Interview with Rebuilder vocalist/guitarist Sal “Ellington” Medrano | By Kayla Greet
With their roots firmly set in Boston, Rebuilder have been sharing their brand of pop punk with the world since 2013. The five-piece band mix dual guitars, hand claps, and an electric piano, but what really sets them apart from the broad genre of melodic punk is earnest vocals coupled with honest lyrics set over a raucous rhythm section and piercing guitar leads.
Despite the geographical distance, Rebuilder are on the radar in the Pacific Northwest after covering a song by Dead Bars, a local Seattle band, in their live sets. Those who dive into their 2015 full-length, Rock & Roll in America, and the members’ histories may be pleasantly surprised to find they have another Seattle connection: frontman Sal “Ellington” Medrano is the brother of Ramona vocalist and guitarist Diego Medrano, and the two bands toured the West Coast together in 2016. Clearly, the ability to write a catchy-as-hell tune rife with emotion and driving beats runs in the family. On their choice to cover Dead Bars, Medrano says, “I love that band a lot. I think we just started playing ‘No Tattoos’ at practice and started throwing it into the set.”
Now, Rebuilder have released a new EP, Sounds From the Massachusetts Turnpike, on Sept. 1 via Panic State Records. When asked about the two-year gap between releases, Medrano reflects, “It’s funny, because it doesn’t seem that long of a time between records. Since Rock & Roll in America, we have been touring as much as possible.” He adds that they’ve been lucky in their local scene, having had many opportunities to open for national touring bands, but another key to their success is actively playing shows outside of Boston. “We try to do shows around the Northeast when we can,” Medrano shares. “Montreal isn’t too far either. Lost Love and Pouzza Fest have always been supportive of us playing there.”
The new EP is comprised of six powerful tracks, generally concerning keeping your head up and reaching for the positive things in life. Medrano confides that he often writes songs as a reminder to stay optimistic. “I live a pretty public life, but I can also be very quiet and secretive about my anxiety and depression,” he reveals. “It’s something I’ve struggled with for a long time.”
Rebuilder’s lyrics are as cathartic for the listener as they are for the author. Medrano confides, “At the time when I was writing these songs, I was in a pretty shitty place. I didn’t really feel like I could call someone and open up. I thought it was best to just stay quiet.” He adds that “Anchoring” and “The World Is an Asshole” are largely about these topics, though the other theme running parallel on Sounds From the Massachusetts Turnpike is being successful as musicians. “It’s hard, because I work for a lot of bands and see them doing well or become very popular. I can’t help but want the same,” Medrano remarks.
That’s not to say that the band’s work goes unnoticed, but who doesn’t want to make a living doing the thing they’re most passionate about? Still, Medrano is thankful to be doing what he loves and to have the support of his local scene. “I love that people like Rebuilder and come to our shows,” he says. “That’s the fun part. The backend of trying to deal with agents, managers, [and] agencies is the exhausting and disheartening part.”
Speaking of local successes, Rebuilder quickly nestled into the bedrock of Boston bands from the outset. “I think Boston has one of the most amazing music scenes ever,” Medrano proclaims. “It’s highly underrated, because a lot of the bands here, past and present, never get to a national level.”
For the remainder of 2017, Rebuilder have an East Coast tour planned, followed by their third time playing FEST in Gainesville. “[At FEST 14 in 2015] we played on Halloween at midnight and did a blink-182 Dude Ranch cover set right after our set,” Medrano recalls. “Beach Slang was across the street at the same time. I was pretty sure no one would be there. It was sold out and people went nuts for us.” For FEST 16, they’ll reprise their role as blink-182 by covering Take Off Your Pants and Jacket as well as playing their own material, neither of which should be missed.
Thus far, Rebuilder have no plans to get out to the West Coast, though Medrano seems eager to do so. “Biggest difference is the West Coast has more places with pinball machines than the East does,” he says. “It’s a struggle.”