The Steel City’s music scene was full of life last Friday night at the Doors Pub, where Hamilton band the Bandicoots played alongside Billy Moon and the Mackinaws. Exciting, for sure, but Justin Ross – vocalist and guitarist for the Bandicoots as well a McMaster student – is no stranger to his native city’s potential for musical energy.
Just over a year ago, Ross and drummer Andrew Parkinson started the band almost unknowingly. The two first began jamming when they stumbled upon a guitar and drum kit at a house party. Soon they recruited Ross’ co-worker Nicolai Koyel as lead guitarist and school friend Max Cain as vocalist and bassist.
As the band added members, its sound, classic rock with an urban twist, also began to grow. “We play what we wanna hear,” Ross said. Their influences vary from older groups like the Strokes to up-and-coming bands such as Temples, a psychedelic rock band from the UK.
The Bandicoots debuted their sound at the Casbah, and gigs at Absinthe, This Ain’t Hollywood and the Doors Pub eventually followed. Lo and behold, The Bandicoots were taking their first footsteps into the local music world.
The band experienced their biggest break last November when they opened for Born Ruffians, an ascendant indie band from Midland, ON with tour dates worldwide. The word that Justin kept repeating when talking about the night was “awesome.”
With the dual perspective of someone both in the audience and on the stage, Ross said that not only is Hamilton full of opportunities for musicians, “it’s also just a good place to be.”
“The people in this city are not concerned with the aesthetics, they do it for the passion of making music,” he said. It’s not about being the best here, it’s about meeting people and sharing your passion for music.”
The band is planning on recording their first EP soon at Hamilton’s very own Threshold Studios. In the meantime, they will keep trying to make it in Hamilton’s music scene by adhering to a simple philosophy. “Don’t think about it. Don’t play to be famous,” said Ross. “Play and write music you want to hear, because you love it. That’s the key to this music scene.”