Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered and mastered by Matt Oliver
When Matthew Embree sings, "She lives without emotion/It makes me better, but only for the night," on the song, "Only For The Night," the RX Bandits lead singer couldn't be speaking any more directly about the way he is. He couldn't have been speaking more poignantly about the way his band of 16 years is. Each and every bit of music that these men play is charged with emotion, an energy that comes out of love and concern. It's the sort of red, smoking hot passion that, if touched would scorch. You'd smell burning flesh, something like a disgusting hog cooking over a bed of charcoal. There are flares aplenty in the ways that Embree and his mates operate. There are all kinds of reasons to be agitated, to feel as if we're being wronged and hurt. The Seal Beach, California, band began playing almost two decades ago, but turned a dramatic corner in 2001, with the release of "Progress," an album in which they announced themselves as a significant band, with heady ideas and a sound that wasn't merely a dabbling in ska and reggae sounds - the kind of trifle that any high school or college-aged pothead with an iconic Bob Marley poster up on their wall as an overseeing mentor - but was serious work of art. It was a record that was rock solid in its focus, its musical ambition and in its emboldened spirit. It felt a little bit like a minor revolution, and maybe it was just a personal revolution - some kind of awakening - but either way, we suddenly started hearing this band for something more than it used to be. Even today, the songs on it's latest albums, "Mandala" and "…And The Battle Begun," are steeped in such magnificent power struggles that they get us fired up to the point of no return. The songs are vaguely political, obviously carrying with them a more pointed viewpoint, but one that comes off as being all-inclusive. Embree, with his very unique singing style, makes us feel repressed. He makes us feel like his causes - whatever they may be - are our causes and we need to take to the streets, or at least live more lovingly in our own personal bubbles and hope to hell that it spreads and spreads and spreads. It seems as if the suggestion is just to be kinder and more pleasant toward everyone else. It's about not belittling others and just letting them live their own lives, like you'd like to live yours. So much of the RX Bandits message comes down to forgetting or ignoring those petty grievances that are always going to be out there, if for no other reason than because we all know that shit's hard enough as it is. Embree sings, "Look the other way and say it was love/That she was just someone to waste my life with," and it hits us that those times that some people might say we wasted, were really the ones that we'd hang our hats on. It could be worse than to have a gravestone that said, "Here lies someone that many preferred to waste their time with." It's something to aspire to. Let everyone waste their lives in whatever way they choose, so long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.