Banditas
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Banditas

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States | SELF

Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States | SELF
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"Their minimal, gothic, harmony-rich music makes you sort of worried you’re about to get pushed into an abandoned Texas mine-shaft by a psychopath with a shotgun and a dresser full of love letters. - Luke O'Neil, Street Boners and TV Carnage


"...garage rock spiked with Ameri-cana twang and girl-group harmonies...Like a lo-fi Shangri-Las crashing tender garage rock, the blended voices lend a cool, hypnotic feel to the music." - Jed Gotlieb, Boston Herald


We’re all about Frank Smith keeping busy—and apparently, so are they. In addition to populating half of Boston’s other bands (the Lot Six, Eyes Like Knives, the Sharking, Abigail Warchild, the Beat Awfuls), the members of Frank Smith (all seven of them) have pulled together a follow-up that leisurely steps up from their assured, mega-lovable debut, last year’s Think Farms. Opening track “Belly Full of Bait,” part 1 of a triptych, is a boozy intonation of lonely harmonica and Aaron Sinclair’s smoke-shot vocals (I actually don’t know if he smokes, OK?). “Apocalypse Circa Now” would tickle anyone who misses Red Red Meat or Rex—hanging its head heavy as it trudges through a fog of wheezy feedback. Tracks like “Bumblebee,” “It Ain’t Right” and “Black and Blue” take familiar country textures and give ’em the ol’ Allston onesy-twosey, punching them up a bit with some nod-inspiring indie-rock gusto. With its scattered banjos, choo-choo cadences, logy lap-steels and whiskey-raw rasp, the new batch of Frank Smith songs are country-ish—but they aren’t exactly country, and they certainly aren’t glazy, lazy alt-country. Perhaps if country were more coastal and sea-bashed, more stringent and worn—maybe this is salt-country. Call it what you will; we’re calling it one of our top 10 local records of the year. SO THERE. [MICHAEL BRODEUR] - Weekly Dig


Players: Let’s be Frank
By Christopher Blagg
Friday, March 31, 2006

Band names have gotten out of control. Consider, if you will, And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead and I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness.
Aaron Sinclair and his band took a different approach with their seven-piece alt-country group named Frank Smith. No one in the band - which plays a CD release party show at Great Scott tomorrow for its new ‘‘Red On White” - is named Frank or Smith. But the name is so innocuous it actually stands out.
Frank Smith
The band started out as Laguardia, but it turned out another band with a major-label contract had nabbed it.
‘‘We’d been trying to think of a name for a few months,” Sinclair said over drinks at a local watering hole, ‘‘and I started thinking the whole process was absurd. So we just thought of the most pedestrian name we could come up with.”
More a collective than a band at first, Frank Smith was made up of players from all over the local indie-rock scene. The one constant was Sinclair, who made his mark drumming for noise punks The Lot Six. The mayhem gets decidedly quieter and more countrified when Sinclair straps on a guitar for Frank Smith. Despite the opposing musical approaches, Sinclair doesn’t think it strange having a split musical personality.
‘‘I still think of it all as just music,” he said. ‘‘It would be weird to be in two bands that sound the same. That would be stupid.”
Despite the buzz around his side project, the songwriter couldn’t imagine dropping his drumming duties.
‘‘I enjoy them both a lot,” Sinclair said. ‘‘I would miss not playing drums, y’know, hitting things really hard for a long time.”


Frank Smith plays Great Scott tomorrow with Furvis, Jake Brennan & the Confidence Men and Pablo. Tickets: $8. Call 617-566-9014. - Boston Herald


For full article go to: http://www.boston.com/ae/music/articles/2006/04/14/when_punks_go_folk?mode=PF


When punks go folk
For some artists, toning it down proves uplifting
By Glenn Yoder, Globe Correspondent | April 14, 2006

Aaron Sinclair is 29 years old and still growing -- at least when it comes to seafood.

''I just started eating fish," says the drummer of frenetic local punk mainstays the Lot Six, placing an order at the Sports Depot in Allston. ''You like scrod?"

The catch of the day isn't the only new item on his plate. Sinclair is also developing a musical appetite for Hank Williams, Bruce Springsteen, and all the folk, country, and Americana he shirked as a ''metalhead" growing up in country-dominated Texas.

Beyond that, the Berklee graduate is embracing his roots as the lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter of the mammoth seven-member Americana collective Frank Smith -- cramming stages with banjos, acoustic guitars, pedal steel, piano, and other instruments to create a sound worlds removed from his punk tendencies.

And the guys playing those instruments? Most are pulled from other hard-edged local rock groups such as Eyes Like Knives, Stray Bullets, and Drexel. None had trouble making the switch to rabble-rouser country-rock, Sinclair said.

