Blue Light Bandits ~ #FallonTonightBandits

Blue Light Bandits

Blue Light Bandits

Blue Light Bandits have been making quite the name for themselves in the Boston alternative rock scene. I love all the songs on their self-titled album Blue Light Bandits, especially the single Sarah. When I recently had the pleasure to interview Dan DeCristofaro and Ethan Bates, I asked them the back story behind the song.

Dan DeCristofaro answered that question: “Sarah was the most jaw-dropping woman that a 21-year-old could meet in a bar. She was the bartender at the bar where we played our first local shows. We developed an amicable work relationship.” Then Dan laughed, “There was an unfortunate cap on that. She became a friend and a fan and inspired the song.”

Ethan and Dan met in high school. Ethan shared that story: “I was in tenth grade; Dan was in eleventh grade. I was playing classical cello and getting burnt out on the classical timeline. Dan had been taking piano lessons for a few years. We ended up in a music theory class together, and we were some of the only guys in the class. Dan had been writing songs and he invited me over one day. I brought my bass, which I’d just started learning how to play. We tried out some things we’d been working on. There was a click right away, a really exciting feeling that came from both having untapped talent and potential for music creation. We haven’t stopped playing or writing together ever since.”

What a wonderful story. I love when people meet and there’s immediate chemistry.

Dan then explained how he met drummer Mike Braz: “I was studying molecular biology in college, and our drummer Mike was studying mechanical engineering. At about the same time, I’m sure we had that gasp moment in junior year, ‘What are we doing with our lives?’ We loved music and we realized that we’d love to have it be our job too.”

Dan DeCristofaro

Dan DeCristofaro

Dan continued: “Both of us ended up applying to Berklee College of Music in Boston. We knew each other from a mutual friend. We contacted each other, but he was in Rhode Island and I was in Massachusetts, so it didn’t really happen. We both signed up for our Berklee interview on the exact same day, same time. We were in the waiting room, and I turned to my right and saw him. I said, ‘Nice to finally meet you.’ We both decided not to pursue Berklee, because they decided to not accept us. We contacted each other again and decided that we should play together now. So, he came and jammed with Ethan and I. We became friends, which is awesome, because that’s how Ethan and I started.”

Ethan added: “Another click of musical chemistry. I felt it right away. We started playing with guitarist Tim Clark back in January of this year. Dan had met him through a show the previous year. We brought him up to Massachusetts from Maryland. He played a couple of shows with us, after learning a majority of our original and cover songs that we play at our gigs. He’s also a really awesome guy to hang out with. We had no problem inviting him to spend the summer and, now, into the fall of this year playing with us. He’s a Berklee guitar player.”

Both Dan DeCristofaro and Ethan Bates have quite extensive music backgrounds. Dan’s music history started with drums: “I started playing drums, when I was too young to know what I was doing. I ended up quitting. Everyone is my family is a pianist. I used to listen to them practice, and I used to go up to the piano after they practiced and try to play what I heard them playing. At that point, my parents decided that I should start taking piano lessons too. I started playing piano when I was nine. It just caught fire and I loved it. By the time I hit high school, I’d been studying jazz piano for seven years. In high school, I picked up the guitar, dropped jazz piano studies and immersed myself in songwriting and listening to the best singer-songwriters on the radio. I got obsessed with writing music and lyrics and creating melodies.”

Ethan Bates has been playing classical cello since age four: “In middle school, I started seeing myself less as a cellist and more as a musician. I picked up a bass guitar, took a couple lessons and continued to teach myself how to play. I also started singing. I hadn’t really sung before, but I had enough experience with music that I was quick to figure out how to keep up with the choir and other vocals. When I met Dan, we took our interests and things outside our musical beginnings and ran with them.”

Ethan Bates

Ethan Bates

Both Dan and Ethan have parents that like to sing. As Dan explains, “Ethan played cello and I played piano. Both are instruments with a lot of expression. We both picked up vocals, just because we are fans of music. We were listening to a lot of really good singers and singing along. We never really received vocal training, but when you are passionate about singing and trying to sing, you just kindda learn.”  Ethan added, “Vocal harmony is at the root of all our songs, from the very first song we wrote together to the songs we’re in the process of writing right now.”

Who are Blue Light Bandits music influences? Dan smiled when he told me this story: “In high school, Ethan told me that you have to check out John Mayer. I rolled my eyes, ‘John Mayer, that’s who all the girls listen to.’ I ended up being a huge fan. I think we shifted to Coldplay towards the end of high school. We’re huge fans of Coldplay. Then, we got into Kings of Leon.”

Ethan continued, “We’re really into Young the Giant right now and have been for a couple years. The Robert Glasper Experiment is a really interesting jazz group we discovered in the last few months that we haven’t been able to put down. James Blake, he’s also one of our big favorites.”

How does Blue Light Bandits use social media to connect with fans and get the word out about their music? Dan told me, “Our three most prominent accounts are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We have our own website as well. At first, we just followed the bandwagon. We’d go to a band’s Facebook page and do what they did. We’ve been really lucky to have good friends who are into marketing and social media. I want to give a shoutout to our roommate Matt Nollman. He has taken it upon himself to run a lot of our social media pages. It’s nice. We all have day jobs; we try to focus all our free time on music, writing and performing.”

Ethan shared an exciting social media campaign that Blue Light Bandits have going on: “We have a good friend Sherry Berger, she runs the Red Rock Grill and Bar in Upton, MA. She’s invested so much of her time and money into letting us play there, and she plays our music during the day. Right now, her personal mission is to get us on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show. She started a social media campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #FallonTonightBandits. She’s trying to blow up Jimmy Fallon’s Twitter feed, so he might take an interest in us, check us out and invite us on the show. It’s a lofty goal, but we’re going to go with it, because it’s the most interesting thing happening in our network right now. We’re joining into some gorilla marketing.”

Blue Light Bandits recordingDan advises other artists: “The thing that’s made it for me is that it’s my favorite thing to do, hands down. Somebody could say ‘Here’s some money to play a show’ and I’d say ‘Great!’ Next day, somebody could say ‘Want to come play a show for free?’ and I’d say ‘Absolutely!’ I’m so passionate about it. Ethan is too. We all are. If it’s not your favorite thing to do, it’s going to feel very hard.”

Ethan offers a second piece of advice: “Look to friends and colleagues who have spent time in the music business. A lot of people will tell you at a show or after a show or after they hear your album what they think you should be doing. Those people are a dime a dozen. We’ve been lucky to make some connections with real industry professionals. Those are the people that I would recommend to anyone interested trying to make some headway in this business.”

What’s up next for Blue Light Bandits? In January, they will be recording with a professional studio for the entire day in Boston. Ethan gave me the scoop: “Converse is doing this awesome project to get independent bands some free studio time with a professional engineer in their Brooklyn and Boston headquarters. We applied for that time and received it. In mid-January, we will go into the studio and record as many songs as we can in one day. Those will be new songs we release in the spring.”

Next year, Blue Light Bandits hopes to get into some local festivals and shows that carry some weight. The goal is to reduce the number of shows and increase the notoriety and attention attached to each one. They also want to expand their tour routes.

Blue Light Bandits have a lot of great things happening. I definitely want to keep in touch.

The Amused Now Featured Artist Series

Blue Light Bandits on train car Blue Light Bandits

Cynthia Kahn, Founder of Amused Now