Detroit natives, The Social Bandits, are toying with live music platform, and it’s working

Detroit natives, The Social Bandits, are toying with live music platform, and it’s working.

In the hodgepodge of colorful characters and versatile sound that has become Detroit’s music industry, there is said to be an overwhelmingly saturated rock and roll scene. This statement made last year by Dave Zainea, owner of Detroit’s Majestic Complex in midtown, was a foreshadow of his future business plans.

Zainea teamed up with Amir Daiza, owner of Pontiac’s Elektricity nightclub and the former Clutch Cargos venue. Together they renovated the Majestic Complex’s iconic rock venue, The Magic Stick, and turned it into a stomping ground for electronic dance music events. One year later, the red ribbon cut and decades of rock band stickers and delusional scriptures scraped from the restroom walls, the city has only the ghostly memories of a monumental atmosphere for Detroit rock and roll.

bandits-msu-moody-10What happens when a band breaks the traditional tropes of bar gigging and creates an innovative platform for the delivery of their live music marketing? The Social Bandits take the stage.

From OU to every other U

Detroit’s alternative quartet, The Social Bandits, pin their original sound on many influences aside from rock and roll.
“There are a lot of solid 70s and 80s cover bands that make a good living and there is a huge metal and hard rock scene, not my vibe, but it’s cool they still play so many shows downtown,” said Brad Rude, co-lead vocalist and bass playing bandit.
“But I would say there’s not a whole lot of ‘rock and roll’ that is current and original in Detroit right now. There are few bands like this and I would consider The Social Bandits to be one of them,” Rude added.

“But I would say there’s not a whole lot of ‘rock and roll’ that is current and original in Detroit right now. There are few bands like this and I would consider The Social Bandits to be one of them,” Rude added.

With a broad range of influences including The Beatles, Bob Marley and The Killers to name a few, The Social Bandits have an innate love for Detroit’s historically staple sounds of funk and jazz. Oakland University’s jazz program was a catalyst in bringing out the boys’ Motown inheritance.

“I was pleasantly surprised when they came in; I nicknamed them the Swing Brothers,” said Sean Dobbins, OU’s jazz combo coordinator and assistant program instructor, about Rude and drumming band mate Dylan Walsh.

There are a lot of solid 70s and 80s cover bands that make a good living and there is a huge metal and hard rock scene, not my vibe, but it’s cool they still play so many shows downtown

Brad Rude, co-lead vocalist and bass playing bandit

“They had this connection they could play with and it was obvious from day one that they could have careers as musicians and go far,” added Dobbins.

According to Dobbins, studying jazz teaches musicians a sense of subtlety and introduces musical texture. Rude, who believes jazz is the root of all modern music, says that jazz is a big part of his musical life especially from an educational standpoint.

When the Swing Brothers aren’t busy playing jazz combos at Detroit’s Cliff Bell’s and other smokey landmarks of the city’s musical authenticity, the Social Bandits are making entrepreneurial moves. They are currently making a conscientious aesthetic change in formats through which they deliver a live set. Although the band play their fair amount of bar gigs, the traditional route up the ranks, in recent months they have been taking advantage of an environment that draws a particular fan base: college parties.

“There are a lot of good venues that support local music but if you’re [the band] not bringing out enough people then it’s hard to make matters worth-while,” said Rude.

bandits-msu-moody-11

He added, “So we’re going right to the source which is college kids at parties. They’re going to be at parties anyways, they might as well listen to the Social Bandits while they’re there.”

As a band with a desired demographic of younger listeners, there seems like no better setting to cater to than college parties. Rude says the response has been beautiful.

“We’ve had parties at MSU where the basement is packed wall to wall. You couldn’t fit more people in there with a shoehorn.”

Thus far, the band has traveled to The University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Central Michigan University, Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University.

The Social Experience

The element that separates the aura between the binary of a Social Bandits bar gig and a college house show is the level of crowd interaction that the band is able to participate in, coupled with the deliberate differences in song choices. Spencer White, frequent Bandits show attendee, said that being able to get strangers dancing is one of the hallmarks of being a “good band.”

“The bar gigs are great but there’s a certain disengagement you can have at a bar gig where you can wander away, grab a drink, things like that,” said White.

“But at the college shows you’re packed into a room and it’s a party ya now? You’re committed. You’ve got your booze with ya, you’re with all your friends, you’re hoppin’ around in a tight space. Regardless of the setting, the Bandits have great command of the room but it shows so much more in a tight place like that” White added.

the-social-bandits-central-4oAs a live concert guru, White explained the best type of live interaction is “in-song” interaction. Something that a band can afford much more of in a house show due to the band’s relative proximity to the band.

“The Bandits never miss a chance to have you clap, or yell with them, or sing their lyrics or even hop on the drum kit for a little bit during the drum solo whereas at the bar gigs you can’t always do that type of stuff” said White.

“It’s that kind of stuff that makes people involved with the music, makes the experience more than just songs that are being played at you,” he added.

Playing to a crowd rather than at them is what Dobbins considers being the most important part of catering to a live audience.

“Act like you’re taking apart a movie and make sure your repertoire has all of the emotions there can be,” said Dobbins.

“Happiness, sadness, drama, comedy, everything that you could think of that would go into a movie should be in a set because you’re trying to get your audience members on every emotion possible,” Dobbins added.

As for variations in song choices, the Bandits typically play their originals everywhere, however different platforms get different access.

“We play a lot of original songs,” said Jesse Medawar, who handles half of the band’s vocal and guitar duties.

“We definitely play original songs at a bar gig but we play all of our originals at the house shows where we’re trying to market ourselves as The Social Bandits rather than just receiving a paycheck,” Medawar added.

Cover songs, on the other hand, vary between show platforms because of relative target audience. Bar covers include Pink Floyd’s “Money” or Eric Clapton’s “Crossroads”, where covers on a college set list include Sublime’s “Santeria” or Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop”. The fact that Miley Cyrus can’t stop the band sheds light on their aesthetic diversification and perseverance in giving audiences a memorable emotion to take away with them as Dobbins claims vital.

On The Horizon

Moving forward, The Social Bandits have a spring college mini-tour coming up. They are booked to play college house shows through April and May in Lansing and Mount. Pleasant. Audiences at these shows will hear a taste of original songs from the band’s first full length LP, which is set to release this August. After the release of the record, the band plans on taking a two-week east coast tour.

“We’re bringing out other musicians to feature on it and its very diverse,” Rude said about the currently untitled, upcoming record.

“I think there is something for everybody on it. It’s about half way done and I think it’s going to be huge for us.”


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