Lulu and John Demitro got off to an early start in music. Growing up in Boulder, the siblings began playing classical piano before they were five. John played in bands through high school, including the hard-rock band Bassline; Lulu, who is a year younger than John, played keyboards in that group. One fateful day, Bassline was booked at a music festival at a wolf habitat in Georgetown with Boulder-based rock- and-roll band West Water Outlaws that turned into a kind of drunken get-together during which the Demitros crossed paths with drummer Andrew Oakley.
After Bassline dissolved in 2012, John and Lulu — still teenagers — formed a new rock band they dubbed Branded Bandits; Oakley regularly invited the fledgling outfit to open for his band. Those invitations led to Branded Bandits' first show at the Fox, opening for West Water Outlaws — an auspicious beginning for a new band.
At the start of this year, Oakley joined the band, which had started as a four-piece but is now a trio; it's also refined its sound. “John and I went and saw Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and they do a lot of stuff where they switch instruments,” explains Lulu. “We thought that was cool, and we wanted to push our own sounds in a different direction. Then we saw Queens of the Stone Age, and their use of synths or keyboards are underrated — it's a huge part of their songwriting. We would like to emulate that power with our own keyboards and use of vocals.”
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The impact of those acts and the trio's own maturation as songwriters — the Demitros have written a lot of new material with Oakley — led to a name change in August: Branded Bandits is now BANDITS. “We've added new textures, keyboards, synth sounds and more vocals,” reveals Lulu. “It's more about the song rather than just a riff. I would say it's more contemporary and a little bit darker and heavier, but still melodic.”
Since the group has been touring — both short jaunts and more lengthy outings — it hasn't played much locally, beyond a show at the UMS in July and a September performance at the Gothic. Over the next few months, BANDITS will unveil a music video for the single “Kill Tonight,” expected for a vinyl release in early 2016; it's also planning its first tours to both the East Coast and the West Coast.
You can get a taste of the group's unique take on hard rock before the rest of the country this Friday, November 13, at the hi-dive; so much is new that it's almost a coming-out show. “We have new merch, and we're playing new material for the first time,” says John.
BANDITS perform with The Outfit and Slow Caves at the hi-dive on Friday, November 13. Doors are at 8:30 p.m., and the show's at 9:30 p.m.; it's an all-ages event. Tickets are $10; purchase them on the hi-dive website.