Going Head to Head With ‘Diablo': Stream the New Xibalba
Southern California's Xibalba are one of a few hardcore-focused bands that are pushing the genre further into uncharted territory. Kicking off as a hardcore band with more widely accepted influences like Obituary and Celtic Frost, Nathan Rebolledo and team have expanded their sound to incorporate elements of black metal, death metal and more. 2015's Tierra Y Libertad, their last and most diverse offering, is possibly their most daring, wielding all manner of savagery across its eight tracks.
All has been quiet on the Xibalba front lately, but now comes word of a new three-song EP from the boys, the first of which makes its debut here. Check out "Diablo" from the forthcoming Diablo, Con Amor ... Adios, due via Closed Casket Activities in February. Preorder your copy via the label.
With the new track on deck and the band prepping to do some limited touring, we talked to Rebolledo about everything from leaving a legacy to that classic video for "Cold."
You're playing some select dates surrounding the release of the new EP, including Mexico this weekend. You've played down there a bit, I'd imagine?
Yeah, we play there a bunch. After the whole passport thing [stricter passport laws], shows down there have gotten a little bit worse because they aren’t as accessible anymore. As of recently — a couple days ago — they shut the borders down for a sec because the gas prices went up, so people, I guess, started protesting or rioting or whatever. I’m assuming that’s going to affect our shows, because when stuff like that happens, people just don’t want to be out and about at night, you know?
I’m sure you guys have a super strong local contingent, right? It’s not just guys heading down for those gigs?
Yeah, but for the TJ [Tijuana] shows, at least half the crowd is from San Diego.
Do you guys prefer playing TJ as opposed to San Diego?
I mean, they’re both different scenarios. TJ is always fun just because it’s, you know … we play TJ and there’s always cheap food. It’s just a whole different experience, you know? We always hit the strip clubs down there. [Laughs] It’s definitely an experience, but I love San Diego equally, you know?
So, the material from the new LP is very much in the vein of the last record. Is this material that you had from Tierra that you wanted to get out there as well, or is this new material?
It’s definitely new material. After Tierra Y Libertad, we didn’t write anything for like a year, or however long it’s been. It kinda just became time to write some songs, so we wrote these songs. It’s definitely in the vein of the last record. It’s just the style of stuff we’re writing and into at the moment.
Are you guys going to work on an LP after this?
Yeah, after this the plan is to write and finish the LP. I’m assuming with the time frame, we’ll get it out early 2018. If I could get it out in fall, that’d be nice, but we’ll be recording an LP in the summer.
You guys do a lot of short runs. You’re doing a weekend of shows in January and a short run of the East Coast in February. Do you think you’ll ever be a road-dog band and go out for a month or anything?
Not anymore, man. Early years of Xibalba — I think 2011 to 2014 — we were probably home a month out of the year, every year. So, the idea of doing that again is just not in the cards. We’ve all got full-time jobs and stuff we gotta take care of at home. It’s really hard. Xibalba touring was not normal. I hate to say it, but money’s an issue. The reality is that we can’t afford to live off this band. On top of that, the way we like to tour is pretty self-destructive. We stopped touring because of that reason. We got to a point where, like, if I keep doing this, I’ll be dead in the next couple years.
That’s the M.O. of a lot of bands. I feel you.
The end of the night, we’ll get our guarantee, and a third of it went to drugs, a third of it went to a bar tab and a third went to gas. [Laughs] So, after tour it was like, “Alright, alright, I need to chill.”
What if there was a scenario where Carcass came calling, or something like that?
I don’t know, man. Xibalba never got to the point where we started doing crazy metal tours. Towards the end of us, we definitely gained more metal offers. We got offered to tour with Soulfly, Crowbar, and that’s shit that we grew up on, and I’m like, “Fuck, this would be awesome,” but the reality is, being a support band for tours like that is hard, man. Bands that support bigger tours, you’re making ends meet, barely. So, coming from a band where we’ve always done things on our own, we’ve always headlined our own tours — everything Xibalba’s ever done has been us and us only. There wasn’t a lot of money, but we were able to make ends meet, flights were covered; we never came out of pocket. We’re very fortunate. So, to kind of, like, go back and do tours like that, it was just a place where we just physically, mentally and financially couldn’t do it. It’d be hard, you know, as much as I would love to.
On the flip side, do you think that there’s a value to not playing often? A mystery?
No, I don’t think so at all, dude. [Laughs] I mean, look at music nowadays, man. There’s so much music coming out left and right every day. If you aren’t touring and staying relevant, no one gives a fuck. Let’s be honest.
I thought about this the other day: Bands like Carcass and Sepultura, those bands are stable bands from an era that will always be of stable bands. And punk bands like Pennywise, they’ll always be relevant, but as far as new styles nowadays, unless you keep touring, those type of bands aren’t going to exist anymore. For us, unless we keep putting out records and doing shows here and there, everything is going to expire at some point, you know? That’s just being brutally honest. As long as you’re fucking touring, don’t expect to stay relevant.
