Identity, camaraderie, escapism and class

Class A Bandits

Scott Lowry, Mark Shannon, Chris VanAlstine, Joey Esposito and Mike Bernard are the five puzzle pieces to Class A Bandits. They are fresh out of the studio after recording their debut EP and anticipate getting back on the stage. Photo courtesy of Class A Bandits.

More than a year ago, a group of friends gathered around for band practice. Still nameless, they found their band name at the bottom of a pack of Marlboro cigarettes.

“We looked at it and thought, ‘Class A Bandits,’ and from then on, it just stuck,” said Joey Esposito, lead singer.

After lineup changes, the band came together in its current form in May and is fresh out of the studio with an untitled debut EP.

The band originally started with Esposito and guitarists Scott Lowry and Mark Shannon, a Youngstown State University alumnus. They then recruited drummer Chris VanAlstine and bassist Mike Bernard, a YSU senior majoring in accounting.

“Once the split from the other members happened, Chris brought an entirely different style,” Esposito said.

The rock ’n’ roll band likes to play feel-good music and has influences ranging from Bruce Springsteen to OutKast to Radiohead.

“Before Mr. Bernard and Mr. VanAlstine joined the ranks, there was a different attitude about the band,” Lowry said. “The attitude these two bring to the table soundwise and professionally has changed us.”

Bernard agreed, saying he shares the same focus with his band mates that he didn’t share with past bands he played in.

“Previous bands I was in were more experimental. These guys are more technical,” Bernard said. “The band, as a whole, focuses on how we are going to display ourselves.”

Before Bernard was an official member of the band and just filling in, the band was practicing an Elvis Costello song.

“Berny just belted out this technical and complicated bass line. I remember looking around to the rest of the band, and I was like, ‘We got to just give this kid the gig,’” Shannon said.

Now that they are together, are in post-production for their debut EP and back in their practice space every Sunday, the band members say they are focused on one thing: the dream.

Lowry’s tone switched from laid back to serious when talking about the band’s future with music.

“There are people who can work at Dunkin’ Donuts or McDonald’s or work in a stable job and play music and mingle in everyday society. I can’t do that,” Lowry said. “It’s a Clark Kent, Superman sort of thing. For a lot of people, Superman is the alter ego, and Clark Kent is who they are. Not me. I am Superman, and Clark Kent is my alter ego. Music is what I do, it’s what we do and it’s what we’re meant to do.”

His band mates nodded their heads in agreement, while reminiscing about what it’s like to perform on stage. They quickly started firing off their thoughts.

“A lot of people have told me the only time they’ve seen me smile is when I’m on stage,” Shannon said.

“We play our roles, but we’re functioning as a well-oiled machine,” Esposito said.

“To go on stage and bare your soul, to be emotionally naked up there, letting it all out, it’s something not everyone can do,” Lowry said.

The band members claimed that the feeling they get while performing together has been a driving force in their lives. They each then reflected on their plans for the band.

“I don’t plan to stop this train until we’re famous. I believe I’m with the guys who have the talents to make that dream come true,” Esposito said.

“College is really my plan B,” Bernard said. “Its just that music is my passion, and it’s pretty much impossible to give up your passion.”

“My only plan B is dead,” Lowry said.

Band members said they plan to get their ducks in order before reaching beyond the boundaries of their hometown. For Bernard, one of these is graduating.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said about dedicating himself to the band and to school. “Balancing a job with that is hard. But at the end of the day, it’s all worth it, and I believe it’ll pay off.”

As a recent graduate, Shannon said he understands the pressure Bernard is under.

“Last semester, I was in crunch mode. I was student teaching and sometimes had to miss practice to do my lesson plans for the next day,” Shannon said.

Bernard and Shannon agreed that music is what helps them through their busy undertaking.

“This is the one thing we can come to to forget our daily lives for a couple hours on a Sunday,” Shannon said.