Nate Rebolledo (Xibalba)

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 you've really started to make a name for yourself.
It's kind of weird, we've been a band for little over five years and the past couple of years, it's came out of nowhere. I guess it's 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, it's pretty fucking cool. We get more offers from here and there, and it's pretty surreal to be in England and the other side of the world, in general. It's been crazy. Since January, we've done a Mexico/South America tour, then straight to Australia and Asia, then we came to Europe and after this we're going straight into another US tour. It's a lot of touring, but fuck it, it's cool. It's better than a real job.

Do you have a "real" job on the side?
Yeah, I work at home. I have a job where I'm 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. I'll 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, we're 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. I'm not saying that religion is necessarily bad, but I think people should question what they're doing and why they're doing it. I used to get an allowance every week and I'd put some into the Church, when in reality, I never got anything out of the Church. I don't need a book to tell me what's right or wrong. I think I'm a fairly good person, and no God or person can tell me what's right or wrong, I think it's pretty much common sense what's right or wrong. So, I think that's what I meant when I said that. You don't need anyone or anything to tell you what's 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 you've 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 don't 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 that's 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 don't care, but I think they should think ahead and understand that people are different. I'm not the person who wants to exploit drinking or drugs or any bad habits in general, but for the most part, I'm not going to lie, some of our members do smoke and I drink a lot, but I think I'm responsible enough. I go to school and I work, and I'm an adult. I'm not a kid where I'm abusing it and out on the streets not thinking about my actions. I think ahead and I know what I'm doing, I'm not a child.

I've read that you're pretty DIY, how important is it for you to keep that ethic?
Back home, I put shows on like every month and I've been doing it since I was a kid. I think in the States, in general, it's pretty DIY. It's 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, it's pretty gnarly the hospitality. It's a lot different and I definitely don't take that for granted. Coming out here with no fucking money, but we have everything we need. I appreciate it and it's awesome, I hope that keeps happening and it's 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. We've been a band for five years and people are like, 'Oh, so you guys are a new band?' No, we've 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, that's natural, we all grew up going to punk and hardcore shows. Being a 'DIY' band, or whatever you want to call it, is cool, but it's natural. Now, we're 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 shouldn't take it for granted and shouldn't forget the hard work it takes to get there.

It's cool that you've got the promoter's perspective, because I feel that a lot of bands don't understand the promoter's side of things.
Oh yeah, it sucks. I've 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 it's cool; I liked what I did. I like putting on punk and hardcore, so it was never an issue.

What's the scene like in southern California right now?
It's 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 one's too big and no one's too small. Everybody gets along and everybody plays shows together, and in California the weather's fucking perfect, you've got burritos, you've got beers, you've got beaches. California's awesome; I wouldn't change it for the world. In my opinion, the Californian scene is perfect. It's perfect in the sense that we're all friends and everything's cool, but at the same time, we've been able to tour in places around the world that aren't fortunate to have hardcore bands. We played central America, and back in California where we have a show every week and it's pretty fucking cool to get a show every week, to see your friends over and over, but a lot of the time, you're like, 'Oh, I'll see that band again.' Then you go to places like Guatemala where they get a band once or twice a year, if they're lucky, so we got there, and whether they like your band or not, they're 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 don't take it for granted and appreciate the bands and I hope it keeps growing and just never dies. It's something that I love and something I'm going to stick out forever.

I've heard that you're a bit of a liability when you play live when it comes to breaking equipment.
Usually, we're not a liability. Every once in a while, we'll break shit, because we don't know how to use shit. [laughs] But for the most part, I think it's 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 don't at all. The things that I saw and the things I do on stage and the way I act I guess, I'm pissed off, and it's definitely a way to let out aggression, and that definitely comes out in the crowd as well. People will go off and that's awesome, seeing people enjoy the music and embrace it, that's cool, but for people to go out of their way… I'll say this, if you get hit, take it, it happens. It sucks, but it happens. You can see what's going on, if you don't want to be part of it, stand back. I definitely think Xibalba's 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, 'Oh shit, here's a heavy band, let's fuck some shit up.' I hope people listen a little bit and understand what I'm saying, I guess.

You're signed to Southern Lord and Xibalba's 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. It's definitely different. I mean, if you look back at the history of Southern Lord, it's definitely not the same, and nowadays he's doing a lot of different stuff. I personally think it's fucking cool to sign bands like OFF!, Wolfbrigade, Poison Idea, and then he has Nails and bands like Xibalba. It's a pretty cool mix of bands. I feel like Southern Lord offers a good amount of bands for anybody to like. There's got to be something to fucking like on that label. That's what I think he's doing and I think it's fucking amazing. I'm stoked to be on Southern Lord.

You have a new album, Hasta La Muerte, coming out and the new songs you've released so far sound a lot more doom-influenced, is that influence you've 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, 'This is something we want to do.' There's still definitely some hardcore influence, but there's 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, I'm not necessarily going to say that it's a key point in it. Everybody in this band is Hispanic and it's just natural for us. I'm 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. It's the same thing with America; I love America. I think we just like to show it off a little more, just because I don't feel people embrace their culture as much as they should.

What's 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. I'm stoked on that, to tour with our friends again. Touring by yourself gets kind of lonely sometimes. Right now, we're just seeing what happens with the new album, which comes out August 14th. It's been a long fucking time, we haven't put out a new record since 2008. I think it's about time we dropped something new; I'm 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, it's 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 people's houses and I just want people to know that we never take that for granted. We're very thankful for people wanting to book our band and have us play, so that's about it. I just want to say thanks.