft, a collection of acoustic versions of fan favorites from nearly all of the group's previous albums, brings the distinct character of each song into even sharper focus. According to Bianchi, the positive response to stripping songs of their electric fervor was unexpected.

"It was kind of an experiment for us to try out our new warehouse for recording. We just wanted to try something simple. We did a short acoustic tour, and we got a good response, so we incorporated more of that into our set, even if most of the set is still electric."

These former California teenagers of questionable musicianship have set themselves apart while becoming veterans of the road after participating in Van's Warped Tour and playing alongside the likes of Less Than Jake and Pennywise. Their recent venture into a quieter realm will not temper the intensity of their live shows.

"We're a very high-energy band whether we're playing slow or fast, and we just want the crowd to have a good time," Bianchi said. "We always want the crowd to give the energy back to us, so it's kind of like a big party."