Four years ago, accordionist Abel Casillas had an idea to reinvent his Tejano-style of music. Combining basic Tejano polka, honkytonk, and zydeco with a little bit of blues from guitar, drums, and bass led to his current, popular project, the Squeezebox Bandits.
“I had a vision, man,” he said. “There are a lot of great bands with an accordion involved. I heard a fiddle, and I heard a steel guitar, and we feed off each other. There’s four of us, and when the accordion takes over, it’s rocking, man.”
The Squeezebox Bandits have gone from niche-y to big time. In 2020, they signed to Dallas’ State Fair Records, the home of Joshua Ray Walker, Ottoman Turks, and Paul Slavens, among others, that will release the Bandits’ new album, Check to Check, on Thursday, when they will also play Billy Bob’s Texas in the Stockyards.
The Squeezebox Bandits’ sound is a mélange of various flavors, especially Tejano and old-school C&W.
“We do it all,” Casillas said. “We do country but not like Brooks & Dunn. It goes deep with what I like, Hank Williams and Hank Williams Jr. We give it that spin and sometimes a Tejano spin.”
Accordionist and vocalist Casillas, drummer Matthew Calderon, bassist Austin Gardea, and guitarist Geoff West have played plenty of big stages before, including in Nashville and the Texas Music Revolution in McKinney. As you might imagine, the crowd goes wild every time.
“It’s always so cool running into new people who haven’t heard us and don’t know what to expect when they see Abel with the accordion,” Calderon said. “Once we get going, you see the look on their face, and that foot gets to tapping. It’s a cool reaction and vibe.”
Singer-songwriter Matt Hillyer of the nigh-legendary Dallas country act Eleven Hundred Springs helped produce and record the new album. Check to Check follows two previous releases: Clear as Day (2018) and Sound of Texas (2019).
“The [new] album is a broad Texas album,” West said, “and there’s a lot of Texas in there with the album personifying all aspects of Texas. The album hits on that.”
Hillyer also co-wrote the title track, which was just released on Spotify and other digital platforms.
The band is certainly happy with sharing a label with Joshua Ray Walker, a honkytonker from Dallas who is shooting up the country charts.
Though the Bandits are open to touring, they have personal obligations at home, which may limit the scope of travel a little.
“At some point soon,” Casillas said, “we’ll work it all out to when we can get on the road. If you’ve been to a show, we keep it fun, and there are at least five bangers on the album, and it’s a damn good album.”