Interview: exPorter

exPorter

exPorter is a pop-punk rock trio formed in 2014. The band recently released a new full-length album called NoBrakesNoBrakesNoBrakes, so Andrew of Rogue PR spoke with the band about it and many other things. Enjoy!


When did you realise that your project/band had the potential to be a career, or long-lasting idea?

Destin Cavazos: I think we see saw it all fall together when we officially became “exPorter”, just after we got (Henry) Kish on drums. Alec and I had been playing music or in bands for close to 10 years. As a bassist, someone always needs a bass player, so I played in a few bands, even in this Christian rock thing for a little bit. Alec was always doing these band camp type things and one year our close family friend Jessica (Lord) played drums in one camp and after that we figured we had guitar, bass and drums so we should form our own band.

Alec Cavazos: We were called “adj.” which was pronounced adjective and was done after our first initials – Alec, Destin, Jess. We would play little gigs and even played up on the Seattle Space Needle (really) but then Jess left to start looking into colleges. Destin and I really liked the idea of being a band and we were starting to write our own stuff so we got our neighbor Owen to play drums and changed our name to “Porter” and then he had to leave cause of school.

DC: So that was around 2017 and we had this show at a local festival we needed a drummer for. Alec knew Kish from baseball and he played drums so we asked him to sit in and he killed it. We had 1 rehearsal and it was his first time ever playing in front of people but it was awesome. He just sort of went for it and I remember thinking after that show that this was a bit different.

AC: We then did this other show where we had to play 3 hours of music and he stepped in again. He wasn’t officially in the band even and he said yes to a 3 hour set which we thought was pretty cool.

HK: I remember we practiced for that show like the day of and just started trying to figure out a set. I remember the stage and fog machine was cool.

DC: It was this Halloween thing so we had these tree set pieces, tombstones, it was cool and we actually pulled off the 3 hours. When we were wrapping up our last set there were all these people in there shouting for more and we’re like, “um, we don’t have any more” but it was really cool to come off the stage to that. And after that show is when we asked Henry to join and changed our name to “exPorter” (there was already a band called Porter out of Mexico) and pretty much decided that we should record stuff and play more shows. We started with recording our EP “Bored” and just figured that we should try to grow as a band with everything we did from that point out. From there we did this mini SoCal tour which went pretty good and it’s just hopefully continued to grow from there.

When did the first glimpses of your latest release come together?

AC: Our debut album (NoBrakesNoBrakesNoBrakes) started to come together during the pandemic actually. Destin was living in LA when it was starting and came back to Santa Barbara cause no one knew what was happening.

DC: From there we started running through old songs and songs we had written while apart the last few years. We started to compile these into a list and found we had close to 20 songs that were either brand new, sort of new, or bits that were unused from the years past, so that kinda got us started on thinking about maybe doing something with those.

AC: Going into 2021 we had written and worked out a couple that we really liked and then we had this sort of show we were going to do so we added those to the set.

DC: Before the pandemic we would always do this show at Jensen’s Guitar and Music Shop in Santa Barbara. It’s this iconic place and we sort of grew up there. It was still pandemic times so it was supposed to be this Zoom thing which then turned into this little mini-documentary and fundraiser for the shop. It was strange with no fans there but it was pretty cool to just be playing live again and new stuff and those two songs really grew on us.

AC: As soon as it was safe to get into the studio, we got into Hidden City Studios for a couple of sessions and recorded them. Kish was unable to make it out for the recordings of these songs, but Destin’s friend from college was one of our backup drummers and sat in for the recording of “Lassie” and “Elizabeth”. Once those were recorded we were lucky to get both songs some solid radio time and that really set it all in motion. We were just so stoked that people liked the new songs and we had a bunch more that were pretty close to done so we though, let’s make a whole album. We went to work writing songs sharing them between all of us in our separate areas and then we would come together on breaks from whatever we were doing to record. Sometimes it was all of us, sometimes one of us, but whenever we could get in some work we did.

DC: I think with Lassie and Elizabeth tracking the way they did on the radio, it for sure got us excited about doing a whole album. Plus you had more and more stuff opening up from the pandemic so it was all pretty exciting to see this album taking shape as the world was waking up from such a crap time.

exPorter

What really inspires your music?