''We're all a little bit older, and we've been playing music for so long that even at the time they joined, they listened to all different kinds of music," Sinclair said of his bandmates. ''I don't think they found it a drastic change. And as you get older, your tastes widen."

It's not uncommon for rock artists to lower the decibel level. After all, 1980s heavy metal power ballads were built around the every-bad-boy-has-a-soft-side ethos, and in the 1990s, a mixture of harder post-grunge and college rock yielded the emo genre and its soggy-heart sentiments.

''I think it's only natural, especially if you're playing stuff that's really hard," said Ira Elliot, the Brooklyn-based drummer of alt-rock veterans Nada Surf, in a phone interview. ''[Folk and country music] is really about the song." - Boston Globe


If it weren’t for Aerosmith, Frank Smith might never have existed. About five years ago, Aaron Sinclair had been hanging out with ’smith drummer Joey Kramer’s son Jesse and their friend Jon Lammi when Jesse suggested they go check out his dad’s home studio. The trio — Sinclair on acoustic guitar and vocals, Kramer on drums, and Lammi on bass — began writing, recording, and piecing together songs in the studio. "I guess it kind of started out of an opportunity to have some free recording time somewhere," says Sinclair. "We were having a really good time and we thought that the first session we did came out really good, so we just kept doing it." They dubbed themselves LaGuardia and eventually built up enough material for an album.

The self-released full-length LaGuardia is reminiscent of the prog-punk weirdness that Sinclair was writing with his then primary band, Drexel. "I was using acoustic guitar but still trying to write some skewed rhythms and some stuff you could’ve played on electric."

The band played only a handful of shows before Kramer moved to LA. Despite not having a proper band and splitting time between Drexel (who broke up in 2003) and drumming in the Lot Six, Sinclair began writing songs for a second album, songs that he says were "more suited to acoustic. I was playing chords and not trying to do anything too crazy, trying to keep it a lot more stripped down and straightforward." Eyes like Knives frontman Scott Toomey signed on as second guitarist, Lot Six guitarist Julian Cassanetti started playing keyboards, and they went through a number of drummers before Sinclair decided to take on the album’s percussion duties himself. They also went through a series of name changes — there was a Philly band named LaGuardia — before settling on Frank Smith. "We were getting tired of trying to think of clever or cool band names, and it turned into, ‘What’s the most monotonous, everyday-Joe name you could think of?’ It was kind of a joke for a minute, but then we just kept it."

During the making of the album, which Lammi recorded at his South Boston apartment, local label Lonesome Recordings approached the band about re-releasing LaGuardia. Sinclair agreed on condition that Lonesome also put out the new album. Lonesome removed the shrink wrap from the remaining LaGuardia CDs that were already pressed, put Frank Smith stickers on them, and had them in stores in May 2004. The follow-up, Burn This House Down, was released two months later.

The second album marked a significant departure from the debut. Sinclair had been listening to a lot of country-influenced music, especially Wilco, and he says he was "trying to find my way around the lighter side of things after being in a lot of punk bands and louder bands my whole life." The new songs retained some of LaGuardia's quirks and curveballs but leaned toward the rootsy side of the alt-country spectrum. A spell of homesickness was partly responsible. Sinclair grew up in Texas, and years ago, when asked why he didn’t share his parents’ Southern drawl, he deadpanned, "I guess I just don’t like how it sounds." Now he acknowledges that he "ran away from a lot of things that sounded like Texas. I wanted to leave Texas really bad when I got out of high school, and now I miss it a lot." Home and family are the subject of only a few songs — BTHD’s "Texas Town" for one — but Southern nostalgia permeates almost all of his recent music.

And Sinclair, who plans to move back some day, has refined BTHD’s wistful down-home vibe on the new Frank Smith album, Think Farms, whose release they'll celebrate July 30 at the Middle East. Forlorn harmonica, swampy slide guitar, melancholy melodies, mournful chord progressions, and Sinclair’s plaintive tenor evoke longing and loneliness without being maudlin or dispiriting. The album is more consistent and cohesive than the previous two, and Sinclair says that has as much to do with the songs as it does with the consistent line-up he now has behind him. For a long time Frank Smith was more like a collective. In addition to the rotating drummers, Lammi was splitting bass duties with Sinclair’s Lot Six band mate Dan Burke. Burke eventually became a permanent member, and they recruited former Stray Bullets drummer Drew Roach soon after the second album was finished. "That’s when it turned into a real band," says Sinclair. "Before, it was always like, throw some people together and play a show." (Banjo player Brett Saiia rounded out the line-up shortly after the new album was finished.)

