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How The Q-Tip Bandits manifested a slot at Boston Calling

The Q-Tip Bandits pose together for a photo. (Courtesy Sarah Seymour)
The Q-Tip Bandits pose together for a photo. (Courtesy Sarah Seymour)

The Boston Calling Music Festival is a rare chance for local bands to shine alongside music industry titans. This year, Foo Fighters, The Lumineers and Paramore headline, meanwhile a hometown favorite is excited to share the stage.

The Q-Tip Bandits are a group of 20-something-year-olds that make fun energetic music. It's really a reflection of their bubbly personalities. And it's got a dash of colorful language from singer Leo Son, which he acknowledges: "I curse like a sailor, it's really a problem."

The band takes to the stage on Saturday, May 27, at Boston's premiere music festival. Joining Son, who also plays guitar, are Claire Davis (vocals and bass) and Dakota Maykrantz (drums). But what sets The Q-Tip Bandits apart from other bands is its horn section, which features Maclin Tucker (trumpet) and Hoyt Parquet (trombone).

Their sound is a fusion of indie-pop, rock, funk and soul. Son hopes their music can be there for listeners the same way other artists’ work has been there for him.

"Music was like my way of connecting with something when I didn't connect with the people around me," he said. "It was my way of having artists that sang songs that made me feel not alone when I felt alone in the rest of my life."

The band met while studying at Berklee College of Music in 2017. Son's from Brookline, but his bandmates are newer to the area. Claire Davis remembers seeing the Boston Calling poster throughout the city after moving here and forming the band. "It really became this goal of ‘That is the festival that we want to play,’” she said.

Performing at Boston Calling is considered the goal for most local bands. But, for The Q-Tip Bandits, whose music radiates good vibes, it was a manifestation.

"Leo [Son], he told me very early on, ‘In five years, we're going to be on that lineup.’ And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, totally...,’" Davis remarked. "And little did we know, five years later... I guess Leo knew."

They don't take this opportunity lightly. As Davis points out, it took a focused effort to get to this point.

"We have been growing steadily each year and playing shows to five people, then 15 people, then 2,500," she said. "And so, to be at this point now, five years later … we didn't just — poof — magically get here. We've worked to be here, and that feels extremely validating, to put it simply, to have that hard work be acknowledged."

They give their fans credit for their success too. They've made it a point to let their audience know how valued they are. "Even if it's as simple as getting back to a comment on social media,” Son said. “It's something that takes less than a minute, but it's effort and it really is about just building this family."

And that effort pays off for the group when they perform outside of Boston. "We go to New York now — the last time we played there [it] was like, ‘This feels like a Boston show,’" said Son.

The band wrapped their “Tip Toe” tour in March where they traveled across the country, played a showcase at SXSW and sold out a performance in Charlotte, North Carolina. The tour got its name from the band's latest single, which just released on May 22 under the same name.

The Q-Tip Bandits are set to hit their five-year goal when they perform at Boston Calling. And while there is the Tivoli Audio Orange Stage dedicated to local acts, the band will be performing on the festival's Blue Stage, which also features big-ticket performers like The Flaming Lips.

"In the end, it's not the stage, it's the people, right? It's the connections," Davis said. "And this stage just happens to be a chance to share what we love to do with more people, which is all we really want to do."

They're looking forward to moving and grooving with their audience and are hoping this opportunity is just the beginning of their next chapter.

"Boston calling just makes it more real," said Son. "It's not like the journey's over, you know, because we achieve this goal. You put in this work to make it clear that there's something worth sharing, you best be ready to fully dive in. Because what else really is there?"

The Q-Tip Bandits take the Blue Stage at Boston Calling on Saturday, May 27, at 2:20 p.m. Then, they'll be switching gears to record a new EP.

This segment aired on May 25, 2023.


Jacob Garcia Newsroom Fellow
Jacob Garcia is a newsroom fellow at WBUR.



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