Many bands start off from casual origins, and the Banditos' story is no exception. For singer/banjo player Stephen Pierce, his journey began in 2010, when he and guitarist Corey Parsons started busking around their hometown of Birmingham, AL, with no particular roadmap in mind.

“We did old Hank Williams songs, and some stuff we writing, that was just absolutely ridiculous –  we had 'South Side Stomp,' (a song) about killing bugs, roaches,” said Pierce, laughing. “It's a dance everybody knows how to do in Birmingham, definitely, especially in the summer.”

Those events took on a life for their own, when Pierce and Parsons were asked to play at a local bar.

Deciding a full lineup was required, the enterprising pair called on friends in various local bands – including lead singer Mary Beth Richardson, guitarist Jeffrey Salter, and drummer Randy Wade – to complete it.

Of all the cities associated with punk/DIY scenes, Birmingham may not get as much attention as its larger counterparts, but it's just as vital, as Pierce sees it.

Much of the action – from the mid-1990s, to 2005 – revolved around a venue called Cave Nine, which essentially served as Birmingham's answer to New York's famed punk venue, CBGB's, he suggests.

“We had tons of bands come through – people from Canada, Europe, the UK – that we were blown away getting to see,” recalled Pierce. “It was in a crazy area for us, right in the projects. But we got along with everyone, and everyone got along with us.”

The response to the one-off show convinced Parsons, Pierce, and their newly-recruited colleagues that they were onto something.
Once bassist Danny Vines joined, the Banditos were officially born, with a sound that their Bloodshot Records biography describes as a blending of “'60 blues-fused acid rock, ZZ Top's jangly boogie, garage punk scuzz a la Burger Records” – and that's just for openers.

“When we come to town, it's, 'try to put on a pretty rowdy show, and have the best time we can doing it,'” said Pierce. “We're going to play some rock 'n' roll, some honky-tonk, and some soul, and some obscure, different things. It's hard to put us in one area. We just listen to everything we can, and find some good in those things.”

Pierce expects that approach to characterize the band's new album, which it hopes to record like last year's self-titled debut – as live as possible, with minimal overdubs.

“This one, we're gonna try to get a little more weird with it. I think we're getting comfortable with these songs – and we can get a stranger view of it, take some different approaches,” he said.

The Banditos are making their first local appearance. The local opener is Dos Hermanos, a three-piece rockabilly/rock band that draws on an equally broad range of influences – from Alice 'N' Chains, to the Black Keys, Johnny Cash, and Los Lonely Boys, among others.
Constant touring that brought the Banditos through Nashville prompted Pierce and company to move there permanently, which gave them access to a bigger, more diverse music scene, he feels.

The next big turning point came a couple of years ago, when the band signed to Bloodshot – after a sparsely attended show in Austin, Texas, at its South By Southwest (SXSW) festival.

“We had one daytime show that was horrible sound, with about four people – and two were our liaisons with the rest of the bigwigs in there (at SXSW),” said Pierce. “They (Bloodshot) were just so blown away that we didn't let the whole crappy atmosphere let us down. We still played it like normal.”

Those kinds of situations, in Pierce's view, determine which bands get weeded out, and which ones stand a chance of crossing the finish line.

“If you don't like traveling, that's a problem,” said Pierce. “If you don't like Ramen noodles, that's your second problem. If you don't love playing music, that's probably gonna be your biggest problem, out of it all. If you can cut all those things, give it a go. Everybody's got to pay their dues.”


Live: 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 12, LangLab, 1302 High St., South Bend, IN (doors open at 7 p.m.. Local opener: Dos Hermanos. All ages (bar open for 21 and older). $8 at the door (students and veterans get $2 off with valid ID).


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