Folk Alliance Band of the Day: Bandits on the Run (with an exclusive premiere)

Bandits On The Run Photo Credit Sophia Shrank

Bandits on the Run. // Photo by Sophia Shrank

The Folk Alliance International Conference, presented by Folk Alliance International, has its 2023 iteration this February 1-5 at the Westin Crown Center Hotel. With well over 100 artists performing over the course of five days, “crossing a diverse array of genres including Appalachian, Americana, Blues, Bluegrass, Celtic, Cajun, Global Roots, Hip-Hop, Old-Time, Singer-Songwriter, Spoken Word, Traditional, Zydeco, and various fusions,” it can be intimidating to figure out where to start.

We’ve selected a few artists for whom we think you should make time to see, and we’ll be featuring one a day leading up until the conference kicks off on Wednesday, February 1.

As the conference kicks off today, we thought we’d do something a little special and premiere the newest single from the indie-pop-Americana trio, Bandits on the Run, “You Have Changed.” It’s the band at its most vibrant and melodic, boasting a stunning vocal performance that will leave you beyond excited to catch them when they perform over the course of the next few days. It’s the first song off their next EP, which is the first fully produced by Bandits on the Run.

We have the premiere below (which you can pre-save at the streaming service of your choice here). An interview with the band about their musical journey follows.

“Bandits on the Run are a musical trio comprised of Adrian Enscoe, Sydney Shepherd, and Regina Strayhorn. Formed upon a chance encounter while busking in the subways of New York City, the Brooklyn-based outfit has gone on to receive accolades from NPR Music’s All Songs Considered, American Songwriter, NPR Weekend Edition, and the Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project,” a press release states.

You can find out more information on the 2023 Folk Alliance International Conference at Folk Alliance International’s website.

The Pitch: For this new EP, what led you to produce it on your own?

Adrian Enscoe: We’re always looking for a way to mix it up, and we’ve been lucky enough to have had all sorts of recording experiences, from working track by track in a small writers’ studio for our first album, The Criminal Record, which was produced by our good friend William Garrett (now Spotify Live Sessions’ lead producer) to having a two week intensive at Bear Creek during the first year of the pandemic, where we recorded our last EP with Ryan Hadlock (Brandi Carlile, The Lumineers).

Bandits On The Run You Have Changed Art

Courtesy Bandits on the Run

One of the distinct things about us as a band is our live arrangements, and any producer worth their salt will want to honor that and capture the magic of what they hear and feel in a live setting—but one of the things we noticed is that there’s a reticence to fuck with the sound too much.

Then, at the same time as we were releasing our latest EP, we landed this gig writing and recording songs for the Netflix Animated series StoryBots, which we recorded at our friend Stephen Kurpis’ indie studio Vitruvian Sound, which is right in our neighborhood, so the most convenient commute. It was our first project producing our own songs at that scale, and in addition to connecting us with our delightful and sharp-as-hell mixing engineer, Alvin Wee, the project as a whole pushed us to think outside the box of our live arrangement.

In that process, we were able to stretch our sound to encompass instrumentation far outside our trio configuration, and we experimented with incorporating elements of blues, funk, bossa nova, New Orleans street jazz, orchestral music, etc. We proved to ourselves we could, in fact, produce our own tunes, and by doing so, we could push ourselves to step even further out of our own comfort zones.

So for this round of songs, we wanted to embrace that method. It’s definitely been a learning curve. The technical jargon is still something that we’re grappling with, and keeping a tight schedule is a challenging managerial task for three dreamy creatives, but we love a production, and we’ve been thriving in this setup. We’ve gotten dear artists and friends from all over the world to come and pop up in various tracks; we’ve added wacky instruments like pedal steel and theremin to our songs. It’s by far our most ambitious project yet, and we’re proud as hell that every decision has come from your bandits truly. 😉

Regina Strayhorn: We’ve been low-key producing more and more over the past few years, and it kind of sneaked up on us that we should call a spade a spade and own our process by claiming the title of producer. We’d been arranging and recording soundtracks for film and TV projects, overseeing comps/mixing/mastering of the tracks, organizing our teams, directing our music videos, handling financing and logistics, and we realized, “Oh, right—we’re actually well versed in producing.” So why not bring all that energy to our latest EP? It’s an exciting new chapter, and there’s more cooking.

Sydney Shepherd: We’ve been creating and performing for so many years, and we’ve learned so much about ourselves as artists and the kind of things we want to make, so we figured who better to bring that sound to life than us? It’s been a wild and wonderful and huge learning experience, and it feels great to take the reins and see what we can do from this other aspect of music-making.

Given that you’ve made short films, composed for television and movies, and now have a new video to accompany this song, where does the appeal of working so much with visual accompaniment come from?

Strayhorn: We all trained as actors, and have a deep love for theater and cinema. It becomes a second playground for us. Once the song is finished, and all the labor and obsession and crafting of a track are mastered and sent off into the world—we think, “Let’s do it all again!” What new context can a visual bring to the story of the song? What’s a dimension of the song that we want to explore more? How can we be fluid in how we approach meaning? There’s magic at the intersection of an audio track and a visual picture that’s very exciting to us.

Shepherd: Also, we are totally in love with our artistic community. We’ve made Brooklyn our home for almost 10 years now, and have amassed a wealth of beautiful creative human beings we adore working with, so we seize any and every opportunity to collaborate with others and expand our vision in ways beyond the scope of what just the three of us can bring. Part of our ethos as a band and as a collective, and working in these visual mediums is such a lovely way to bring more people to the table and highlight the talents of people we are passionate about.

We don’t wanna say “You Have Changed” feels like a post-COVID song, but man, does it ever feel like one. Is that an accurate assessment, or is the concept more universal?

Strayhorn: Both. The song is about grappling with loss and change, which certainly has been a lot of people’s pandemic experiences. There’s an ambiguity to moving forward these days. People are on very different pages, with very different experiences of the past couple of years. And that can make you feel extremely unsettled, like you’re turning to the people next to you going, “My life was flipped upside down, was yours? Are you ok? Am I ok? Did you feel that earthquake too?” And “You Have Changed” touches on that feeling of trying to work things out in your own mind of what in the world just happened to you, and who you are now without the things you lost. Are you the same? Probably not.

Shepherd: It’s funny; songs materialize in such different ways. Sometimes a song will absolutely grab hold of you and spill out all at once. Other times you’ll have to chisel away at it over long periods of time like a sculpture. “You Have Changed” is definitely more of a sculpture song; interestingly enough, Regina wrote the first few lines for the chorus before the pandemic, then it sat in our little song bank for a while until we unearthed it during the throes of the pandemic like it was sitting there like a little time capsule waiting for the right time to be finished. So the answer to “Is it a COVID song?” is both yes and no, and it’s really special in that it captures something we were feeling pre-pandemic that was brought into full focus during that time.

Premiering this song during Folk Alliance says an awful lot about the importance of the conference. How did you come to be a part of it?

Shepherd: We’ve been very DIY for so long, existing outside of the “normal” channels of the music business (labels, booking agents, etc.), and now that the music world is coming alive again, we’re ready to take what we’ve learned being a scrappy indie band and take it to the wider world of industry professionals—Folk Alliance is a wonderful place to meet artists and industry folks and spread our good world of banditry far and wide.Fai Print Showcase Flier

In addition to their Folk Alliance showcase appearances, Bandits on the Run will play a “tiny concert” at Effing Candle Company on Friday, February 3. Details on that show here.

Categories: Music