When police officers halted a Cali Nation band practice in downtown Salinas, they inadvertently helped guitarist/vocalist Andrew Nack write his band’s most popular song. The song, “Salinas,” is a Sublime-inspired ode to Nack’s hometown that begins with the lyrics “You can call the cops/ If you say that you will/ But let me tell you first/ I got one license to kill/ Please now children/ Just kick back and chill.”
Over huge portions at Salinas’ Super Pollo Taqueria, I ask Nack if “Salinas,” which also includes lyrics about just having fun until someone pulls out a gun, is a plea to end gang violence in his hometown. He responds by looking over at me like I am reading a little too much into his lyrics.
“It’s just about growing up in a town that harbors hostile youth,” he says. “It’s just my outlook on my surroundings.”
Born in Minneapolis, Nack’s family moved to Salinas by the time he turned three. After attending Salinas High School, he formed a band with drummer Jason Rader six years ago. The band, which Nack refuses to name, eventually became Cali Nation three years ago.
Before Nack is able to tell me about Cali Nation’s rise to popularity, a family friend of his sits down at the adjoining table.
“I have known him since he was yea big,” the friend says while holding her hand a few feet off the floor. “I saw him sing back at church camp.”
After the two update each other on recent family developments, Nack tells me that Cali Nation’s first real gig was at Viva’s a year ago. Since then, the band has become a popular fixture in Santa Cruz, performing in the Atrium at The Catalyst, The Crow’s Nest, The Mediterranean and the Aptos Club, where the band recently opened for Hawaii’s Pepper.
At this past summer’s Monterey Rock and Art Festival, it became obvious why Cali Nation is a popular draw in Santa Cruz. Playing on the fairgrounds’ Garden Stage, the band’s mixed reggae, rock, hip-hop and punk, sounded a bit like Santa Cruz reggae rockers The Expendables and Ribsy’s Nickel, which followed Nack and his crew’s performance on the stage.
The highlight of Cali Nation’s set is a ska-tinged cover of The Eagle’s “Hotel California” that turns into Tupac’s “California Love.” Though Nack insists that Cali Nation has a slew of such cover songs in its back pockets, he would rather focus on the band’s originals.
Before heading back to work, Nack tells me about his goals of putting the finishing touches on a 10-song CD and touring along California’s Interstate 5. “You have got to infiltrate one scene at a time,” he says, while recognizing another friend who just entered the taqueria.
Cali Nation plays Viva Monterey, 414 Alvarado St., Monterey, Friday and Saturday, 9pm. No cover. 646-1415.