Bandits on the Run is a NYC-based indie-pop trio anchored by three-part harmonies and unique instrumentation. The band has released their new single, “Now Is The Time,” which was written while quarantining together. The song is even produced by Ryan Hadlock who has worked with The Lumineers, Brandi Carlile and Vance Joy. The anthemic song is a call to action to inspire people to see and create magic in times of darkness.
Following the song’s release, the band was given the chance to write and perform a short musical to be filmed onsite at The Goodwill Theater. Entitled The Band at the End of the World, the film premiered during Prospect Theater Company’s VISION Series. YEM spoke to the band about the amazing accomplishments they made in 2020.
Young Entertainment Mag: How did Bandits on the Run come to be formed? What inspired the name for your group?
Bandits on the Run: The Bandits origin story is a serendipitous one. Our two lady members, Sydney and Regina, have known each other since their senior year of high school and attended college together. They were both studying acting. But Regina had a penchant for writing poetry and Sydney was transitioning from her more classical cello training into songwriting. So they began to work together as a duo.
After graduation, Sydney moved to New York City and met Adrian mere months later. He was busking on a subway platform. And the two struck up a conversation about music that became an all-night Brooklyn adventure. The two began to sing and play together and Sydney told him about the artistic connection she had with Regina. So when Regina moved to New York soon after, they all got together to make music. They took to the subways to busk and began to write. The rest is history.
The name “Bandits on the Run” came to Adrian one night while he was listening to–you guessed it– Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run record. And we love the playful spirit of a band of bandits, people outside the norm, popping up and making music and magic in unexpected places.
YEM: How would you describe Bandits on the Run’s sound? What musical influences do you draw from?
Bandits on the Run: We joke that we’ve been a band for several years and we still can’t answer the question, “What’s your genre?” We have a pretty unique sound, you can put it under the umbrella of indie-folk-pop-Americana. But that still doesn’t quite encapsulate what we do. We have 3 songwriters/lead singers with different influences and musical backgrounds and a variety of instruments in our midst. So genre-bending is kind of a superpower of ours!
We’ve all got our own wide and varied personal tastes. But we are all inspired by the music of the 60’s, especially the Beatles and bands who employed the Laurel Canyon sound. There’s a magic and a joy and a sense of community there, and it’s managed to remain timeless and universal.
YEM: All three of you play a wide array of instruments. What do those include? Why do you employ so many different instruments in your music?
Bandits on the Run: Roy Dodger aka Adrian Enscoe plays guitar, suitcase drum, foot tambourine, and sometimes piano and banjo in the band. He can also play mandolin and bass, but we’ve yet to incorporate those yet. 🙂
Bonanza Jellyfish aka Sydney Shepherd plays cello in the band. She’s also got guitar, banjo, violin, Celtic harp, dulcimer, and a bit of piano under her belt. But she mostly sticks to cello within Bandits because it’s her favorite and suits our music so well. We sometimes say that the cello is the 4th voice of the band.
Clarissa aka Regina Strayhorn plays accordion, melodica, glockenspiel, tambourine, and our iconic shaky banana named Jared Junior Junior. Fun fact: Regina initially didn’t play any instruments when the band started. And now she’s the one who switches between instruments the most during our shows!
We started out as just 3 voices, a guitar and a cello. But as our creativity grew, we added instruments to serve our sound and our vision as best as we could. We also like to think our instruments of choice suit our personalities very well. And as we wrote more music that begged for percussion, we figured we may as well employ Adrian’s feet as our own personal Ringo Starr.
YEM: You all have Bandit alter egos: Sydney Torin Shepherd as Bonanza Jellyfish, Adrian Blake Enscoe as Roy Dodger, and Regina Strayhorn as Clarissa. Why do you adopt these personas?
Bandits on the Run: We’re all actors, so we were very enchanted by the thought of performing with personas. Roy, Bonanza, and Clarissa truly aren’t very different from our real world personalities. They’re basically us with some slight exaggerations and magical twists. But the idea that we are “characters” gives us a certain freedom and allows us to not take ourselves so seriously while performing. Also, it opens up a world where andits could expand beyond music into other storytelling mediums like television, musicals, podcasts, graphic novels, movies, you name it.
