Last summer, Rx Bandits broke their two-year “hiatus” when they celebrated the 10th anniversary of their fourth album The Resignation with a U.S. tour. That was only the beginning however, as the California four-piece decided to extend the party overseas, a covers EP and began writing a new, self-released and crowdfunded record.
We met with vocalist/guitarist Matt Embree in Paris before the band’s second-to-last anniversary show. Over a chitchat about surfing in the southwest of France and a glass of 12-year-old Glenlivet scotch, he told us about The Resignation tour, Rx Bandits’ unforeseen comeback and the Sound Of Animals Fighting reunion.
Interview by: Romain Jeanticou
Tonight is your second-to-last show in Europe, which almost marks the end of The Resignation anniversary cycle. How do you feel?
MATTHEW EMBREE: It was great. It was very nice, especially because it started off as an idea of guitarist Steve Choi as we had decided to take a break. Not break up, but take a break without any idea of when we would get back together. He came up with the idea, saying “It’s coming up to 10 years; why not do a few shows?” But after doing those few shows, people came to us and were like, “Why aren’t you playing here, too?” So we did a small U.S. tour, about 20 shows. And then our booking agent in Europe said, “Why not in Europe too, and you should do it in the winter, because the shows are better!”
What were the crowds like? Were there a lot of people who were listening to you 10 years ago and did not even know the band were still around or was it pretty much your regular fanbase?
It was a bit of both. It was our normal fanbase, plus people who told us they went to see us 10 years ago when the album came out and hadn’t seen us since. It was really cool, especially because we started off barely in our 20s. I was 21 when we put out The Resignation, so a lot of fans were around our age or older. It’s interesting to see how they’ve grown up with us.
The record really is an indication of where you were in your lives at that time. How was diving back into it? Did you rediscover anything or see some songs differently?
I’m still proud of the record; as an overall composition we did it the right way. There are a lot of songs on the record that if I were to rewrite, I would write them the same way. I wouldn’t change them. Some of them I would, but most of them I wouldn’t. It was interesting to go back; it’s a lot like looking at old pictures.
So, it’s not like school pictures of bad haircuts then?
No, pictures of good memories, things you’re proud of. I didn’t really rediscover anything, because I’m the kind of person who is obsessive when it comes to creation. I listen and listen and make sure it’s exactly like I want it, and no matter what, after it’s finished, there are still things I hate about it. And it’s usually my voice. But going back and listening, it’s really interesting because I sang about half the record and then I injured my voice because I was singing very aggressively but I had never learnt how. There was one day when my voice was really bad and I shouldn’t have sung, but I thought that the tone of my voice sounded really good on that song so I did it anyway, and I really screwed it up. I had to go to the doctor, and I couldn’t speak for two weeks in the middle of the recording. So we had to put it off for two weeks and I finished the record at our producer’s house, singing in his closet. When I sing it live now, I can’t sing it exactly like on the album because if I do, I’ll hurt myself. So for the album, it’s kind of a younger approach, when you’re young you just say, “Fuck it!” and just go all out. We use the term “baby rattlesnake” because a baby rattlesnake doesn’t know how to control its venom. When they bite, they just release all the venom instead of rationing. So when I listen to it, I’m like, “Oh man, if I sang like that, I wouldn’t be able to get through a tour.”
So the only regret you had is that you couldn’t really do justice to the record in terms of live performances?
Exactly, especially when it comes to the venues. That’s a huge part of it. For example, the first time we ever played The Resignation front to back was in this club in Berlin where the stage was maybe 100 square feet. We were almost shoulder to shoulder and couldn’t hear anything. That was in 2003, before the album even came out. There were, like, four people, so we just said, “Fuck it, let’s do it.” Back then, besides California, Arizona and a couple other places, the venues were so small we couldn’t represent the sound of the album. In doing it now—especially last summer in America, in bigger venues, where you can actually hear the vocals, the horns and everything—it just sounds so much better.
Was the covers EP a rejuvenating process as well, going back to a sort of high school band vibe where you just cover your favorite bands’ songs?
Yes, totally. A big part was that we wanted to give our fans new music. We didn’t have time to go into the studio and write new songs before going for tour so we decided to cover some of our favorite songs. It was a way to say “thank you” to our fans for sticking with us.
But did you want to write new songs before starting the anniversary tour?
Not at all. At the time, the plan was to do that tour and then go back to not being a band.
So without The Resignation tour, there would be no new record?
Absolutely, you’re right. That was the spark, no doubt about it. Without the tour, we still wouldn’t be a band. >>>