Interview: Banditos bring their Birmingham-born honky-tonk rock to the masses
Banditos have been giving American music an energetic jolt by combining elements of honky-tonk, bluegrass, old school country, and garage rock into one soulful frenzy. The sextet from Birmingham, Alabama, caused a stir with their stellar self-titled debut this past May and it doesn’t look like they’re going to ease their foot off the accelerator anytime soon. Guitarist Corey Parsons, banjo player Steve Pierce, and Mary Beth Richardson form a triple arsenal of emphatic vocals while Randy Wade keeps a steady beat on percussion, Danny Vines manages the rhythms on bass, and Jeffrey Salter gives the electric touch on guitar and lap steel. Together this band is bound to make you dance and they aim to do just that when they roll through Providence this weekend.
As part of their week-long tour with fellow Birmingham act St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Banditos will be opening things up at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel this Sunday, January 17. Ahead of a time that promises a lot of rocking and rolling, Vanyaland had a chat with Parsons about how the band got their start, moving to Nashville, what it was like for the band making their first ever full length and managing so many dimensions to harness an incredible sound.
Rob Duguay: The band got their start when you and Steve Pierce began busking around Birmingham and then you were asked to perform at your favorite local bar. What’s the name of the establishment and was there an actual stage or did you all just play in a corner?
Corey Parsons: The first place we actually played when it was just me, Steve, and Randy our drummer was a place called Speak Easy that is now defunct in Birmingham. There was kind of a stage I guess if you want to call it that. It was a little riser in the corner that was probably six or seven inches off the ground, enough to fit us three on there.
Do you have any memories from the show? Were there a lot of people dancing all over the place or was it fairly low-key?
It was pretty low-key. I’m pretty sure Mary [Beth Richardson] was there but I don’t think Danny [Vines] nor Jeffrey [Salter] were there. It was just a gathering of friends but we actually played our first show as the lineup we are now at The Bottletree Cafe which is also now a defunct venue in Birmingham but that’s the place where we honed our chops and came together as a band.
Now currently the band is based in Nashville, when it comes to both music scenes is there anything relatable between Nashville and Birmingham?
The scene in Nashville is just bigger, a lot of musicians live here which I’m pretty sure you’ve heard. Birmingham was great and we’re proud to be from there but it’s more conducive to trying to do this for a living for us to be centered in Nashville.
It definitely makes a lot of sense, was it difficult getting acclimated to the Nashville scene when Banditos first moved there?
Not really, because we stayed on the road for the most part just like everybody else does there.
How long have you been in Nashville for?
Little over three years now.
Then you’ve must of had plenty of time to get familiar with your surroundings. In May last year you guys released your self-titled debut off of Chicago label Bloodshot Records, and it immediately got a lot of attention with this robust rocking sound. Where was the album made and what was the experience like for the band making their first full length album?
It was a long time coming because we’ve been a band for about four years at that time. We did it at The Bomb Shelter with Andrija Tokic producing the album. He’s a good friend of ours and he produced some of our friend’s bands and it was cool, it’s pretty chill there. It’s definitely the best thing about recording when you can find a comfortable spot to do it. We had songs we’d been playing for four years and we also had songs we wrote a couple of weeks prior to recording the album so I think it was a pretty comprehensive debut for us.
Banditos seems like a band that could play an old truck stop out in the sticks as well as playing the big venue in town. When it comes to songwriting, how do you blend all of these instruments together in such a pristine way?
It’s different every time, we don’t really have a set formula to it. We all know each other so well, we’ve lived together for three years and before that we’ve known each other since we were 15 or 16 years old. We all have the same perspective on music, not exactly the same tastes but for the most part we know when a song is good and when a song is bad. It all stems from our opinion. It’s definitely a learning process but I don’t think it would work out so well if we weren’t the family that we are.
It’s impressive how each song is so rhythmically tight and it makes you want to dance and move around.
That’s what we’re going for.
After this little tour you have with St. Paul & The Broken Bones, what does Banditos have planned next?
We actually have been at our friend’s studio working on new material for the next album. We don’t have the release date set or anything, we’re just writing for now. After this we’re going back to Scandinavia for a few weeks in April. We’re just trying to focus on the next album, it’s coming together pretty great. It’s a weird thing going into a second album. Just kind of starting from scratch but it’s coming together great and I’m really excited about it.
Can’t wait to hear it. Is it going to come out later this year or do you plan on having it be released in 2017?
We’re going to put it out this year, for sure.
BANDITOS + ST. PAUL AND THE BROKEN BONES :: Sunday, January 17 at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, 79 Washington St. in Providence, RI :: 7 p.m., all ages, $20 in advance and $24 day of show :: Advance tickets :: Facebook event page