YEM: What is your new single “Now Is The Time” about?
Bandits on the Run: As Bandits, we’ve always tried to be bearers of light, positivity, and community. We’re often the band whose music helps someone through a bad breakup. Or inspires someone to take a leap towards following their dreams, or facilitates the meeting of a new friend or lover. In our individual lives outside the band, we are each fiercely committed to activism and justice.
“Now Is The Time” is the first song of ours that combines those two forces within us. We wanted to make an anthem for 2020, a call to action to help people see and create magic in times of darkness. It’s a protest song, it’s a celebration song, it’s a shout from the mountaintops — an urgent message to live in the present and to trust that the actions of today can change and shape the outcome of our future.
YEM: You wrote this song while in quarantine. How did the pandemic impact your music?
Bandits on the Run: The pandemic has been a double edged sword for us. Back in March, we were gearing up for some exciting career moves. We were heading to SXSW for the first time, we were going to play at the Kennedy Center, we were slated to open for the Grammy-nominated band Larkin Poe at Webster Hall — needless to say all of that was canceled. But the good news was, we were all together. We had already traveled outside of the city to embark on our tour. So we quarantined together in North Carolina for about 3 months. First at a cabin in the woods, then in Sydney’s hometown in western NC.
During that time we were able to keep creating together, focus on music, support each other emotionally, turn our energies to social justice, go for nice walks in nature, daydream. Also because of the SXSW cancelation, a producer named Ryan Hadlock who had been meaning to see us there contacted us. And long story short we ended up taking a socially distanced road trip across the country in our van “Rip Van Winkle” to record new tunes with him at his studio, Bear Creek, in Washington state. “Now Is The Time” was written during the pandemic and recorded there, and we can’t wait to release the rest of the songs. We think they’re our best yet.
YEM: Your musical short film Band at the End of the World takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. How is that significant?
Bandits on the Run: 2020 has impacted all of us, and everyone has experienced loss this year to some degree. For artists especially, it has felt like the end of an era. An end of a time of safe and carefree live performance that probably won’t come back in the same way any time soon. And on a larger level, there has been such devastation and wreckage, profound loss of life, the planet is burning, the government is in chaos. How can one not relate to the feeling of “the end of the world” this year?
YEM: What message are you trying to portray through the three songs featured in the short film?
Bandits on the Run: These 3 songs all speak to this moment in time, to 3 distinct emotional stages we have each found ourselves in during this year. “You Have Changed” is a song of grief, disillusionment, and pulling the veil back to realize things will never be the same. “On The Radio” is a Dada romp that comes from a more manic place, an embracing of the absurd darkness that this time has invited in, and a questioning of which path to move forward and if there even is a way forward. “Reach Back” is ultimately a song of hope, an acknowledgment that though things may not return to “normal,” that there is a way through, a guiding light, a promise of brighter days.
YEM: What is the significance of the radio Bandits on the Run stumbles upon in the opening sequence? What about the knock on the door at the end of the film?
Bandits on the Run: In any work we do we always want to have some element of the magical. Our director friend, SRDA, who directed the piece, calls our style “rough magic.” We love that. The radio is significant because it works as a sort of time capsule. And it also works as a conduit for connection and hope for the future. We also just love old-timey things. 🙂
We left the knock on the door intentionally ambiguous so that the audience can draw their own conclusions, can imagine for themselves what is on the other side of the door. Is the Light Man who emerged during “Reach Back,” not only a specter, but an actual being that has crossed over into the real world? Is there some old disgruntled groundskeeper the Bandits have awakened with their racket? And is there a through-the-looking-glass alternate universe version of the Bandits themselves on the other side?
YEM: Why is it important that you express activism and a call for change through your music?
Bandits on the Run: We don’t think artists should exist in a vacuum. We are community members, we are storytellers, we reflect our environment. We’re not famous by any means, but we hope someday to have a wide reach. And if we begin the practice of conscientiousness and activism now, hopefully, that will inspire others to do the same. We are all citizens and stewards of the world and we hope our art can make it a better place. And that starts with us leading by example.