We’d like to introduce you to our most recent Evensound artist, Blue Light Bandits. Hailing from New England, they expertly combine their incredible musicianship with interesting stories and compelling melodies. Their authentic sound is soulful, timeless, and not without a fair amount of funk.
Their story is an interesting one as they’ve grown and evolved over the years into the well oiled machine that they are today. Playing nearly 200 shows a year while holding down full time jobs, Blue Light Bandits not only put the “fun” in funk, but they prove that hard work and perseverance pays off.
Although they’re keeping a nearly impossible schedule these days, they were able to answer some questions for us here at Evensound.
How did you guys come together and form the band, where did the band name come from?
Dan and Ethan met in high school and started the band as a cooperative effort to escape from formal music training and begin creating. Over the years of playing as an acoustic duo, they met Mike (drummer) and finally became a rock band. Recently, the group found Ricky playing solo in some of the same places they played in Worcester and swept him up to complete the group. The band name is a combination of a memorable blue light visual at one of their first gigs and the movie Bandidas, which was viewed as part of a Christmas time movie ritual.
How would you classify your sound? Who are your influences ?
We would classify our sound as a soulful combination of Rock, Pop, and Funk. Some of our most profound influences are John Mayer, Kings of Leon, Jimmy Hendrix, Robert Glasper, and Coldplay. We are always finding new influences and searching for music that changes us and inspires us to create something new. This is what keeps us close together and on the same page, even as it turns.
What is your songwriting process?
Most of the time the music comes first. We all seem to indulge in the therapeutic nature of the sounds we make, so we tend to play what we feel. Someone creates an atmosphere or a motif and then we sit down and explore it together. Once the main parts are created and we have said what need to say musically, the words just seem to fall into place with the environment that was already created.
How is the new record coming along? How did you get hooked up with the Converse Rubber Tracks ?
Ethan: Slow but steady – we’ve found that studio time needs to be as comfortable and pressure-free as possible in order to end up with something we like. It’s a hard thing to find the time and resources for with each band member balancing a full time job along with 3-4 late nights each week gigging. But we’ve got two tracks in the oven that need final touches on mixing and mastering and we’re pretty excited about how they’ll turn out. Each provides a nice entry-level look into what we’ve been up to musically.
While I was an undergrad in Syracuse University’s Music Industry program, I met Fader Magazine & Cornerstone Agency co-founder and fellow ‘Cuse alum Jon Cohen. Jon was hugely instrumental in working with Converse to get the Rubbertracks project off the ground a few years ago. Jon encouraged us to apply for studio time in January of 2015 as Rubbertracks was just beginning to take root in Boston. We were accepted and ended up doing two sessions at Q Division Studios in Somerville, MA (one through RT and one on our own) and worked with Matt Beaudoin, an excellent engineer and producer who’s worked behind the board for the likes of Ryan Adams, Fountains of Wayne, and Howie Day. It was an incredible experience we’d recommend to anyone, and gladly do again. We even scored free shoes and plan to continue working with Converse as they move to impact the Boston music scene in larger ways with each passing year.
What’s the plan for the release of the new record? New England – National tour ?
We don’t have any finalized full album plans yet, but we do plan to release a couple new songs that we have been working on before the end of the year. Now that we have finally found a permanent guitarist, we are starting to plan some short “mini tours” down the east coast for next summer, as well. All the while, we have weekend residencies in both Worcester and in Boston and play a consistent circuit of shows all across New England.
How was your Audiokite experience ?
Dan: Great! Audiokite definitely exceeded my expectations. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I purchased my first report, but I was very impressed with what it had to offer. We used Audiokite to get some feedback on some new songs we are working on. The feedback we received was thorough and straightforward and highlighted some simple ways in which the songs could be better received. The presentation of the data was clean and everything was very easy to understand. I found it invaluable to have random ears critiquing our sound and not our friends and family because some of the most brutal comments offered the most insight. In addition, it was nice to hear some praise for our work and see who (demographically) is really into it.
How do you feel the music industry is handling the changing distribution model and new independent artists?
Ethan: I am definitely a fan of the direction music consumption has been headed. I find subscription streaming to be an extremely convenient and efficient way to consume music, in that it is eliminating compact disc clutter and is making song file piracy obsolete and unnecessary.
The social aspects that Apple and Spotify have added to their services enhance the experience even more. But streaming is not without its issues. It’s nice to see songwriter royalty streaming injustices being taken to court lately, as I feel the extreme decline in songwriter royalty payouts was a horrible and largely unprecedented side effect of the shifting model of distribution.
Another thing that worries me is the importance of advertisements throughout digital streaming services. Just last week I was informed that my long-standing Google Chrome extension AdBlock was no longer effective for stopping YouTube ads. I worry that it won’t be long before the premium cost of ad-free streaming services does not fully eliminate advertisements. It doesn’t take too vivid an imagination to picture the future of digital interaction as a constant and hypnotic series of advertisements with a small bit of content sprinkled in.
I understand that the issues of ads in streaming and artist/songwriter paychecks are connected; one would assume that an increase in streaming payouts to artists and songwriters would likely result in higher premiums or more advertisements in the streaming market. That balance will prove extremely interesting to watch play out as music distribution technology improves.
I do think it’s an exciting time in history to be an independent artist. Programs like Converse Rubbertracks are very encouraging for independent musicians like us looking for a foothold. Online services like BandsInTown and SonicBids have been a big help at landing us some great opportunities. The perspective the internet has provided into how the music industry works has been important for us too – it’s much easier to avoid situations in which artists could be taken advantage of than I imagine it used to be. But regardless of today’s opportunities vs. yesterday’s, I hope our most useful tools as musicians will be hard work, networking, and a high bar for professionalism, all of which are timeless qualities in all forms of business.
What advice would you give to a new indie band just starting their journey?
Make small attainable goals. Be business minded and be professional. NETWORK. Continue to listen and be a fan of music (very important!). There is no formula or perfect way, just grind and make it happen for yourself.
What music are you listening to right now?
In the past couple of weeks we saw one of our new favorite local bands called Oh Malo and went to see Thundercat at The Middle East in Boston. We have been constantly grooving out to both of these groups for the past two months. Funk has hugely influenced us as a band these last few years so new jazz/funk crossovers like Hiatus Kaiyote and Robert Glasper Experiment have not left our listening cues. We have also been listening obsessively to Blanko Basnet, a band we were lucky enough to find during some random YouTube exploration.
Being from New England… Any comments about deflate-gate ?
Dan: Deflate was hilariously blown out of proportion. I personally believe that Gronk deflated the balls with his pre-game ball spiking ritual, but who really knows….
Ethan: I see and hear a nation of sore losers at every turn of this conversation. Tom Brady is the GOAT and Belichick is a wizard.