Why RX Bandits’ farewell is not goodbye

Rx Bandits said goodbye in San Francisco on August 7, 2011 at the band's farewell show. The Seal Beach, CA group announced breakup plans earlier in the summer.

It happens to the best of us.

We get tired.

And that’s how it appears the road-weary RX Bandits are after a decade of constant touring.

The Seal Beach, California group is known for its transformation (see: evolution) from a late ’90s ska band to a four-headed beast of a band playing spacey, prog-rock with reggae and Latin influences.

At the height of the group’s career, RX Bandits played a trio of shows in New York and San Francisco, devoting each night to a full album performance of the band’s last three: The Resignation, …And The Battle Begun and Mandala.

Then, a few months ago, the band said they’d be calling it quits.

After 16 years and 7 studio albums, Rx Bandits announced on its website the following:

“Dear friends,
We would like to express our love and appreciation for all that you’ve done for us and how much a part of our growth you have been. We have all mutually decided that this summer will be our last tour. We love each other and love you all and hope to see you at the shows.

Much love & respect,
Rx Bandits”

When I heard the news, I was shocked and saddened. I’ve been following these guys since I saw them open for Reel Big Fish at the Fillmore in San Francisco around 2004.

The political messages about peace, not war, call and response sing-a-longs, extended jam outs, frenetic guitar noodling and improvisational drum solos are just a few of the

———- that make the bands’ live show a true performance.

I made it out to two shows on the band’s farewell tour — The Catalyst in Santa Cruz on July 30, where Berkley’s Facing New York opened and the FINAL PERFORMANCE at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco August 7.

The Regency Ballroom was a the perfect opportunity for the band to bring out the big guns — a two-piece horn section to beef up older tracks. Both shows were packed, but the energy and emotion in San Francisco was over the top. Each cord resonated just a little extra for both the band and the crowd.

There were no goodbyes, just “I’ll miss you”s and the four members hugged, held hands and bowed at the end of a high-energy, two-hour set.

With a group of such talented musicians — Matt Embree’s powerful croons and free-flowing guitar licks, Steve Choi’s flying fingers on guitar and keys (and sometimes drums), Chris Tasgakis’ tight rhythms, and Joe Troy’s bass grooves — its apparent that the great music these guys play together will not cease.

The four core members have been playing together so long (more than a decade), they’re basically brothers. Choi insists in interviews that this is not the end of RXB, just the end of touring.

Not to mention, members of the group are distinctly connected to rising independent record label Sargent House, which they helped form in 2006.

Embree already plays solo as Love You Moon, and has started a new project called ME & LP, which is sounding oh so sweet.

Check out ME & LP – Bonnie Says (No Shitty Ride) below:

Embree and Tsagakis also have a Sound of Animals Fighting-esque project called Biceratops, and Tasagakis plays in a group called Technology.

Other projects from band members include Apotheke and Coke vs. Bill. The group’s involvement with Sargent House will keep them fresh as they continue to collaborate with bands like current touring partners Zechs Marquise.

Here’s to the end of an era…can’t wait to see what comes next.

  • (Editor’s note: It worked out pretty well for Gatsby’s American Dream, a popular Seattle indie band that broke up in 2006 and went on to form Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, Wild Orchid Children, Search/Rescue, RedRedBlue, Keith Ledger, Zero Cool, Razia’s Shadow, Princess Dinosaur, Places and Numbers and TickTockMan)


RXB “Only For The Night” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

RXB “Hidden Track” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

RXB “Drum Solo” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

Openers Facing New York play “Me and My Friendz” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

New music by natives

Listen to “Sun Hands” here

Check out this track. It’s called “Sun Hand” and its by Local Natives.

I first saw this band open up for one of my favorite bands, Facing New York at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. That was in October 2008. Phew, that sounds like a longgg time ago.

Anyway, one of the openers was a group called Local Natives, who true to the name, looked like a bunch of barefoot hobbits bouncing around on stage playing guitar, jumping, stomping, screaming and singing. It was a spectacle.

My friend Jon was even more blown away than I was.

I never got around to listening to them because I was so infatuated with FNY’s new release, “Get Hot.”

Which, by the way, was hot.

Now, the Natives are buzzworthy, receiving rave reviews from NPR and coverage on Pitchfork.

The five-piece has an eclectic, energetic folk-heavy indie rock sound with a roots in the ground kind of feel. They were just signed onto Frenchkiss Records, the same label as Passion Pit. Now there’s a winning combination.

I chose “Sun Hands” because right around 2:55 into the song, shit starts getting really good. Right at the breakdown, I’m jolted awake. It’s not hard to fall asleep to the shimmery guitars and airy vocals of a lot of indie, but as soon as the stomping and clapping kicks in, it turns the song into something much stronger. I just wish they could have a whole song like that. So I didn’t have to wait three minutes just to get to the good part.

The Natives’ debut album “Gorilla Manor” isn’t actually “out” until Tuesday February 16, but I’ve had it for a couple weeks now. (Don’t tell the RIAA!)

And it’s sounding real good. “Airplanes” is the single-ready track, which I’m sure will blow up in exactly six months until this band becomes revered along the lines of Yeasayer, Passion Pit and maybe even MGMT.

KCRW is all over these guys, so catch on while it’s hot. You’ll thank me later.


Catch an acoustic version of “Airplanes” below:

How Gong I’m Gonna Be Lawn

Track 9 on Facing New York’FNYs “Get Hot” is like the beginning of a journey in a dark, mystical tunnel.

“How Gong I’m Gonna Be Lawn” is a confusing ass name.

But the forresty sound effects and breathing noises in full stereo effect through my Bose computer speakers is phenomenal. A trumpet starts to melt in as the noises continue to build and speed up parallel to the simple keyboard notes and bass line keeping the rhythm moving.

It’s not until about a minute and half into the song, it really starts going…which is nothing even close to out of the ordinary for any prog-rock band. With Floyd influences abound, The Oakland-based trio give the full experience with a pretty regular-sized collection of regular-length songs.

But whether its 3 minutes or just under 6 – like track number 9 – they pack the punch into songs that take on the form of anything but regular.

Each one is a new journey, a perfect soundtrack to the mysterious adventures of a stoner exploring himself and the world on the Internet on an otherwise quiet Saturday night.

There’s a sweet blend of slow to fast, and quiet to loud in almost all of the 11 tracks with only a few moments to lag that get passed up when the songs build to full-on experimental jazz rock.

I’ve blogged about this band and this CD twice in four blogs, but I promise I’ll get into the other stuff.

As the journey of a man nears its end, he comes to a slow realization of what he needs to do: be more himself.

Eric Frederic leaves you off with a line perfect for the old enough to have hair on his face kind of scruffster: “Self-medicating through anonymous sex with the occasional hungover insight.”