What started off as another promising third wave punk-ska band from the same halls as the likes of Reel Big Fish and Save Ferris took only a few years, and personnel changes, to hit their defining moment, that which was RX Bandits‘ The Resignation in 2003. Horns and keyboards would not steer their writing solely to ska. You needed to listen deeper than that—you needed to see that you had more of a prog-punk band, which happened to include horns and keys.
A decade later, the core members of RX bandits are still together. After a two-year self-proclaimed pause from summer touring, Matt Embree, Steven Choi, Joseph Troy and Christopher Tsagakis are about to embark on an anniversary tour of The Resignation, which hits Emo’s on July 12. The group also took some time to record a covers EP, of which the songs were released individually in June, leading up to the tour commencement. A limited edition CD version featuring an exclusive fifth will be available for purchase at the shows.
I had a chance to chat with guitarist Steve Choi before entering his last week of full rehearsals before shipping out.
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What has kept you busy over the last two years?
Steven Choi: I’ve been producing records, and doing composing. I also have a side project, called Peace’d Out that I’d been working on, so basically just keeping a full musical life, but just off the road.
What are some of the production highlights you’ve been working on?
Choi: I’ve done some stuff with Anthony (Raneri), the singer of Bayside. Vinnie Caruana’s (The Movie Life, I Am the Avalanche) solo stuff, I’ve done. I’ve worked with bands like Weather Box and Gardening, Not Architecture, so those are just some names.
In regards to this tour, the 10-year anniversary of The Resignation, was that the actual pull for this tour or was there maybe something else?
Choi: Really, that was it at that time, you know we just try to take things step-by-step, so we haven’t fully laid out a plan afterwards. We just kinda wanted to do this tour, play this record that you know. We still feel really good about and still got our fans or people who are fans of the record.
You’re about to go into rehearsal, you’re really gearing up for all this. Ten years later, do you ever think there are parts of the songs you want to rework? Is there anything where you are like “Man, I did a great job when I was 20-something doing this, but I have many more years of experience now as a musician and I wonder if I could change this up?”
Choi: You know, there’s a few things, but for the most part as you get more mature and older, you really learn how to put those things aside. I could definitely pick apart the whole record and my performances and things I’d like to do differently, but it’s kind of like, I liken it to probably looking at old pictures of yourself and thinking about how you could have dressed differently; you know what I mean? Things like this, where you kinda look back on it and you just kinda take it for what it is, ’cause you can’t change the past. And we know we have a great opportunity in playing these songs live where we can reinterpret them and we get to kinda redo those things we don’t like.
So you definitely take some of that and embellish it live?
Choi: Oh yeah, and anybody familiar with our live style of music knows that we definitely take liberties doing that, and that we like to change them up live.
What are some things that fans can expect from this tour?
Choi: Actually, a little bit different. We’re really trying to capture the important moments in our lives on the record, so we’re not just going to indulge ourselves and changing the songs completely live. We’re definitely referencing the record a lot, and they can expect to hear a legitimately conscious effort on playing the album as a whole for people.
Do you guys have any surprises or special guest coming out for the show?
Choi: We will be having some horn players with us, so, like I said, that’s all consistent with recreating the album. We have a whole projection and light thing we have going for the tour, which is what these full production rehearsals are all about.
I want to talk a little about the covers album. What was the process in picking those tracks and were there any songs that almost made the recording cut?
Choi: Yeah, there’s about a hundred songs that almost made it. It’s a huge thing for us. It was so tough to pick, so at the end of the day we knew we had to do this and put something out. We just had to kinda be impulsive and just try and pick five that were sorta within a realm, but at the same time show as much diversity as possible as far as our influences in rock music.
The Fugazi track was a no-brainer and something I was looking forward to hearing you do. But the Weezer track was a surprise, and a pleasant one.
Choi: Thanks. We just wanted to show people that we play music for fun still. It’s just a fun tune to play. I know a lot of people take our music seriously and they see us taking our music seriously, but it’s not like that all the time.
Did you get to a point where you had to whittle it down and were just throwing songs into a hat or was there someone in the band who had a stronger voice in the selections?
Choi: No, we just kept it even. You know we kinda just shifted around. Honestly, like we could have made five albums of Fugazi covers alone. We could have made a whole album of Blonde Redhead covers. You know, it’s just like, we had to pick some.
I know you touched upon it a little before, but what would be next for the RX Bandits after this tour?
Steven: I don’t know. I think there is a lot of things that could more than would. But, we’ll see.
Listen to The Resignation from RX Bandits below. The RX Bandits will be performing in Austin at Emo’s on July 12. The tour will feature the band performing the album in its entirety, in addition to playing fan favorites from the rest of its catalog. Northern Faces will co-headline. Purchase advance tickets here.