No messing here. Xibalba, emerging from the thriving southern California scene have really been starting to make a mark in the hardcore world with their apocalyptic, down-tuned stab of brutality, having recently signed to Southern Lord Records. Punknews interviewer Faye Turnbull caught up with frontman Nate Rebolledo before obliterating The Underworld in London where they talked about his conflict with religion, embracing their Hispanic heritage and the importance of a DIY ethic.
Can you give me a rundown of Xibalba? It seems that within the past year youâve really started to make a name for yourself.
Itâs kind of weird, weâve been a band for little over five years and the past couple of years, itâs came out of nowhere. I guess itâs because I finished school and finished a lot of things with work, so we put our lives aside and went on tour. As soon as we toured, we just kept doing it and doing it, itâs pretty fucking cool. We get more offers from here and there, and itâs pretty surreal to be in England and the other side of the world, in general. Itâs been crazy. Since January, weâve done a Mexico/South America tour, then straight to Australia and Asia, then we came to Europe and after this weâre going straight into another US tour. Itâs a lot of touring, but fuck it, itâs cool. Itâs better than a real job.
Do you have a "real" job on the side?
Yeah, I work at home. I have a job where Iâm fortunate to be able to take time off whenever I want. The only downside was that, before this, I was going to school full time and I used to work as a firefighter for California, so I put that aside to do this. It was a big leap to do that, because the first year we started to tour, I got offered to work for a good fire department, but I want to travel the world. Iâll never get a chance to do this again; I can go back to work whenever I want.
I remember reading an interview with you recently and you said you hope that Xibalba, "sparks the mind and make you question the world around you." Can you expand on that?
I mean, weâre not really a crazy, political band. Everyone in the band is a little bit different, some of us are straight edge, some of us are vegan, some of us smoke and drink. I think with a lot of the lyrics, what I mean to say is that a lot of the things we see and told are not necessarily real. My biggest thing is probably religion, and as a kid, I grew up as a Catholic and a lot of it was just routine - you never necessarily questioned it, you just did it. Iâm not saying that religion is necessarily bad, but I think people should question what theyâre doing and why theyâre doing it. I used to get an allowance every week and Iâd put some into the Church, when in reality, I never got anything out of the Church. I donât need a book to tell me whatâs right or wrong. I think Iâm a fairly good person, and no God or person can tell me whatâs right or wrong, I think itâs pretty much common sense whatâs right or wrong. So, I think thatâs what I meant when I said that. You donât need anyone or anything to tell you whatâs right or wrong. I think maybe just think ahead and I think that can apply to anything in life.
Your lyrics are pretty heavy, and as youâve said, you focus a lot on religion, but your video for "Cold" looks like a frat house party. Do you think it gives people the wrong impression of your music?
It probably does, but I really donât fucking care. [laughs] I think people take life too seriously, and that was the point of the video. Our friends offered to do a music video and wanted to be all artistic and shit, but I was like, "You know what? How about we take some money, buy some food, feed our friends and just have a show at our apartment?" And thatâs what we did, and it was one of the most fun days of my life. All we did was get hammered drunk, ate food all day and played a set in our living room, and our landlord did not care. She was crazy. As far as what people may take out of it, I really donât care, but I think they should think ahead and understand that people are different. Iâm not the person who wants to exploit drinking or drugs or any bad habits in general, but for the most part, Iâm not going to lie, some of our members do smoke and I drink a lot, but I think Iâm responsible enough. I go to school and I work, and Iâm an adult. Iâm not a kid where Iâm abusing it and out on the streets not thinking about my actions. I think ahead and I know what Iâm doing, Iâm not a child.
Iâve read that youâre pretty DIY, how important is it for you to keep that ethic?
Back home, I put shows on like every month and Iâve been doing it since I was a kid. I think in the States, in general, itâs pretty DIY. Itâs all hardcore kids doing the shows. I had to buy our own van, and we all have to save money to be able to do this. So, coming from the States to Europe where they give us catering and drinks, itâs pretty gnarly the hospitality. Itâs a lot different and I definitely donât take that for granted. Coming out here with no fucking money, but we have everything we need. I appreciate it and itâs awesome, I hope that keeps happening and itâs something that definitely helps our situation out. But I also think that bands need to understand that not everything is handed to you, I feel like bands need to put the effort in. Weâve been a band for five years and people are like, âOh, so you guys are a new band?â No, weâve actually been a band for more than a couple of years, we just decided to start touring. Bands need to put the effort in with touring and understand you lose money. Our first record was pressed three times. The first time we released it, we all sat there and glued the covers together, we all screen printed them and sat at the computer printing the CDs. For us, thatâs natural, we all grew up going to punk and hardcore shows. Being a âDIYâ band, or whatever you want to call it, is cool, but itâs natural. Now, weâre fortunate enough where we are getting busier and we do have an agent now, and stuff like that, where it makes our jobs a little bit easier, but at the same time, I feel bands shouldnât take it for granted and shouldnât forget the hard work it takes to get there.
Itâs cool that youâve got the promoterâs perspective, because I feel that a lot of bands donât understand the promoterâs side of things.
Oh yeah, it sucks. Iâve had a job since I was 15, so I had to take the money I earned just to give it back to the band, so that blows. But itâs cool; I liked what I did. I like putting on punk and hardcore, so it was never an issue.
