In the midst of branding and Wikipedia page references, Rx Bandits were never synonymous with having a label. They’ve undergone a few changes, not solely with members—but with what we would call their ‘style.’ However, their core philosophy has never altered. And as recently revealed by Steve Choi to The Aquarian, that core is definitely musicianship. For nearly 20 years, they still receive the most hardcore love from the fans. Now Choi, along with Matt Embree, Joseph Troy, and Christopher Tsagakis, are getting ready to tour with Circa Survive.
They will be playing here in New Jersey, New York City, and Philly. “[The East Coast] were the first places we started getting real love, a serious fan base. Always been pretty important to our band, especially the New Jersey, New York, Long Island, Philly area,” Choi reminisced (East Coast represent!).
Even if you never really listened to Rx Bandits, chances are—you’ve unintentionally connected with a mate or two. That’s something incredibly exceptional about these guys—the fact that they don’t brand themselves. They were never trying so hard to become the almighty band, they are just doing it for the love of the music. The whole band has their fair share of side projects: Matt Embree does Love You Moon, drummer Christopher Tsagakis formed Technology (both are in The Sound Of Animals Fighting), Choi in Peace’d Out, and Joseph Troy plays bass in Chiodos. This is only the cusp of what they are actually involved in. The unmatchable commitment to delivering some goddamn good music burns fiercely in them; that’s the number one rule they live by. I wanted to deliver some advice to my musician friends. Choi explained, “It’s kind of a ‘duh’ to a lot of people but be the best you can be no matter what you do, no matter what style, no matter what you deliver. [Give] the highest quality performance and art. We are really making music without any rules, it truly is art at its core.” TLDR: be the best musician and out on the best show. Choi concluded, “People will follow.”
Seems obvious but is that really how people followed Rx Bandits? Umm… yes. It’s not a secret. Choi revealed, “Yeah, I mean, we were never cool. And that was cool, you know? We never had hype, we never had disappointments, [and] we never lost fans.” He added, “We never had a style, so we never got out of style.”
And these guys have been on the music scene since before we were able to stream music online. Think about how many music trends and styles they’ve been through. I remember 10 years ago, new music would be to go to basement shows and pay five bucks for a mystery CD (yes, those shiny objects you use as cupholders) from the merch girl. There was a time where mixtapes were more treasured than paying your monthly premium streaming service. It was still cooler to ‘burn’ playlists rather than have the Internet read your cookies and decide music for you. And although I miss those days, maybe I’m just being a curmudgeon. Choi explained that it doesn’t have to be all that bad, and maybe not worry about the excess.
“It’s happening so fast, and so much is happening [in the music industry] to wrap your head around it. Knowing what’s up but also not caring too much because it starts to influence your creativity, negatively… this business bullshit,” Choi responded to my hesitation on the music industry of 2015. “When you’re trying to do something creative, accomplish [like] Rx, that’s poison. Modernization of [the] music industry—it’s going to be a little time before these capitalist fools make it work for them… which it still kind of does. Although [there’s] all this bad shit, young local bands get their music out immediately. You couldn’t do that in the ‘90s. You could be a small-town Jersey band. When you put your music online, it goes to Australia, India, France, China all at the same time.”
Choi admits that he’s totally a trippy guy, he even describes his love for instruments complex. “I always try not to be emotionally attached to instruments because I see myself as an evil puppeteer- they’re vessels for getting the music out,” he explains. But he can’t shake off the feelings for his brown Les Paul, that has survived his sweat drips from playing in punk rock clubs in Germany. His 2001 synthesizer has traveled alongside Choi in every single country he’s been in. He’s totally modest too. “Matt [Embree] is a real guitarist, I’m just a guy that plays guitar,” he jokingly states. “Matt is a true guitarist in his soul.” These vessels of sound has delivered Rx’s music for many years, and the band’s philosophy. “On the outside layer, it’s always changing. Our core that has never changed, is definitely musicianship.” Choi continues. “[We] try to be super serious about the music without taking ourselves too seriously.” They all share the same mantra, and he claims it’s because they are f—ing nerds. “We nerd out about music and recording. Happy to be a nerd, as long as I’m not a dork,” he states.
And although Choi didn’t disclose much, expect some new material to be released in the future—maybe with some close friends? For now let’s relish in the shows coming to the Tri-State Area. And before suggesting the best Korean BBQ spots for the band while touring in our area (he declared he was a Korean kid at heart), Choi did mention a new DVD full of live footage in the final stages of mixing and editing. So, be on the lookout. He also mentioned he’s into Katy Perry; you can look out for her new album next year, too…
Rx Bandits will be playing at Webster Hall on Oct. 22, the PlayStation Theater on Oct. 23, the Electric Factory in Philly on Nov. 27, and the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville on Nov. 28. You can check out facebook.com/rxbanditsofficial for more information.