“Recently we were playing a gig in New Jersey and the promoter said Now Is The Time made him feel inspirational, and that’s always our intention, so that was really cool,” says Regina Strayhorn, accordionist, melodica player, glockenspieler, and one-third of Bandits on the Run, a folksy, Brooklyn-based, indie pop trio focused on community and empowerment. “As a band, we care about our community and are always trying to uplift it, so we’re supporters of things like the Black Lives Matters movement and getting vaccinated,” Regina adds. Last month I got a chance to chat with Regina, along with bandmates Adrian Blake Enscoe (guitar/vocals) and Sydney Shepherd (cello/vocals) via conference call. “People outside of New York wouldn’t really know, but our live shows are a big community and outreach and hopefully uplifting for other people as well. We try to cultivate a sense of community and surprise,” says Sydney.
This June saw the release of Bandits on the Run’s Now Is The Time EP, their first studio recording since their 2017 debut LP, The Criminal Record. The release was produced by Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Brandi Carlile, Vance Joy) at Bear Creek Studio. And, according to Sydney, having this recording as their only available musical platform actually allowed them to broaden their sonic repertoire in a way they may not have attempted otherwise: “We were able to expand our dreams in terms of arrangements, because at the time we were really in the very middle of the pandemic and it was like, ‘Who knows when we’re gonna be playing live again?’ So, it let us add to our world and not worry about whether we can do it onstage or not.” Adrian also tells me that this EP represents a new period of a the band, in particular a band with some experience under their belt.
“This is definitely a giant step forward for us. The Criminal Record is the last time we’d been in the studio, but it was also our first real experience in the studio. It was very much us learning to use the studio, as a live band. But, for this one, we really worked to refine our sound with Ryan Hadlock.”
“We took the plunge, releasing almost every song as a single, so we only had one song left when the EP came out,” says Adrian. That “plunge” seemed to work quite well for the band though, as they received critical praise for each of the individual tracks along the way. Rolling Stone said of the eponymous first single, “Bandits on the Run capture the urgency of the moment with ‘Now is the Time,’ a harmony-rich new song aimed at inspiring people to action, whether voting or simply doing something magical.” And “We Battle Giants” had Kevin Cole of KEXP saying, “I fell in love… This song is how I want to wake up every single morning, I want to feel this way: uplifted, so enthusiastic, inspiring, empowering; it’s like a battle cry. Man, it’s better than a triple shot of espresso.”
As a trio, Bandits on the Run split the responsibilities and the spotlight equally, each taking the lead on an equal number of songs and each writing those respective songs. That means that each member of Bandits on the Run was responsible for two of the six songs on Now Is the Time. So, when I ask them about the release’s influences, they seem a bit puzzled as how to answer, before each telling me about some sounds that were on their minds at the time of penning some of the songs. “There’s a lot of Beatles influences, with the strings arrangements, you can really hear the George Martin influence,” says Sydney. “For ‘We Battle Giants,’ David Byrne and the Talking Heads were a big inspiration,” Regina tells me. “For me, with ‘Sing You To Sleep,’ I was thinking a lot about the Avett Brothers,” comments Adrian.
Although the don’t currently have any area shows, Bandits on the Run do have two upcoming shows on the books a bit north of here. On September 19th they will be playing a special free early show at the Jay Heritage Center in Rye, NY and on October 7th they will be headlining the Music Hall of Williamsburg.