Whatâs the scene like in southern California right now?
Itâs fucking amazing. Everybody has their own scene, or whatever you want to call it, but the current California scene - going from Alpha & Omega to Downpresser, Soul Search, Twitching Tongues, Nails, and some of the older bands that are still playing, Donnybrook, Terror. Just all of those bands, no oneâs too big and no oneâs too small. Everybody gets along and everybody plays shows together, and in California the weatherâs fucking perfect, youâve got burritos, youâve got beers, youâve got beaches. Californiaâs awesome; I wouldnât change it for the world. In my opinion, the Californian scene is perfect. Itâs perfect in the sense that weâre all friends and everythingâs cool, but at the same time, weâve been able to tour in places around the world that arenât fortunate to have hardcore bands. We played central America, and back in California where we have a show every week and itâs pretty fucking cool to get a show every week, to see your friends over and over, but a lot of the time, youâre like, âOh, Iâll see that band again.â Then you go to places like Guatemala where they get a band once or twice a year, if theyâre lucky, so we got there, and whether they like your band or not, theyâre just stoked on music. Like we played parts of Malaysia where we were the first American band to play there. I hope, as perfect as the California hardcore scene is, that people donât take it for granted and appreciate the bands and I hope it keeps growing and just never dies. Itâs something that I love and something Iâm going to stick out forever.
Iâve heard that youâre a bit of a liability when you play live when it comes to breaking equipment.
Usually, weâre not a liability. Every once in a while, weâll break shit, because we donât know how to use shit. [laughs] But for the most part, I think itâs the crowd that probably more of a liability. Scenarios like that suck, but it happens and for the most part, shit breaks.
Your music is ridiculously heavy, is violence a common thing at your shows? Is it something you advocate?
No, I donât at all. The things that I saw and the things I do on stage and the way I act I guess, Iâm pissed off, and itâs definitely a way to let out aggression, and that definitely comes out in the crowd as well. People will go off and thatâs awesome, seeing people enjoy the music and embrace it, thatâs cool, but for people to go out of their wayâ¦ Iâll say this, if you get hit, take it, it happens. It sucks, but it happens. You can see whatâs going on, if you donât want to be part of it, stand back. I definitely think Xibalbaâs a band where you can definitely let some aggression out, but at the same time, I hope people read into what I say, and not necessarily be like, âOh shit, hereâs a heavy band, letâs fuck some shit up.â I hope people listen a little bit and understand what Iâm saying, I guess.
Youâre signed to Southern Lord and Xibalbaâs probably not a band generally associated with that label, how did that come about?
I think a lot of it is to do with Greg who runs Southern Lord and he started picking up a lot of crossover bands, like Black Breath, Nails, and I think a lot of it has to do with Nails, who are friends of ours, and showing Greg some of our stuff. Greg came out to a couple of shows and I guess dug it, and it just went from there. Itâs definitely different. I mean, if you look back at the history of Southern Lord, itâs definitely not the same, and nowadays heâs doing a lot of different stuff. I personally think itâs fucking cool to sign bands like OFF!, Wolfbrigade, Poison Idea, and then he has Nails and bands like Xibalba. Itâs a pretty cool mix of bands. I feel like Southern Lord offers a good amount of bands for anybody to like. Thereâs got to be something to fucking like on that label. Thatâs what I think heâs doing and I think itâs fucking amazing. Iâm stoked to be on Southern Lord.
You have a new album, Hasta La Muerte, coming out and the new songs youâve released so far sound a lot more doom-influenced, is that influence youâve drawn from the label? Are you steering away from hardcore?
Our main writers of the band are definitely on the more metal head side, and this is the first time where we were able to sit down and write a record and think it through and take our time and put out a record we like. We love our old record, but this time, it was like, âThis is something we want to do.â Thereâs still definitely some hardcore influence, but thereâs also a lot of different influences. I hope people enjoy it.
You really seem to embrace your Hispanic heritage, occasionally singing in Spanish, is that important for you?
Yeah, Iâm not necessarily going to say that itâs a key point in it. Everybody in this band is Hispanic and itâs just natural for us. Iâm very proud of my heritage and culture. We have people from different parts of Latino America and I think we all have pride in that. Itâs the same thing with America; I love America. I think we just like to show it off a little more, just because I donât feel people embrace their culture as much as they should.
Whatâs next for Xibalba after this European tour?
After this, we go home for a little break, then we play Sound & Fury, and then we do another full US for the record, with our friends Alpha & Omega and Power Trip, so that should be pretty cool. Iâm stoked on that, to tour with our friends again. Touring by yourself gets kind of lonely sometimes. Right now, weâre just seeing what happens with the new album, which comes out August 14th. Itâs been a long fucking time, we havenât put out a new record since 2008. I think itâs about time we dropped something new; Iâm really excited.
Do you have anything else you want to say before we finish?
Thanks for the interview and keep supporting the hardcore/metal/whatever scene you want to support, itâs pretty fucking cool, and I hope people enjoy the new record. Thank you to anyone who purchases it or has supported Xibalba at some point. On these tours, you stay at peopleâs houses and I just want people to know that we never take that for granted. Weâre very thankful for people wanting to book our band and have us play, so thatâs about it. I just want to say thanks.