Joshua Strickland sat down at his house and thought about his time with the U.S. Army. The missions in Kandahar City, Afghanistan, and the camaraderie between he and his fellow soldiers.
He couldn’t forget his Army buddy, someone who, as Strickland says, “lost his battle with PTSD.” The lead singer/songwriter for The Bayou Bandits, Strickland wrote a song called “Kandahar” set to appear on the Valley band’s self-titled debut album due out in November.
“Whether you’re a veteran or soldier or not, this still resonates,” Strickland says solemnly. “Everyone can relate to that sentiment of losing someone close to them or someone who’s dealing with depression.”
“Kandahar” includes the line: “Most of us we made it home/but we never came back.”
“After I wrote it, I knew what I was trying to say, but when I sang it and people heard it, the message was conveyed perfectly,” he says. “Someone recorded it at an open mic night, where I was just hanging out. When they posted it on YouTube, it’s since been viewed 3,000 times.”
But before it officially hits the streets, Strickland did his due diligence. He ran it by the soldier’s family and his fellow soldiers.
“I called all the members of my old team I was with in Afghanistan,” Strickland says. “I wanted their input on it. It’s such a close-to-home subject. I didn’t want them to think I was trying to exploit the tragedy.
“I got his wife’s blessing, too. The first copy goes to her. It’s a common occurrence with a lot of soldiers and service members coming home from the war. There aren’t a lot of resources out there to get the help they need.”
Not everything on “The Bayou Bandits” is down key, though. The band has already released the single “Take Me Back,” which has received airplay locally. Then there’s “Kiss My Dixie …”
“That was a song we wrote for some of our critics,” Strickland says with a laugh. “I’m a straightforward type of dude. That was a song about my upbringing. I’m a true Louisiana man.”
The album crisscrosses genres, with some songs taking listeners back to the swamplands of Louisiana, while others delve into Southern rock.
Strickland balanced his day job as a registered nurse with the recording sessions.
“I’d get off work at 6:30 p.m. and go straight to the studio and stay there until 10,” he says. “Then I’d go back to work at 6 a.m. It was horrible. It was worth it, though.
“Having that single out for a while, it was building up anxiety from fans asking when were we going to release a record. That was really our next step as a band. It’s one thing to play covers and make a lot of money doing it, but it’s a completely different sense of euphoria whenever we get to play our own music in front of people.
“The first time I heard the final mix of the songs, my first thought was, ‘That’s sexy. That’s the real job right there. Those are my words.’ It’s cool to see it brought to life.”
The Bayou Bandits have made a name for itself already through its cover shows, but now Strickland and his bandmates—Jeremy Madig, Paul Williams and Jason Pataska—really have something to wrap their instruments around.
“People are interested in what I have to say,” Strickland says. “They want to hear the message I’m conveying. It’s not just me covering someone else’s songs. Don’t get me wrong. We love doing it. We made a lot of money doing it, but it’s not the same.
“We put our thoughts, our feelings and our emotions in these songs.”
That especially applies with “Kandahar.”
“We went through everything together,” he says. “We ran missions every single day and every single night together. We were closer than brothers. He came back and fell on hard times. When you lose hope, you lose everything. He wasn’t able to get the help he needs, unfortunately, and couldn’t see another way out. He left behind a wife and four kids. At least, mentally, he’s at peace.”
Bayou Bandits Record Release Party w/Haley Green, DL Marble and The Real Fakes
Valley Bar, 130 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, valleybarphx.com, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, November 14, $10.