AC: For me, I would say real life experiences inspire my signwriting. I like to stay very truthful and relatable in my own songs, I want people to find our music as something that can put them in a group of folks who have been through similar things in life. And obviously the music I listen to inspires me in a few ways. The first being a reminder to keep going and to work for what I want, which is to make this last. The second is just it inspires me to write, I get ideas for riffs or topics often when I listen to the music I like.

DC: In addition to the bands we like and the sounds they put out, I also think our experiences in life definitely make their way into our songs for sure. Like I can be on a hike and see this bird or tree or bird in a tree and think maybe there’s a song there. Musically the themes or rhythms will come from the genre we’re in cause that’s the type of music we like. But the inspiration can really come from anything at any time.

Can you tell us a bit about the lyrical process for a song? How does it normally work?

AC: Usually a song will really start to take shape with either Destin and I writing our own song separate from one another, and it can be this almost full set of lyrics, or maybe this phrase and melody plus a little melody, whatever. Then we will sit in our room at our parents and kind of just show each other what we have written.

DC: Yea it is almost like a show and tell session. We gather like 2 or 3 of our songs and play them for each other then pick out the best 2 or 3 of 6. Then we will spend the next few days fleshing them out instrumentally and lyrically often collaborating on parts we were struggling with or concerned about. Lyrics can sometimes be pretty well shaped but we might change some of the concepts or ideas, but a song is usually pretty close after one of those sessions.

HK: Then it gets shipped of to me and I will work out a drum piece. They will send me some influences that they hear in the song, but for the most part the drumming is all me cause they have no idea what to do with drums most of the time, at least that’s what they say.

DC: That’s probably how 90% plus of our songs will take shape. And just as with the inspiration for the musical component, the lyrical side can come from anywhere. So if we’re back to that hike and I see that bird and tree thing, the lyrics could just start forming around that. Actually, I don’t think I have a bird in tree song yet so I might have to write one. But really, a song can come from anywhere. We’ve said this in a couple of interviews and I’m not sure if anyone believes it yet, but we have a song called “Feel Good” that was written about this ratty couch I had when I was going to UCLA. I think that’s what makes the band and our songs somewhat relatable – we’re three real guys just doing stuff then writing songs about that.

What’s the most rewarding moment in your creative process as a band, and why?

HK: Since I was a kid I have had this desire to play music in front of people and recording and as exPorter we’re doing that which has been pretty rewarding. From a creative front, I really like how the songs come together. Off NoBrakes, “Sister Cities” stands out as something I’m proud of because of how it came together. We added the song late in the process and I got it 1 day before recording it and I love how it came together.

DC: For me I think it’s just been in seeing the growth of the band. This all started cause Alec and I played Rock Band as kids and then we’re playing real instruments, started playing shows with our friends and then became a sort of real band in exPorter. All along that journey we have been growing creatively too so we released an EP in Bored that we were super proud of then we pushed for doing our debut album which people seem to like. It’s pretty rewarding to have someone say they like the album. At our live shows we’re starting to have more people show up which is cool. Promoters have started reaching out…like last year we got asked to open for Hinds which is a band that I love. We were totally blown away by that show. To think we’re just this little band that anyone takes any notice of has been super humbling but also very rewarding.

AC: I think I will always remember the first time I saw someone singing “Carsick” back to me at a show. It was super cool to think that we wrote this song, and someone has listened to it enough to know the words and then they’re right in front of the stage singing it? It was crazy! But I remember thinking how cool that was.

I think another moment for me has also got to be the fundraiser thing we did for Jensen’s guitar. As we mentioned, that shop means so much to us and when we found out they were hurting because of the pandemic we had to try and do something. The doc has been viewed like 20,000 times and we raised like $2500 bucks for the shop. But just as we were doing all of that, the Foo Fighters teamed with Van’s shoes and they also started a fundraiser. Chris Shiflett also has ties to Jensens so then it all got on the news and Chris is talking about the shop, then Destin and I are being interviewed, it was surreal to have the biggest band in the world and one of the smallest all coming together for this tiny shop in Santa Barbara.

Who produces your music, and what are they like to work with? (If you produce the music yourself, what do you love the most about working that way?)

