Creating a sense of family and community isn’t an easy thing to do among just four people. But when you make a point to keep traditions alive and begin new ones, it’s a lot easier to create something special.
Jason Kitt, Buddy Smith, Anthony Vanover, and Josiah Helland, the four masterminds behind local modern indie/blues band Rogues & Bandits, have been able to start something exceptional not only among themselves as a band, but with those surrounding them. Friends and Family
“We love performing for friends and family, wherever that may be” said vocalist and guitarist Kitt. “The farm that our band practices at holds a special place in our hearts. We built a stage there, nestled in a grove of Osage trees, overlooking a small valley on the countryside. Every Labor Day weekend for the past ten years we’ve invited other local artists to perform for a day of music. We can’t wait till this year’s lineup to perform.”
The image of a band hanging out at a farm, making music, and kicking around the occasional Osage orange conjures an all-American feeling that you’ll only find in the Midwest under the right circumstances.
This image is given color when the proverbial record needle hits the opening notes of the band’s self-titled debut EP. You’re given a smooth, feel-good listening the likes of Tom Petty or the Allman Brothers, a noted influence.
“Our musical influences are pretty diverse, from Stevie Ray Vaughn to Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley to Pink Floyd,” Kitt said. “Some of our favorite bands to listen to are Band of Horses, Dave Matthews Band, Jason Isbel, America, Collective Soul, Jimi Hendrix, the Black Keys, Have Gun Will Travel, The Shins, The Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie, Sublime, The Allman Brothers, Johnny Cash, and hundreds more.”
With so many influences, especially ones so pivotal in the world of music, it can make one wary of a band’s sound. So many influences mean so many different sounds, right?
But Rogues & Bandits’ brand of soft rock flows effortlessly from song to song, even when the band adds saturated effects like on “Stay” or a guitar solo sings out like on “Ocean View.”
“Our style is a delicate mixture of blues, modern/indie rock and a sprinkle of country,” Kitt said. “We have varying personalities and music styles that we try to reflect in every song, but no one song has any intention of being a specific genre. We try to remain open to every influence.
“As long as we are honest in our approach to writing about our lives and experiences, we hope our style continues to head in the direction it’s going right now. We can write meaningful lyrics and interesting music and hope to keep the mojo working for as long as we can. The evolution of rock music has come a long way, and we are happy to be along for the ride.” Careful Songcraft
Together, Kitt, Smith (bass, piano, and vocals), Vanover (lead guitar and vocals), and Helland (drums and vocals) craft each song from the ether, whether that means bringing a completed song to practice or just throwing ideas around.
Either way, once each member gets his hands on the new concept, each song grows uniquely to become one of the band’s anthems.
“Our songs can come from anywhere, whether it’s a riff someone brings to rehearsal, or lyrics scribbled on a napkin,” Kitt said. “Coming up with the feel and rhythm of the song is usually the first, and sometimes the most important, step. Once we have the idea, lyrics are usually written by [Buddy] Smith or myself, sometimes on our own and sometimes together. Inspiration for each song comes from different places, so we try and let life be our writing process.”
When a sense of Americana makes itself present within a band’s culture, the group can sometimes get off on the wrong foot. Inflated egos and emphasis on the wrong things can drag a project down, both musically and culturally.
In Fort Wayne, however, you’ll find bands with all sorts of opinions and ideologies, but almost always the members of the group are down-to-earth, sweet, and considerate people. With Rogues & Bandits, it’s no different.
“The only message we try to push is originality,” Kitt said. “Of course, as we write new songs, some messages emerge from the lyrics that aren’t planned by any means. I wouldn’t say our band as a whole stands for a certain message or group of thoughts. We are just four working stiffs who love to play our own songs, and we gladly support others trying to push their originals as well. So maybe, in a roundabout way, we are pushing a message of, ‘Be yourself and be happy being yourself.’” Striving for tight-knit change
Being yourself and working toward keeping that as truth among a small group of people is as admirable as it comes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have goals, strive for something more significant, or work your hardest to change the things that should change and strengthen the things that should stay.
“Our goals are to keep playing original music until it isn’t fun anymore,” Kitt said. “Of course, we would love to be rock stars and tour the world, but we’re cool with that not happening as well. We all have day jobs and families that consume most of our time, but our escape has always been Wednesday nights at the band room working on new songs. We love to play around town and introduce others to our sound. The more original, the better in our book.”
You can find current Rogues & Bandits music on iTunes, Facebook, YouTube, Amazon, and Spotify. Look for a new EP in early 2020 and see them live at Brewed in the Fort in September.