By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Fewer than four months after recording and mixing their latest album, Mandala (out July 21), the progressive rock alchemists in Rx Bandits are touring in support of the mature, slightly Latin-infused followup to 2006's ...And the Battle Begun.
And the new sound? It's one stained by life experiences, dusty hitchhiking trips through Central America, and introspective grappling with the band members' successes and failures as they travel along the road to their 30s. One thing that hasn't changed, though: The band's resolve to break new artistic ground on their own terms. For guitarist/keyboardist Steve Choi, part of that process is finally releasing the band's caged ideas for human consumption.
"Conceptually, the record has existed for us for well more than a year," Choi says. "So to finally free ourselves of that was just huge. It wasn't even all just happiness; it was just a slurry of emotion."
One of the biggest motivators for Mandala, Choi says, was the reflection on trials and triumphs of friends—even themselves—struggling to find a place in life while in their late 20s. It's a sentiment you might find someone singing about at a coffeehouse open-mic night. But when you're Rx Bandits, that inspiration provides the energy for a much bigger stage.
"It's really put things into perspective for us and made us appreciate what we have going for us," Choi says, "and everything that we still have yet to attain for ourselves."
Joining Rx Bandits on the bill are San Francisco's Dredg and Pennsylvania's Good Old War.