Who? Even back when they were card carrying members of the Drive-Thru clan, California’s RX Bandits were far from the typical three chord punk enthusiasts settling scores with their exes — they were way too into ska, reggae and social matters to be that predictable. Now, the Bandits — vocalist/guitarist Matt Embree, keyboardist/guitarist Steve Choi, drummer Chris Tsagakis, bassist Joseph Troy and trombonist/vocalist Chris Sheets — join Embree’s own Mash Down Babylon label for …And the Battle Begun.

What’s the Deal? Twisting and evolving their progressive ska over the years to incorporate more experimental rock grooves and knotty time signatures than driving punk rhythms, the politically minded Bandits stretch themselves even further on Battle. Diverse layers of instrumentation and Bonnaroo-approved jam sessions make for riveting live sets, but as Embree talks of empowering women (“To Our Unborn Daughters”) and motivating change (“A Mouth Full of Hollow Threats?”), worthy messages arrive clear amid all the horn blasts, percussive breaks, and reggae and dub-loving action. Check ’em live Friday afternoon (June 15) at Bonnaroo, breaking in the Which Stage at 12:45 pm — the perfect remedy to a Thursday night hangover.

Fun Fact: Among other band side projects, Matt Embree and Chris Tsagakis are part of the rotating cast that comprises enigmatic progressive rock outfit the Sound of Animals Fighting. They represent the Walrus and Lynx, respectively — but you didn’t hear that here. COREY APAR

Now Hear This: RX Bandits – “In Her Drawer” DOWNLOAD MP3>


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