Q&A: Speakeasy sits down with the local Bandits

Four years ago, a band began to take shape in an OU dorm room. But the seed began to grow much earlier; out of the sweltering gothic streets of Savannah, GA, the concrete jungle of Brooklyn, NY and the often deceptive simplicity of the Midwest, Columbus, OH. The band draws from these regional subcultures to create a mixture of sonic qualities- a college garage rock band with psychedelic influences and bluesy sensibilities.

The BootBandits are comprised of four Ohio University seniors: Sam Benezra (lead guitar and vocals), Jackson Schroeder (bass and vocals), Andrew Maughan (rhythm guitar and vocals) and Jason Weihl (drums). The quartet has been a staple of the Athens open mic scene while also playing shows at local bars, house shows and benefit concerts for student organizations. They are on the cusp of recording their first album and hope to continue playing shows in and around Athens, hoping to get a spot at the Nelsonville Music Festival.

Speakeasy: We’ll go ahead and start with a basic question. How would you describe your band’s sound?

AM: Great question because we can never decide that between all of us.

SB: Alright I’ve got my answer. Its Appalachian Space Rock.

JW: We definitely draw from funk, blues and classic rock. Psychedelic rock sometimes.

Speakeasy: Sam when you say Appalachian Space Rock what are the defining features of that genre?

SB: We are influenced by folk, blues and some country stuff, so that’s the Appalachian, and it also helps that we’re in the heart of Appalachia. And then space rock because we like to get all spacey.

AM: We like to take a song to its fullest extent.

JS: Its because we listen to Pink Floyd and The Dead.

Speakeasy: So its interesting that Jackson and Sam are related and are from very different parts of the United States. Theres definitely a cultural epicenter in both Savannah, GA and in Brooklyn, NY so there’s that and then Andy and Jason you were raised in the middle of America so how does that come together to be an image for you guys and a sound?

JS: I think that it definitely crafts our sound a lot, especially speaking between Sam and my relationship, we’ve always had similar taste in music even though we come from different areas. I’ve always liked the more southern rock and jam band scene because that’s really prevalent down in Savannah for one reason or another, and then Sam has always introduced me to the more northeastern stuff.

SB: I’ve grown up listening to more punk.

JS: And that’s how I learned about all of that shit.

Speakeasy: So that’s how you get that mix of southern jam rock and fast-paced New York rock?

JS: Yeah and you mix those together with a little bit of Columbus and you get Appalachian Space Rock

Speakeasy: How do you go about crafting a song?

AM: I think we’ve done a mix- Writing songs and adding lyrics to them or vice versa.

JS: We started off getting together and sitting around and being like ‘alright I’ve got this riff’ and then we’d try to collectively come up with lyrics and additional parts to it. At first it was all of us writing songs together. Afterwards it really just depended on who was there when we decided to write songs.

SB: Yeah, I would say that every song has been different.

Speakeasy: Who usually handles the lyrics?

AM: Early on it was totally collective in the dorm room and now its piece by piece. Everyone brings a piece of writing and then we write a new song to it.

Speakeasy: How have you carved out your place within the Athens music scene?

JW: I think we’re kind of hitting the scene, a little more this year than last year.

JS: I would say we took a unique track to the scene because instead of going through the DIY community like a lot of the college kids who start here do, we started with the old guys at Casa. Most of our gigs started with people who weren’t college kids in Athens. I think that we took a pretty unique path and that was pretty much molded by the guys at Casa.

AM: We probably played 20 or 25 sets there before we had any gig.

Speakeasy: So in relation to the DIY scene and the political climate and how that affects music, and with Athens being such an outspoken town, do you ever feel a want or need to play political songs or do you try to just focus on the music?

SB: We’ve never really done that political of music. I think that’s partially because we all have different political views. And really I think its been mostly about the music and trying to explore as much as we can musically.

JW: Yeah, I mean we play political songs. We draw from Young and Hendrix and Bob Dylan. One of our biggest covers is “Ohio”. We play political songs but I don’t think that we play them politically.

AM: If someone came up with a chunk of our lyrics and said ‘hey I think this means that’ I don’t think that we would agree with them if its political.

JS: I think that what we do for us even when we cover political songs we’re not covering them necessarily to have a political charge. I think we pick up on the feel and emotion of that and that’s what we’re intrigued by. We can feel those emotions through those songs.

Speakeasy: So who’s your favorite Beatle?

SB: George

JW: I agree

AM: I’d probably go with Paul

JS: I’d go with John

Speakeasy: What’s your favorite bar in Athens?

SB: I’m gonna have to say Casa

JW: I’m gonna have to agree

AM: Alright, Casa

JS: Yeah its unanimous. If I’m coming back to Athens as an alumni, I’m going to Casa.

Speakeasy: What would your dream show in Athens be like?

SB: Okay well I have this fantasy of us going to Radar Hill in the spring and putting on what I like to call “Naturefest”. Its an outdoor festival out in the woods.

JS: We’d just have to bring a shit ton of power generators.

JW: Nah, we’d use the power of music.

Speakeasy: Who would play there?

SB: Us. For 24 hours.

JS: I think it’d be pretty cool to play at Nelsonville Music Festival. That might be something that we try to do.

AM: Alright, Nelsonville Music Festival. Or even playing The Union at this point.

Speakeasy: What’s next for the Bootbandits?

AM: Shows. Lots of ‘em.

JS: We’re going to play as many shows as we can. And hopefully record some music.

SB: Recording hopefully, submitting to the Nelsonville Music Festival, those are our goals.

AM: We’ll still be playing songs over the phone to each other once we all leave. As much as possible we’d like to keep playing together.

JS: Yeah, chances are we’ll be in different places but that doesn’t mean any of us are going to stop playing music.

The BootBandits will be playing at Porch Sounds, a house show style music festival, on October 21st. For more information and updates on their band, visit their Facebook page. For the official Porch Sounds lineup and more information, visit the official Facebook event.

 This article was cowritten by Seth Forestner and Lauren Flum.

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