When it comes to intense metal music, every listener has their metaphorical cup of tea. Some prefer technical, some prefer caveman riffs, some prefer the logos to be the most illegible gathering of calligraphy imaginable. For me personally, I just love watching any metal band do their thing; but it’s always the ones with a sort of trademark edge to their style that stick out most to me. That said, we welcome Bandit, whose vocalist Gene Meyer I was allotted the pleasure of speaking with, as our Weekly Featured Artist for this week!
Though much of their recognition seems to center around 2018’s Warsaw album, Bandit was formed in 2012 by guitarist Jack McBride and their Bandcamp lists material dating back as far as 2015, with their vocalist Gene Meyer having joined the fold in April of 2016. Featuring a literal 7-minute runtime, Warsaw is an extreme audible rush of abrasive riffs and pure intensity. Tracks such as “New Rochelle”, “Voyeur”, “Black Sand Beach”, and the title track span enough dynamic in their sound to draw in virtually any fan of metal. Take the title track, for instance, which has its share of thrashy triplets, heavy breakdowns, and ripping drum work that absolutely ensures an open pit from the get-go.
An unrelenting and punishing work of art, Warsaw strikes me as something beyond the casual grindcore album I’d hear from acts within the genre before. Sure, it’s not like political or more hard-hitting subject matters have never been spoken of in grindcore bands’ material before – Napalm Death comes to mind as one example. But, Gene points out in an Instagram post from January 27th, 2022 that the album’s lyrics center around experiences and traumas suffered from both sides of his family due to the Holocaust. Coming from Polish descent, it is of little surprise these subjects would hit very close to home for his family, and the approach he has to conveying it all via pen and paper only makes this album all the more visceral.
‘Warsaw is about intergenerational trauma echoing through my family tree. I was in school to be a therapist at the time and was learning about how things in one generation effect another. The album is essentially about how the Holocaust and WWII affected both sides of my family, from my grandparents down to me and my brother.’
Even the 8-second track “Every.Other.Weekend.” hits on a personal level. ‘Mommy and Daddy still love you, just not each other’ are the only lyrics in the song. Hardly even one sentence, and yet it captures so much in only 8 seconds. So much raw power, packed in such a compact presentation – perhaps less truly is more? Grindcore bands are definitely making a statement to this, and Bandit are no exception.
Guitarist Jack McBride brings plenty of heat to each release under the Bandit moniker. As relentless as their music sounds, the songwriting is usually also an almagamation of relentlessness between the band members to create. In an interview from 2018 with Decibel Magazine, Jack talks about how the band has a sort of non-stop formula when it comes to writing new material:
‘Bandit is always writing new material in the sense that I am always bouncing increasingly dumber and more difficult ideas off of Michael [Thomas, drums] whenever we practice. Honestly, I don’t know how he puts up with me sometimes [laughs]. We usually don’t take incredibly long hiatuses from writing. That being said, we also never really sit down and say ‘we’re going to take these next couple months and just write and by the end of it, we need to have this amount of material ready‘. With Bandit, writing is incredibly organic and spontaneous and I feel like our music reflects that in both positive and negative ways. Michael and I have tried to force our creativity before, and it never works out… ever.’
Playing riffs that remind one of the Terrifyer-era of Pig Destroyer, Gene has told a story during a stand-up comedy routine of Scott Hull actually approaching the band after a notorious show where Gene violently vomited due to what is described as food poisoning during their set. Scott expressed interest in Bandit doing more shows with Pig Destroyer, which was a huge moment of excitement, as you might guess, for both Jack and Gene, given their influences drawn from the DMV grind giants.
This is not the only time Bandit’s set has gone off the rails. Meyer recounts the notorious acts of unpredictability typically seen in the band’s live act:
’It was pretty insane from the moment I joined the band. Vomiting, falling down stairs, fireworks, spray paint, spontaneous tattoos. We’ve even had sword battles and I once rolled myself up into a carpet at an outdoor gig in Bratislava. Anything just to keep people off their phones when we play.’
Despite the violent nature captured both in photos and videos of the band, they seem to have a genuine connection with their fans as well as each other. A certain chemistry exists within them that simply cannot be fabricated, and as much as it reflects in their music and live act, it is also seen in their interactions with each other as well as fans on and off stage. Mentioning that his favorite part of being involved in music is getting to ‘show off a side of myself (anger, sadness) that I don’t feel comfortable showing in too many other contexts’, Gene speaks on some things that help inspire Bandit musically and otherwise:
‘Jack is totally obsessed with all things grindcore or grindcore-related and studies it the way you would in a high-level master’s program. Gobinda is one of the most talented and dedicated drummers on the planet and I read half a Bukowski poem once and said ‘Eh, fuck it’ and yell things into a microphone.’