Think Farms was recorded by former Drexel co-frontman Marc Flynn at his home studio, 202 Lions, in Quincy, and though it took eight months, the result still sounds spontaneous. The songs were written in three batches, then recorded almost immediately after. When it comes to songwriting, Sinclair says, "I go up and down. I definitely go a week or a month at a time where I don’t touch my guitar, or if I do, it’s totally uninspiring. There’ve been periods of time that were so long that I would tell [my girlfriend] Lindsay, ‘I’m getting worried. I might not ever be able to write a song again.’ But it always seems to come around, some sort of inspiration or whatever it is. I don’t really know where it comes from or why, but something will hit and then I’ll have a string of a few songs. I’d meet up with Drew and we’d go put them together and get them arranged up and then we would go record them real quick. These songs weren’t rehearsed for too long."

Once Sinclair and Roach had the basics done, the other guys would go in and lay their parts down. Sinclair and Flynn, who replaced Cassanetti on keys about halfway through, then spent days on each song "building and taking away and trying different stuff," as Sinclair puts it. Stuff like slamming lockers for additional percussion and running toy pianos through fuzz pedals to add some sonic oddities to an otherwise stripped-down country record.

The album marks a musical reunion for Sinclair and Flynn, who began playing together during their first semester at Berklee in 1995 when they formed Drexel. "I couldn’t be happier to be playing with Aaron again," says Flynn. "It feels right."

Sinclair says that one reason he was able to spend so much time on Think Farms is that "the Lot Six has been sitting around." After spending more than half of last year on the road, the band have indeed taken a break from touring, but while "sitting around," they recorded what may be their best album to date, the vicious and ambitious Get Baked on Youth Kulture.

Dave Vicini certainly thinks so. "I think it’s definitely above and beyond the best shit we’ve ever done," he says outside ZuZu before his recent DJ gig there. "It’s more cohesive. I think we came into our own in some sense."

The band had recorded songs in New York for an EP between tours last July. Unhappy with the way that came out, they toyed with the idea of remixing it, then decided to scrap everything and re-record at New Alliance with Ethan Dussault, who did their previous album, 2003’s Major Fables (Tarantula). They added a couple of new songs, bringing the total to nine tracks — seven of which are proper songs — and 25 minutes, somewhere between an EP and an LP. New York’s Plastic Records is releasing the album on vinyl and CD in September.

Vicini says they plan on hitting the road again to support the record but adds that they needed the long break "after last year, which was crazy." In addition to writing songs for a new full length, he explains, "we’ve all been getting back on our feet. We lost apartments and lost jobs. The reality of life and bills set in."

Frank Smith | Middle East upstairs, 472 Mass Ave, Cambridge | July 30 | 617.864.EAST


Issue Date: July 22 - 28, 2005 - Boston Phoenix


5 Frank Smith | Think Farms | Lonesome Recordings

Let’s not bother going through the extended family tree of band members that eventually led to Frank Smith except to say they’re a band, not a guy, and the brainchild of Lot Six drummer Aaron Sinclair. All similarities end there, as Will Spitz discovered when he spoke to Sinclair in July. Sinclair had been listening to a lot of country-influenced music, especially Wilco, and he said he was "trying to find my way around the lighter side of things after being in a lot of punk bands." Mission accomplished. - Boston Phoenix


Frank Smith are a band, not a man. At least, that’s what it says on their MySpace page. I did find 40 Frank Smiths in the phone book before I stopped counting. But that’s not the point. That Frank Smith are a band is, however, news of sorts. For a while, terms like “collective” and “side project” were the favored designation, thanks in large part to the lineage: the band got their start when Texas-born Lot Six drummer Aaron Sinclair took a few friends on a bit of a country excursion in Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer’s son Jesse’s home studio. Various members have come and gone (including Kramer), but Sinclair, along with fellow Lot Sixer Dan Burke (bass) and Eyes like Knives frontman Scott Toomey, never managed to shake Frank Smith. The seven players who took the stage at Great Scott last Saturday night to celebrate the release of the third Frank Smith disc, Red on White (Big Snow), had coalesced into something more than just a collection of local-scene pals on a country-music bender.

The addition over time of Brett Saiia on banjo and Steve Malone on pedal steel complements lots of harmonica blowing and acoustic strumming and drummer Drew Roach’s chugging train rhythms, and it’s given Sinclair a seasoned line-up to help him realize his broad, rootsy vision. Red on White is peppered with lo-fi, found-sound montages that at times give it a back-porch-hootenanny feel. But like the set Saturday, the disc is also carefully arranged, shot through with richly textured ruminations, up-tempo barnstormers, and a reverb-and-feedback-filled ambiance that gives the proceedings a palpable sense of darkness. A new song that recalled the latter Las Vegas Storydays of the Gun Club — the disaster strewn, banjo-filled “Apocalypse Circa Now” — and a slow, mournful cover of Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” (both on the new disc) demonstrated how far Sinclair’s big little band have come in the past couple years. Steve Martin once joked that it’s just not possible to play a sad song with a banjo. Apparently he was wrong. - Boston Phoenix (Matt Ashare)


Frank Smith is not a person. At first glance, I assumed that this album was from a singer-songwriter from Boston. Well, I got the Boston part correct, but Frank Smith is actually a band. There is nobody named Frank Smith whatsoever in this fantastic, indie-country group.