DC: We have done it both ways, with an outside producer and ourselves. As producers we’ve run the whole thing for demos or home releases but we’ve also been heavily involved in the process in the studio too. For our bigger releases we worked with Matt Molloy of Made For More Recording and Elliott Lanam of Hidden City Studios. Matt helped us on Bored and we’ve known Elliott for a long time. Working with them it is cool to see how both of them have worked differently and we are really proud of what they have done. The biggest plus to working with them is that they are an outside source and someone who has been doing this way longer than we have.

AC: Yea they will catch the little things that we don’t often hear originally and they make us better in the process. I know for me personally it is super cool to translate what they do into the recording process when I’m recording stuff at home. We did a small release in 2020 of self-recorded and produced songs, in which Destin and I just sat in my room and threw down some tracks and I went to town. It was nothing crazy just some simple mixing and FX based off what I’d seen Matt or Elliott doing. Since recording our new album and working with Elliott again, I have gotten a lot better and have practiced on various little demos of song written in the last year that weren’t on the debut.

DC: When I first worked with Elliott it was me and another friend on guitar, then Elliott brought in someone to do drums. It was for a little band I started called “Steve Holt” and we came out with 2 cool tracks but we also started a relationship with Hidden City that has had a huge impact in exPorter today. When we were recording NoBrakes at Hidden City, the relationship with Elliott had grown into this total trust thing where he could add whatever he wanted to the process. It started out timidly at first but by the end of recording we could send him a song and say that’s what we’re thinking and he totally got it. When we were wrapping the album we knew he had to get producing credit on the album which I think it was the first time we ever shared credit. Totally deserved too.

Can you give us a couple of personal highlights from your live show? Particular memories that stand out to you?

HK: I remember the stage at the Haunt show we did was pretty awesome. I kept looking at the fog machine thinking, more fog! I keep using bombastic and fun as a way to describe us and I think it fits. I want there to always be energy in all our performances, especially live. If people are moving I feel successful in what I’m playing.

AC: Well the people singing Carsick at our local fair definitely stands out. There was another time that Destin was running across stage and blasts this massive air jump right by me. Usually I’m the one jumping or especially getting air but he was fricken up there. It was crazy. He jumped so fast and so high that he pulled his bass amp down or the cord right out of the bass. It was sick!

DC: The Hinds show is a personal highlight for me just cause it was soo cool opening for them. There was another band called Hearty Har which is John Fogerty’s sons so he was in the audience. It was pretty surreal and I think we had an awesome set. All of the bands had great sets and all of them were so cool to us the whole time. A highlight for sure. And I think they got to see our little band having a ton of fun during our set. Our live shows are a lot of fun both for us, the fans and other bands watching. We love playing live and we get so much energy from the crowd that it just turns into a really cool thing. Alec or I jumping all over, Kish and his funny takes in between songs, sometimes there are costumes, Alec is almost always taking his shirt off….you never really gonna know what goes down at an exPorter show. A lot of people comment on our shows and talk about how it looks like we’re having a lot of fun – which, we are that why it looks that way

What advice would you give to another upcoming band/act?

HK: I’ve said this in other interviews and I think it’s a pretty solid bit of advice but you should play music you like, if you aren’t happy and having fun then something is wrong. I would also say to have an open mind and to listen to more kinds of music.

AC: If you want to just play music and stuff, that’s totally cool and you should do it, but if you want to do it professionally there’s a lot of work to do to be little rock stars. We are just starting to really dig into this idea. I also agree with Kish that you have to enjoy it, enjoy what you’re writing and putting out into the world!

DC: Yeah, we have a family friend that’s in a pretty big band and he told us it’s all sales and gambling so we have had to get used to that idea. When we were kids playing Rock Band, in our minds we were rock stars, but now that we’re starting to build up our band there’s a lot of work we have to do. Another key thing to remember is to always aim to make everything next thing we do better than the last thing we did. When we get to releasing the next album the songs should be better than on “NoBrakes”, the cover should look cooler, merch should get better. We definitely work on that for sure!

AC: I think the biggest piece of advice we can offer, this should be the one thing every band needs to understand, not every show is going to be sold out or have tons of people there to see you, but that’s the road you have to walk more often than not. It’s a struggle sometimes but it’s worth it every time some is singing your song(s) back to you or wanting to talk with you after the show!


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