We sat down with Denver’s very own BANDITS at SXSW, discussing their influences, their destructive stage antics, and their van.
So, how long have you guys been here at SXSW?
Lulu: This is our second… third day.
Andrew: Third day.
And you tour a lot too, right?
L: Yeah, we’re pretty… we’re on the road a lot.
A: We’ve been on the road for about… in the last month we’ve been home for about five days. We went from Denver all the way out to New York City and back–in like a two-and-a-half week tour–then had a couple days off and then toured our way down here.
What’s the longest tour you’ve ever done?
J: I think that one actually. Like two weeks.
L: Yeah we like to keep them sporadic. Go home for a couple days in between, regroup.
A: This way we can do them a lot.
Do you like touring?
L: Oh yeah.
J: I love touring. Being on the road is the best part. You just get to see a new city every night, and you get to experience the culture everywhere. You get to play in front of new people all the time.
A: It’s great when all you have to do is focus on just going and playing music every night. You just kinda get into that zone, and that’s where you wanna be as a musician.
What’s your least favorite part of touring?
J: Well, loading in and out kinda sucks, but it’s mostly fun.
L: I would say my least favorite part is driving for so long. I get sore from sitting in the van for like nine and a half hours at a time. But it’s not that bad.
A: I think the hardest part is trying to stay healthy and sleep well and eat well and not get sick. It’s definitely a physical struggle.
You’re up late every night?
J: Oh yeah, up ’til like three, four in the morning.
And then you gotta hop in the van next day?
L: For like nine hours, yeah.
Shit. Do you have a name for the van?
L: Not really.
J: We had a few of them, one of them was “Nelson Vandela.”
A: Yeah that’s a good one
J: We made a Facebook post of what to name it, and that’s what we got.
L: We’ve never been like “everyone to the… whatever.”
“To the mystery machine!”
L: It’s just our van.
So you guys do a lot of social media outreach or crowdsourcing and shit?
J: Yeah, I mean we post every day on Facebook.
You got to, right? Welcome to 2016.
Do you find it difficult to stay active, stay relevant, stay involved with the fans to have that kind of relationship?
J: Yeah, sometimes. I think also when you’re absent on Facebook for a few days it really helps people stay interested in what you’re doing. Not posting all the time…just exclusive stuff.
That’s cool. So, you guys play pretty heavy rock. You remind me of the classics, some Sabbath, some classic rock type situations. Do you have modern influences as well?
L: I would say we have a lot of modern influences. We listen to so much when we’re sitting in the van for nine hours that we take in a lot and are always bringing it back to rehearsal. Like, ‘how can we use this, how can we use that.’ But I would say Queens of the Stone Age are a big influence, The Kills, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Tame Impala, we listen to a lot of hip hop that also comes into play.
Really? How do you find that the hip hop effects your music?
A: I think more than anything… well, definitely the groove and the beat because hip hop drums comes from the same place as rock drums, and the rhythms are the same. But I think also the attitude, a lot of the time. You could say that about any music though.
J: Yeah definitely the attitude.
What would you say is your biggest influence that I wouldn’t expect?
L: I’d say Biggie. We loves Biggie.
J: Just the whole attitude thing there.
How far is it from here to Denver?
L: Like a sixteen hour drive. It’s not great.
Who drives the most?
J: I’m kind of a control freak, I like to drive a lot.
L: John likes to drive.
Would you say you’re the best driver?
J: Well, I don’t know.
L: No. [laughter]
J: I’d say Lulu’s the best.
L: I’m the most cautious driver.
A: I’m the best with the trailer. If you gotta back a trailer into something, I got it.
J: But if you wanna get there in maybe eight hours less, let me drive.
A: If you want somebody to drive a hundred miles an hour the whole time, not give a shit…
Law be damned, just go for it.
J: We listen to a lot of Motörhead when we drive that fast.
Yeah, that’s good for driving. Anything else? Any other music in the van?
A: Oh man, there are so many. We’re all over the place. We’ve been listening to a lot of Dr John…
A: And his old albums…
L: I love to listen to Portishead and nobody else ever wants to listen to it.
When you’re driving though that’s up to you.
J: Humble Pie.
A: The Arcs, all that new Dan Auerbach stuff, that’s really good stuff. We listen to that a lot.
Do you guys write songs in the car?
L: I don’t think we’ve ever done that. It’s not the most inspirational place to be.
J: I’ve thought about words and stuff, but…
Who writes most of the lyrics?
J: We split it up usually, and then we’ll bring it into practice.