The origins of this group stems from a single musician, Aaron Sinclair, who you may know from his work in The Lot Six and Drexel. He began to work on some solo material under the moniker LaGuardia, releasing his first batch of tunes in 2002. Since then he has surrounded himself with six other talented musicians, renamed the group and has now released their fourth album under Frank Smith, Red On White.

It is pretty interesting to hear an album with this much classic Southern twang coming from the land of clam chowder. Sinclair does have Texas roots, which does explain quite a bit. Frank Smith's old school country sound is honest and genuine, dark and gloomy at times, such as on the banjo plucking of "Apocalypse Circa Now." Yup, this ain't your grandpappy's country music. Sinclair sends chills when he wails the line "Catastrophes keep happenin' the roof is fallin' down the walls are collapsing concrete is crackin' the gasoline is lightin' up."

Although it isn't quite as bleak as the previous song, "L.O.V.E." is far from a knee slappin' good time. The honky-tonk piano and banjo is supported by a shuffling beat. Next up is one of the greatest Bruce Springsteen covers I have heard. Frank Smith took on the Boss' classic "I'm On Fire" and truly made it their own. Led by a slide guitar, the steady picking of a banjo and some haunting backing harmonies, this is easily one of the standout tracks from Red On White.

The tempo picks up on "It Ain't Right," although the subject of the song is far from cheerful. Sinclair takes a swing at W with lines such as: "He's been wastin' all our time he's been lyin' to our faces and smilin' through his teeth." The album finishes out with "Black And Blue," "Time To Cut The Fence" and "Bumblee Bee," three great songs that balance between country and indie rock.

Records this solid don't come along all that often. Do yourself a favor and snag a copy of Red On White. Banjo has never sounded this damn cool. - The Tripwire


Banditas is one of those rare bands that is immediately captivating from the moment they open their mouths. While the instrumentation of their tunes is downright minimal, their vocals have the kind of melodic strength that could hook in even the most apprehensive of listeners. Their EP, which is available for free via their BANDCAMP page, is awesome; 5 lo-fi country/rock tunes that are simultaneously gritty and beautiful. I love how the vocals peak in the mix when singers Molly Maltezos & Hayley Thompson-King are really wailing...it reminds me of old Abner Jay recordings, where the emotion behind the tune is almost too powerful for the tape to capture.

Here's a couple of my favorites-but do yourself a favor and just go download the EP. Who doesn't like free music? Crazy people. Thats who. - pRIMORDIAL sOUNDS


Discography

GET BEHIND US (EP, available for download at www.banditasband.bandcamp.com)

Harmony Glass/When He Comes Home Late At Night (7", available from us or at www.motorcyclefacerecords.com)

Photos

Bio

Sweet harmonies stab through fuzzed out distortion and linger over dead silence…rumble drums on horse back, specks charging over distant hills…sometimes sparse, sometimes spoken, sometimes belted black tears rolling down their cheeks…mascara stained moon faces broken by heart ache… songs inspired by notorious women, murder ballads, cowboy daddies, boys and summers…Hayley Thompson-King vocals and guitar, Molly Maltezos harmonies, Candace Clement drums

Our Releases:
GET BEHIND US (EP, available for download at www.banditasband.bandcamp.com); Harmony Glass/When He Comes Home Late At Night (7", available from us or at www.motorcyclefacerecords.com);

Things people nominate us for:
2010 Nominee for Boston Music Awards' Best New Artist, 2011 featured artist at Weekly Dig/Converse SXSW official party, nominated for Best Female Vocalist and Best Roots/Americana by the Boston Phoenix’s Best Music Poll 2011.

Shit talking:
"Their minimal, gothic, harmony-rich music makes you sort of worried you’re about to get pushed into an abandoned Texas mine-shaft by a psychopath with a shotgun and a dresser full of love letters." -Luke O'Neil, "Banditas Are Kinda Scary", Street Boners and TV Carnage

"A little Neko Case, a little Lesley Gore, a lot of lo-fi Americana wonderful. Fronted by two ladies who know their way around heartbreaker blues and harmonies, this trio is one of those great Best Coasts we get for suffering though Taylor Swift." -Jed Gottlieb, Boston Herald

"Banditas is one of those rare bands that is immediately captivating from the moment they open their mouths. While the instrumentation of their tunes is downright minimal, their vocals have the kind of melodic strength that could hook in even the most apprehensive of listeners." -pRIMORDIAL sOUNDS

"their sinfully sweet and playful vocals are reminiscent of the girl group sounds that come straight from the 50's and 60's"
-boston band crush