This is intern Scott’s final blog for the semester. His enthusiasm for RX Bandits has made me a fan of the band and his writing has made me a fan of Scott. Sam C.
Earlier this week, I received an announcement of significant value to me. RX Bandits, who had announced they’d be on hiatus in 2011, decided to make a quick comeback for a reunion tour. This summer marks the tenth anniversary of their third LP The Resignation, the album that marked their change in style and genre, from ska-punk to progressive rock – a change that came for the better. The band announced on Monday that they’d be going on a nation-wide tour, playing The Resignation front to back.
RX Bandits were the first band I loved with a real, mature passion. Sure, there had been bands before them that I liked – the infectious pop-rock of Weezer, the boy band stage (*ducks*), Jimmy Buffett (?) – but the music didn’t connect to me on an emotional level, a real level the way RX Bandits did. And there was just so much to like about them.
As mentioned, they began their career in Southern California, hopping on the ska-punk bandwagon pioneered by groups like No Doubt, Mighty Might Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, etc., and frankly, those other bands did it better than RXB. However, over time, the Bandits began playing more serious music: lyrics about politics, love, and the state of humanity; their riffs and time signatures became more complex, their songs expanding to five, six, seven minute lengths. Gone were the sunny horns and typically silly ska gags, welcomed were these progressive rock additions, still with hints of their ska, reggae, punk roots. Their later sounds – which enveloped three total albums before they announced their (now brief) hiatus – were often described as “indescribable” by many critics and fans alike.
Their musical evolution grew on me, and soon I was hooked on this new breed of rock monster. Perhaps what put really did it, though, was how they made their music. The four core members of the band are exceptionally talented musicians. Front-man Matt Embree sings with a snarl in his voice, all while playing painstakingly complex riffs and chord progressions; guitarist Steve Choi helms equally difficult duties on his axe, and occasionally switches to the keys mid-song; drummer Chris Tsagakis plays a unique bombastic, frolicking style of drums unlike many others; bassist Joe Troy backs it all up with subtly great bass lines. And even better, they recorded their music live. Not in concert, mind you, but live in studio – no over-dubs, very little mastering or touching up. As Embree put it himself, “We try not to do any over-dubs at all. There are mistakes on [the album], and we just kept them, because that’s human, you know?”
Check this video from 2009 for their album Mandala when everything changed!
With all of this in mind, RX Bandits soared to the top of my favorite bands list, and still hold their position. So, as one could imagine, it was exciting for me to hear they would be touring one more time. I bought tickets to see them at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia the day of the announcement. For the next two months of waiting for the July concert, I’ll be re-listening to all of the band’s old songs, reliving their greatness and the memories of growing up that I associate with their tunes.
And that’s more-or-less the two broader conclusions I’ve come to during my time at Gigspots: the overall power of music and the infinite depth. Interning for a music website has shown just how deep the music community runs. In proportion to the whole world, the music community Gigspots associates itself with is rather thin, so it’s incredible to think about billions of people connected by music. Music has the power to unite strangers and form communities, to make memories, to make people feel emotions. RX Bandits’ reunion only further ignited and reminded me of these feelings that had already been re-sprouting during my internship with Gigspots.
For every auto-tuned, mass-produced hit churned out to the public and devoured unconditionally, there lies, somewhere in the shadows, undoubtedly enjoyed by many, a great band. There’s an endless supply of great music out there; it simply needs to be found. Gigspots has taught me that. And even for a second, let’s give credit to the aforementioned fans of the mass-produced radio hits – they still achieve that same effect. Those songs become loved by fans, and it becomes an experience to listen to those songs, to be part of that community.
The fact that strangers, who may have never met before, can interact and consider themselves part of a group or larger community because they enjoy sounds made by a group of musicians they’ve likely never met, either… that’s astonishing. That the announcement of a reunion tour could make me feel so excited and nostalgic…. Because truly loving a band and their music is more than simply enjoying some sounds – it’s belonging to a community, it’s experiencing an effect rarely achieved by other things. It’s an experience.