The past year—scratch that, the past handful of years have brought a nerve-wracking sense of worry into the lives of so many. As the weary days of the pandemic drag onward, it’s getting hard to massage all of the stress from achy muscles, to lull one’s mind into a comforting sleep. And yet, the indie-pop trio Bandits on the Run have released a single that may offer a bit of respite.
The Bandits, anchored by Adrian Blake Enscoe, Sydney Shepherd and Regina Strayhorn, have released the indie rock lullaby “Sing You to Sleep,” the second single released from their new EP Now Is the Time, slated to drop on May 7, 2021. Earlier this year, the group debuted their single “We Battle Giants,” a pop anthem led by Strayhorn with an activist call to action. Their new track, which Enscoe spearheaded, ladles a warm mug of sleepytime tea into one soothing, joyous song perfect for winter blues.
“It’s kind of hackneyed to say that since 2016, everybody was firing on all cylinders all the time and worrying about stuff,” Enscoe says, “but that was kind of where we were at. Sydney and I live together, we’re partners, we sleep in the same bed. There had been many a sleepless night. It kind of came from this feeling of really wanting to soothe the person that you love.”
While he’s been creating music with the Bandits, Enscoe has also been starring as Austin Dickinson, the older brother of Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) on Apple TV+’s Dickinson. The series weaves contemporary music into a period TV series, and the narrative has already featured one of Steinfeld’s tracks—Enscoe has his eye on a potential Bandits feature in Season 3.
“I’m really excited about our EP coming up, because the vibe in Dickinson can be dark and moody,” Enscoe says. “A lot of our stuff up until now has been more focused on upbeat folkiness—which doesn’t always have a place in Dickinson. I’m really excited for some of the songs that are in this EP, and how they could fit into the new season.”
While Dickinson ironically portrays Austin as the less talented sibling, Enscoe says that showrunner Alena Smith has toyed with the idea of him joining a band—only, it would have to be a really bad band. An embarrassing, “ugh, my brother’s in a band” kind of ensemble. But in real life, the Dickinson troupe has supported the Bandits by attending their shows and sharing their own music.
“Everybody there is kind of musical, including Jane [Krakowski] and Toby [Huss], Mr. and Mrs. Dickinson,” Enscoe says. “Toby does this crazy act where he’s a Frank Sinatra parody. He has a voice that’s almost exactly like Frank Sinatra; he’ll just sing these ridiculous things in a Frank Sinatra voice.”
The Bandits, who formed after a chance encounter on a New York City subway platform, have always embraced spirited, live performances. The pandemic, unfortunately, has put a damper on that drive. But the band has trekked onward, sequestering themselves in North Carolina to write new material. Eventually, they road-tripped westward to Bear Creek Studio in Washington State to work with producer Ryan Hadlock (The Lumineers, Vance Joy). Sure, they weren’t performing for groups of audiences as expected, but the trio nonetheless managed to punch out a new rhythm.
“What we generally try to do is be positive, and also encourage people to get out there and change the things that they see that are wrong with the world,” Enscoe says. “Recently, our stuff has felt of right now; in terms of just wanting to create positivity, and also change.”
Relatedly, the Bandits established a new way to reach out to fans online, in order to stay true to their tradition of meeting strangers and finding new gaggles of like-minded folks. They’re offering a telegram service, in which they’ll write personalized songs for anyone who makes a request online. Interested parties can head to their website, make a donation to “Banditry,” and rattle off fun details about the song receiver. Then, the Bandits will draft up an individualized tune.
“We’ve done 30 or 35 of them at this point, and it’s a great writing exercise,” Shepherd says. “We want everything to sound different; we want it to be super tailored to people. That has been a really cool way to get to know people.”
Recording an EP also allotted them the chance to add new instruments, like a banjo, a booming reed organ, and a Polish instrument called the devil’s violin. “That’s the cool thing when you go to a recording studio that has a lot of history, they sort of collect all of these amazing things,” Shepherd says. “It’s like a toyland where you can find magic.”
Strayhorn also picked up the accordion, another new addition to the Bandits’ variety of sounds. Gifted to her by a friend, the keyboard only had seven chords—still, the group fit “Sing You To Sleep” within that tight range. Strayhorn’s since upgraded her accordion, but the roaring sound is sticking with the band.
“It is a funky instrument! I find it to be very human, the bellows in the air,” Strayhorn says. “I really just picked it up and started playing consistently. And now, a bunch of our songs have accordion. It’s a big part of our band.”
In the past, the Bandits have created cheery, community-driven music; however, the past year has introduced a saga of emotions and events that are less than upbeat. “Sing You to Sleep” exists within that dichotomy: it’s based in the reality of our current situation, while also bringing a certain lightheartedness to alleviate pent-up worry.
“We’ve just gotten through so much as a people, as a culture, and then individually, all of our struggles,” Strayhorn says. “You have to find routines. You have to go to sleep. I like that the song speaks to, yes, there’s a lot going on. And between us, we can find spaces of rest.”
Check out the video for “Sing You to Sleep” by Bandits on the Run (and revisit the band’s 2019 Paste Studio session) below.
Fletcher Peters is a New York-based journalist whose writing has appeared in Decider, Jezebel, and Film School Rejects, among other spots. You can follow her on Twitter @fietcherpeters gossiping about rom-coms, TV, and the latest celebrity drama.