Monday, April 12, 2010
[uwmpost.com] The Post had the opportunity to speak with Steve Choi of RX Bandits last week. Here’s what Choi had to say about the band’s evolution, The Mars Volta, side projects, and more.
The Post: RX Bandits has undergone quite the transformation since its inception in the late ‘90s – (SoCal ska to a more experimental sound with elements of prog and funk). Would you consider this shift a natural progression, or was it more calculated?
Steve Choi: Not calculated at all. Music is part of our lives and our personal identity on a daily basis. [When] everybody looks back at pictures of themselves in junior high, I’m sure they talked, walked, and acted different than they do now. It’s the same with our music. It’s just an expression of ourselves. It’s just a natural growth.
Post: Has there been any backlash from your veteran fans that have been following you guys since the days of Those Damn Bandits?
Choi: They can choose to stick with us and understand it, or not. We’re lucky that a lot of fans have stayed with us and grown to love us even more, which we really really appreciate. We have a lot of different fans now that listen to good music, as opposed to people who like us for other reasons. If we’re not getting rid of people that can’t open their mind to creative change and expression, then we’re not doing something right.
Post: On the flip side of that, what about new audience members who are only familiar with your latest album, Mandala, do you try to keep the set list well rounded in case they aren’t receptive to your older material?
Choi: We do normally, but the thing is we have a lot of songs, and people are always requesting songs, so we always try to do something different. Since we’re touring and supporting Mandala right now, for us doing something different is playing a good amount of new songs because that’s just where we are at right now.
Post: Would you say that you have adapted the older songs to fit with the band’s “new identity”?
Choi: We try to open them up for jams and interpretation in order to keep them fresh, but we try to maintain all the parts that were there that people want to hear from the record, the harmonies and certain lines and stuff.
Post: So Mandela was the first album written without having horn players in the band. Did that affect the songwriting process?
Choi: It didn’t affect it at all. The horn players never wrote the songs anyway. They were players, valuable players at that. However, the songwriting chord didn’t lie with them. Obviously it affected the songs, because they sound different, but as far as what we were thinking when we were writing them, and what we were trying to arrange and stuff, it didn’t really affect it at all.
Post: So what you’re saying is that the horns were an added layer after the fact?
Choi: Absolutely. I’m not trying to discount their importance; they were a crucial ornament, but so long as the main [sound] didn’t lose its authenticity.
Post: While RX’s Mandela has a very distinct style of its own, it’s hard not to point out similarities [psychedelic jazz sounds, Latin rhythms] to The Mars Volta. What kind of an influence – if any at all – has The Mars Volta had on the RX Bandits?
Choi: I mean we like their music, but none. I think people say that because they’re not familiar with hearing bands that like to combine A: being proficient with your instrument, and trying to displaying some virtuosity by doing some really musical stuff, and B: trying to mix different elements of different genres from around the world. A lot of people make that comparison because they hear guitar solos, they hear complex beats and time signatures, they hear Latin influence and different world music, and they instantly think Mars Volta
Post: Throughout the history of RX Bandits, its members have always involved themselves in various side projects. How vital is that work outside of RX Bandits to the band’s longevity?
Choi: It’s totally crucial to its longevity and its purity and authenticity. It allows us to express and get out all the other things that we have in our head, which could pull RX in different directions and ultimately lead to its demise. [Instead] we have outlets for that, and we can come back to RX and stay focused on what it is that we want to do. Rather than everybody trying to struggle to find their own space, it allows us to be more unified in RX by having our own creative [outlet].
Posted by Dan Goldin at 2:11 AM