Do you feel like there are bands nowadays that can hold a candle to some of these "stable" bands — to your Carcass and your Electric Wizard or even someone a little more modern, like a Snapcase or something?
Yeah, definitely. If you think of bands that you got into or things that got you into music, you always relate it to the basics. For me, for hardcore, when I was young, it was Gorilla Biscuits, and then later on it was Strife, Snapcase, shit like that. Growing up, I loved Ten Yard Fight, so those stable bands will always be there; those bands will always exist.
You don’t feel like there’s a band like that though, now? In this era, because of the saturation, there aren’t bands like that now.
Definitely not. There’s too much music, there’s too much coming out. To stay on top and be relevant, you need to tour. I hate to say it.
Xibalba is a very selfish band for us in the sense that we do this for us. The only reason I play shows is to hang out with my friends and visit some people, or be able to travel. And luckily, Xibalba’s been fortunate enough to be able to do that several times. I don’t care about the money. There’s no agenda or like, “Oh, I need to go make X amount of dollars.” If you offer me X amount of dollars to go play the middle of nowhere, or you tell me, “Hey, come visit this new place you’ve never been to, but you’re not going to make any money,” I’d rather go visit that new place I’ve never been to. I’d rather go somewhere in South America, Central America. We did Southeast Asia. Places like that [are] something that only because I’m in a band [am I] able to do that. There’s no agenda to try and make anything or push anything. It’s more, “Hey, here’s some music we put out, like it or not. I want to hang out with my friends and drink some beer.”
What do you think, up until now, is your personal shining moment with Xibalba? The thing that you can look back on as your first real achievement with the band?
Actually, these shows coming up [January 13-15 in Mexico] mark 10 years for Xibalba. When Xibalba first started, I was 18. I started college full-time, and I was in a fire academy becoming a fireman. I became a fireman, and then we got the opportunity to tour. The call for Xibalba was for me to tour for a year, and then go back to firefighting. I obviously never went back to that. At that point, my mom was really pissed off at me. She said, “You did all this stuff for no reason.” Ten years later, I’ve gone around the world three fucking times now. To this day, to me that is very fucking surreal that I did that, because I play in a punk / hardcore band.
We recently just did Southeast Asia for the second time, and getting to meet people that love — LOVE — punk, metal, hardcore and collecting your records ... I met a dude that loved Strife, and I personally love Strife, and he had this fucking collection of Strife records, and I’m sitting here like, "I’m here because of me playing in a stupid fucking band." This is in the Philippines, where a person on average makes maybe a hundred dollars a month, so for these people to save so much money for my fucking band to get there was absolutely surreal and absolutely heartwarming.
I thought about it the other day: If I were to die today, it’s been awesome. I am very grateful for Xibalba, very grateful for the things we’ve done. Same thing with the dude from Kill Your Idols — getting to tour and being able to do it because of a band, when, if I wasn’t in this, I’d never be able to afford to do that.
One last question. A lot of people consider the “Cold” video to be one of the most classic modern hardcore videos.
It’s ridiculous and it’s such a perfectly captured party atmosphere — so over the top in every single way. Is there an anecdote you want to share about making that video? It feels like that video isn’t even a video — it’s just a bunch of dudes hanging out, and then cameras happen to be there.
Exactly, it wasn’t even a video. The idea was to shoot a music video, but that day was probably one of the funnest days of my life. We shot that video in our living room in our apartment. At one point, Xibalba all used to live together in this project housing in Pomona, and we asked the landlord, “Hey, can we do a show?” and she was just like, “Yeah, I guess, whatever.” No one is going to call the cops because there’s far worse things going on there than us playing a show in our living room. So, I remember that day — it was like 2PM and the band was shit-faced drunk. And we were like, "We gotta play this or we’re not gonna be able to make it." So, I played a show, got drunk, and was hung over by 7PM. [Laughs]
That’s so sick.
But yeah, it was definitely one of the funnest days. We didn’t know what we were doing. We just asked our friends, “Hey, film this shit.” We had a barbeque and all the little local kids, all the street kids were hanging out and eating with us. That was definitely not planned, but it came out to be an awesome day. Luckily, that video reminds us of that time. [Laughs]
It’s funny because you see people talk shit about it, and it’s like, I don’t know what the fuck you like to do, but I like to hang out with my friends, play a show and drink some beer. I had fun with it.
XIBALBA on TOUR
2/17/2017 Elk’s Lodge – Cambridge, MA
2/18/2017 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
2/19/2017 Sunnyvale – Brooklyn, NY
2/24/2017 Thee Parkside – San Francisco, CA w/ Downpresser, Red Death
2/25/2017 Union – Los Angeles, CA
2/26/2017 PBW – Pomona, CA w/ GodsHate, Red Death, Vamacharra, Hot Heads, Iron Curtain
4/01/2017 Real Art – Tacoma, WA