When Gene Meyer isn’t parading around the venue screaming and running into people for Bandit, he is doing comedy, writing for Decibel Magazine himself, or helping people cope with their traumas, addictions, and life struggles as a licensed therapist. With quite the resume attached to his musical pursuits, Gene leads quite an interesting life in his way of balancing each of these parts of his life. After all, with metal music being a sort of therapeutic thing in and of itself, wouldn’t it make sense to have more therapists fronting metal acts? Perhaps, perhaps not.
Gene, on what balancing such a multi-faceted lifestyle looks like:
’I’m very fortunate that all of my greatest passions in life get to intersect in the way they do. I get to make my own hours, listen to grindcore between sessions and then write dick and fart jokes on twitter and immediately delete them. As for the therapy, I utilize my band’s platform to engage with clients from the metal/hardcore scene who can relate to me and I to them. I want to dismantle some of the traditional stigma around being a therapist, it doesn’t have to be an old man in a suit, sometimes it can be a dude in a Pig Destroyer shirt.’
As of 2023, the band has released their newest album, Siege of Self, featuring a slight line-up change with the addition of Gobinda Senchury behind the kit. Spanning a 22 minutes and 55 seconds duration, it is without a doubt a peak point for the band. Having toured Europe, played a number of festivals (such as Full Terror Assault and Extreme OSU), and being featured on the cover of Decibel over the past year, the band’s notoriety has quickly grown with recognition. Siege of Self embodies both a familiar and fresh aura about the band’s trajectory.
‘Jack got much more into technical metal during the pandemic (Meshuggah, Car Bomb) and I got a lot more introspective with my lyrical focus. Gobinda joining the band added a whole new level of possibility for musical composition. All together it’s a big step up.’
The album has a sound that hits more of a thrashy element, with fast riffs that keep a groove of sorts to their structure. It feels maybe a bit more rhythmic than prior releases, in the sense that the sporadic nature is still there but almost polished. The album’s lyrics seem to center around dealing with one’s own demons, to a degree; more specifically, Gene has stated via Instagram that the album centers around experiences with ‘intimacy, depression and my own personal struggles with Schizoaffective disorder, a condition that runs in my family’. Yet another visceral release, the depths Bandit go to lyrically while ensuring fists remain thrown from song to song is, again, a big part of their character as a grindcore collective.
’The message of Bandit to me is to embrace your true self, warts and all. We also want to humanize mental illness and discourage the medicalization of the human condition that seems to be a by product of capitalism. We are all people trying to take care of ourselves, we are not patients and we certainly are not diagnoses.’
Going back to where their Pig Destroyer influence traces, the album gives me Book Burner vibes in a handful of spots. Tracks like “The Hopeless Romantic” and “Body Horror” check the boxes of a more grooved, death metal-esque style, but “Body Horror” still does not go without its tremolo-picked, blast-beaten strokes of glory. “Reincarnation Blues” brings it right back home to the grindy goodness we all know and love, mercilessly ripping from odd-timed moments of sporadic genius to insane blast beats and wrist-numbing tremolo riffs. It’s hard to listen to an album as polished yet somehow still raw as this and get bored for even a second.
With a new album fresh out the oven, Bandit have big plans ahead, which includes are an album release show on May 13th at The Snake Pit in Philly. You want to get in? Message the band for the address and be sure to keep the date freed up! They will be performing alongside Tagabow, Spesimin, Dogs of Eternity, Charcuterie, and Wirl. If you want the full effect of who Bandit are, you are best to go catch them live, and especially at this show. They will also be selling super cool exclusive jerseys at this show.
Gene, on upcoming plans for the band:
’We are touring the US South and Midwest with Chepang in August. We are also flying out to Salt Lake City for a show in September and a one off in Boston around Halloween. Our album release show will be in Philly on May 13th.’
Me being the clown that I am, I also decided to ask Gene, a Jets fan, about how soon we could expect to see Bandit at the Super Bowl. His response was: ‘When the Jets play the Eagles in 2069.’ You heard it here first, folks!
Don’t miss out on Bandit any longer. Be a part of the chaos and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter today! You can purchase and listen to Siege of Self via their Bandcamp, as well as Warsaw and other releases. As vocalist Gene Meyer would say: ‘One love, one grind; Bobsled time.‘
Gene Meyer – vocals
Jack McBride – guitars
Gobinda Senchury – drums