How do you start a song?
J: Well usually it’s a riff or something. I usually just sit down with the guitar and noodle.
Have fun until something materializes?
J: Yeah and then we put words to that, bring the song to practice, and then kind of develop it from there.
So you start with it and then the group kinda builds off of it?
J: Yeah either me or Lulu will start, and then we’ll bring it to Andrew and all converge.
L: Yeah, we’ll keep developing ideas.
Which of your songs would you say best encapsulates your sound?
J: That’s a hard question to answer because a lot of our songs have different vibes.
L: I would say our band has kind of a dual personality, because John and I split up being lead singers, and I think that’s why our new 7″ is so good. We’re gonna be releasing a vinyl in a couple weeks, and it has my single where I’m the singer and it’s a different vibe.
J: Yeah there’s two different vibes going on, which is kinda cool.
What’s your favorite song to play on stage?
A: I mean we always… The closer song of our set usually has a big, like, jam section at the end where we get really quiet and then build it up really big. It’s a little more psychedelic and gets really heavy at the end, and that one’s always really fun because it’s the end of the set.
L: That one’s always really fun.
J: Yeah I think I’d say that one.
Do you guys try to give off a certain vibe on stage? A personality?
J: Definitely. I mean, we’re just a very, very high-energy band. We kinda have to be because our music is so aggressive…
L: We want our crowd to know that it’s okay to dance around.
J: And that we enjoy the music. I don’t like going to see bands and then they just stand there. Especially for a rock and roll, you know.
L: We wanna go crazy, we wanna get rowdy.
Do you get the crowds to mosh or anything?
J: We’ve had a few moshes…
I mean, they happen on their own. You don’t have to be like ‘hey excuse me’…
L: ‘Hey excuse me, can you start moshing down there? Thank you.’
J: There was one show we played in Lincoln, Nebraska that was the last day of our tour and we weren’t expecting anybody to be there, and then it was a packed room of 300 people, going fucking crazy.
L: Crazy, stage diving and stuff. We were like, what? What is Nebraska?
Yeah, I wouldn’t have expected that.
A: We were moshing ourselves the other night. The first night we were here we went and saw the OCs and few other bands, we played some shows with them back in Denver so we know them, and we were just moshing in the front. I got hit in the head. It was awesome.
What’s your craziest partying on stage, head-banging, ‘oh I hit my head’ kind of story?
J: Oh, I mean we always knock–I knock over everything.
L: John, yeah, he knocks everything over. But I think injury-wise, John has hit both Andrew and I with his head stock so many times. It’s the worst.
J: There was one show I remember, I don’t know what I was doing, we were obviously all drinking quite a bit. I was down on the ground and I got up and just fell into the drumset, passed out almost. I didn’t really realize what had happened.
A: There was one show where you just kept knocking over a drum of mine, like in the middle of a set, kept knocking it over, and so I ended up playing the rest of the set with just a kick and a snare and a high hat because everything else was all over the place.
You’re not gonna change in the middle of a song, not gonna try to fix it.
A: Yeah I was like ‘just go with it.’ There was another show where John had his amps stacked up on each other, and at the end of the night he knocked both of them over and then chucked his guitar at the wall. He almost hit me in the head, like, the guitar was this far from my face.
L: Literally going straight for his head.
Did you break it? You break your guitar?
J: No it was completely fine! It was a hollow body too, I was expecting it to be, like, snapped in half, but…
A: And the amps were both fine.
You guys go through instruments or equipment?
J: Not at all.
L: I mean, you would think that we would. I definitely get nervous about it. John knocks over so much stuff, like my keyboard–the volume knob doesn’t work anymore because John’s knocked it over so many times.
A: Every single show John knocks that thing over. He has a vendetta against it, I think he just hates it.
L: One of these days we’re gonna be out on tour and my keyboard’s gonna break for real and then I won’t have one.
And then that’s it.
L: And then that’s it, and then our band is done and we’ll quit forever.
Hopefully you don’t do that. One last question–what’s next? You guys on tour still?
J: So after SXSW we’re gonna go home, we’re gonna go into the studio and just record everything we got, and we’ll kinda just see what happens from there. Then we got a lot of shows coming up in April, and then May we’re gonna be releasing our 7″, so lots of stuff.
L: Hopefully we tour some more. We’re gonna be doing a lot of touring over the summer and the fall.
Well good luck with that, looking forward to it.
L: Thanks so much.
Thanks for the interview, do you mind if we take a quick selfie?