SSMF Profiles: The Expanders

By: Brent X Mendoza

Forming in 2003 So Cal reggae giants The Expanders have grown to become one of the most respected bands of their genre. Real “musicians, musicians,” the group pays homage to traditional “rockers” style reggae reminiscent of influences like The Ethiopians and The Mighty Diamonds.

Strutting their ska stuff at this year’s Sunset Strip Music Festival, frontman Devin Morrison and the rest of the band are eager to add to their growing résumé of impressive accomplishments, and introduce a whole new audience to their traditional throwback sound.

What other Sunset Strip Music Festival bands/artists are you most looking forward to seeing?

We are really just looking forward to checking out the vibes, and are excited to be a part of this event!

Kind of an ambiguous band name. What’s the origin?

The name is modeled after some of the classic reggae studio bands such as The Observers, The Aggrovators, The Upsetters, etc. We wanted a name that sounded similar to those bands because our music is greatly influenced by the sound they created.

Hailing from So Cal how did the band develop such an authentic and traditional reggae sound?

Everyone in the band has listened to old-school reggae music for years and years. We all grew up on the music, and so when we started playing it, there was no question as to the style that we wanted to bring forward. Also, being from L.A., we have been fortunate enough to watch and learn from groups like Hepcat and others who have been playing traditional Jamaican music for more than twenty years.

We are just trying to carry on that tradition of Los Angeles reggae/ska bands producing a vintage sound. The only difference between us and other L.A. bands like Hepcat or The Aggrolites is a stylistic one, in the sense that they specialize in “ska/rocksteady” and “skinhead” reggae respectively, while we tend to focus more on what has sometimes been called “country roots,” the kind of reggae that was played by Jamaican groups like The Ethiopians and The Mighty Diamonds, as well as on early 80’s rub-a-dub styles like that of The Roots Radics.

You’ve played with the who’s who of the reggae world. To date, who were you most thrilled to collaborate/perform with?

Yes, we have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunities to work with some of our Jamaican musical heroes. As to who we were most excited to work with, it is very difficult to narrow that down.

We have worked with Alton Ellis and Roy Shirley, both of whom have since passed away. I know that working with Leonard “The Ethiopian” Dillon and Vernon “Maytone” Buckley were two very special experiences for us because we look up to those artists so much. We can’t forget to mention Stranger Cole, Pat Kelly, The Cables, The Wailing Souls, Scientist, and Willie Williams, all of whom have been a pleasure and an honor to work with.

White Widow, Northern Lights, or Mauwie Wauwie?

Yes please!


The Expanders by TheExpanders

The Expanders play at The Roxy on August 20 during the Sunset Strip Music Festival. For more info on the fest vist