Celebrating Musical Families and Getting Back in ‘Bandit Sound’ Shape | Concert Preview

Bandit Sound’s Sam Morris looks at the number of Nebraska bands reuniting this month and recalls an idyllic feeling.

One of seeing your friends on stage every night of the week, mashing up genres like a ruleless potluck, joyful in their simply being together in public and private. Regardless of where the bands ended up or aimed for, there was always that feeling. Returning to it now can be both an appreciation of the times and how they’ve changed.

“I don’t want to say they’re reliving the glory days, but I think they’re looking back and seeing they had something special,” Morris says. “Like we were a big family, a big musical family.”

The defunct punk band Bandit Sound reconvenes Sunday night at Knickerbockers. RSVP here.

The hard-charging, short-winded, big-singing band was a Lincoln regular from 2004 to 2011, comprising Morris, Dave Arredondo, John Feuerbach and Mitch Cady. At the time, the members also played in Heat Machine and Officially Terminated. The quartet toured nationally three different times, but released only one official album, the EP Fire. After disbanding, Arredondo went onto play in the Lincoln band Powers, while Feuerbach and Cady moved east and played in Désir Decir.

To preview Sunday night’s show, we chatted with Morris about Bandit Sound’s eclectic party ethos, their Killigans influence and their first ever show on tour.

Hear Nebraska: I tend to think there’s one interesting place to start with reunion stories. I know you had a reunion show in 2012, too. But where were you guys at, what was your frame of mind, when you thought about coming back together?

Sam Morris: The one in 2012 was a spur-of-the-moment type of deal. We put it together as a house show. Those are always so chaotic and so crazy. It’s all your friends together. We didn’t get a chance to rehearse until the day of the show. Because Johnny and Mitch are from out of town, I’d get together with Dave, but you can only get so much with two guys.

This one, I wanted to do it right and do it as by-the-book as possible. This one, we put together a month or two ago. We’ve been getting everything ready to put on the best show we possibly could.

HN: How have the rehearsals been going?

SM: They’ve been going great, man. I’ve been loving relearning my guitar parts I haven’t played in a few years. I’m a bass player now, so I had to change my rehearsals to play guitar again. It’s cool and difficult.

HN: I was curious because all of you guys are still active musically, but the Bandit Sound songs are … well, one, they’re just so fast. And aggressive. Is there any element of getting back into game-shape with these sprinty songs?

SM: Yeah, absolutely. You’ve gotta get your speed back on your right hand. That’s the whole key is the muscle memory. We’ve played these songs so many times over the years, and going back and listening to it, I was like, “Wow, we put these minute-and-a-half songs out an EP? That takes some balls. That’s punk rock right there.” I can’t believe we did it. So fast. It’s going back in there and getting the anger and energy and emotion back in the songs.

HN: If you can take me back, Sam, my assumption for you guys splitting in the first place was people moving. Was that the impetus for breaking up?

SM: Yep, we were in a really weird spot as a band. We’d just booked our fourth national tour or something, and we were really excited to go. And Dave came up to us, and was like, “I’ve got some great news for you guys, I’m gonna be a father.”

That was the most amazing news I’d ever heard, because the guy was my best friend. That was kind of the beginning of Johnny and Mitch looking somewhere else. I really felt like their heart was on the East Coast. They’d toured out there with Heat Machine and I think really looking to get out of Nebraska and out of the scene. I think they were already there in spirit. And I couldn’t blame them. It takes a lot of guts to uproot yourself and move across the county. And they love it out there and have thrived. And Dave has a beautiful child.

It was very natural thing that happened, but I was very upset about it for a long time. But I got over it. I’ve grown from it and have written songs about it.

HN: That’s interesting to hear, because I think a lot of great songs that sounds like break-up songs are actually about bands parting ways. Fleetwood Mac and Rilo Kiley come to mind for me. Can you tell me more about what you were putting into those songs?

SM: It’s the way that we as musicians deal with the emotion. I wouldn’t’ say being in a band is more important than being in a loving relationship, but when you’re there in the moment with those guys or girls, they’re your family. You’re basically married to them. Bandit Sound was no different. We hung out together, partied together and drove across the country in a van together. It was complete and utter shock when the band broke up and I didn’t know where to turn. So I turned back toward what I knew best.

HN: You said three national tours. What can you recollect about those tours? 

SM: I remember our first one we went west. I think the first show we did was in Kearney and the venue didn’t have any lights. It was outdoors, it was really hot. The people who came to the show had to park their cars close to the stage and shine their car lights on the stage. That was our first show, and I remember thinking, “I don’t know how we’re gonna do this.”

But we were lucky enough to make good contacts in every town we went to. We were four guys who were bound and determined to make this a rock ‘n’ roll party and we loved it. I remember … turning to my guitar tech and saying, “You know what the best of this is? We don’t have to go home tonight.” We would do that for weeks, and I loved every minute of it.

HN: So in 2014, what’s left of it, if you said to me, “These guys play folk-punk,” I’d have a pretty decent idea of what that sounds like. That genre mash-up makes sense to me. But I wonder if that was a more curious pairing in 2004 when you guys started out. 

SM: It was. It was completely different. Right now, I believe that folk music has made a resurgence. At the time, no one was doing that. The cool thing about Bandit Sound was it was our style and we’d taken influences from glam rock, punk rock, hardcore and mixed them together. So we could go into these hardcore punk shows and still be accepted. Or we could go into an Irish bar or pub and still be accepted. It was music that hadn’t really been touched yet.

HN: And you know I think of The Killigans when I hear your choruses. It must be so unifying to be racing through these punk songs and have everyone come in on the chorus. 

SM: That was a big goal of ours when we sat down to write these. I really come from the songwriting standpoint of you have to write a big hook for people. That was the whole thing: We’d watch the Killigans play and think “These are killing it!” Every night, these people are screaming their songs. And I really liked that. I think we looked up to The Killigans an awful lot in our formative years.

HN: I don’t know if you were aware or not, but it does seem like there’s a lot of punk bands, or bands in general, reuniting this month. Boycaught last night. Ritual Device and Cellophane Ceiling on Friday. Neva Dinova played their first show in six years last night, too. What do you make of all these bands getting back together for one-off shows?

SM: I think it’s a testament to … I feel like the punk scene in Omaha and Lincoln has been on the decline. There used to shows in that scene every night of the week and it was unified. You could go between Omaha and Lincoln and it wasn’t a problem. I think it’s amazing these bands are getting back together and the coverage … I don’t want to say they’re reliving the glory days, but I think they’re looking back and seeing they had something special. Like we were a big family, a big musical family.

HN: I wonder at all if it comes out of the fact that — maybe especially with punk rock or hardcore bands — so many of the groups just wanted to play music their friends. And that makes a reunion, or that feeling, something that you can always go back to. 

SM: It’s very musical and honest and emotional. You’re just going out with your friends to listen to the music you liked. I think that’s why everyone is so excited.