Smile Politely

These Banditos aren’t after your stuff, they want your attention

I was first introduced to Banditos through Twitter. A friend of mine caught them at the Bloodshot Records anniversary show at Metro in January and said they were outstanding. Naturally, I turned to the internet machine and did some searching. I found a three song EP on Rdio and listened to it constantly. It had a very Midwestern sound — maybe a little boozier than C-U alt-country crooners the Fights. Their sound was so interesting to me considering the band is from Alabama and currently resides in Nashville.

Sure, there’s a little bit of that sound that was popularized by the Swampers stuck in there, but the Midwestern appeal is the countrified and twangy sounds that put Banditos in the same categories as Deer Tick and The Bottle Rockets.

So, with all that said, I had to check them out at SXSW in March. I practically begged my group to leave some bar and head to Bloodshot’s showcase at the wonderfully weird Continental Club. They blew the roof off of the place. The six-piece band roared through their set seemingly without pause. Frequent Loose Cobra performer Bobby Bare Jr. had to follow and he had his work cut out for him.

Banditos weren’t in Austin for just one show, though. Celebrity chef and TV personality Rachel Ray handpicked them to play at her showcase. Yeah, she might play up her hip mom personality on TV, but Ray’s bills in the past have included Blondie, Har Mar Superstar, Delta Spirit, and… Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon. Banditos are in pretty good company.

After they wrapped a Daytrotter session, I talked to Stephen Pierce, Banditos’ banjo player about their current tour and about their most recent trip to Austin. It turns out they played in a spot familiar to local bands — Licha’s Cantina.

“I think we were one of the first louder bands,” Pierce said. “I think that might have been one of the issues that kinda got the bands after us picked on by the cops.”

Their self-titled debut record was put out in May to some high praise from publications like NPR and Consequence of Sound and this tour had to live up to the hype. “We try to do maybe 200 shows a year or so,” Pierce said.

I asked Pierce if that ever gets rough? 200 shows a year is a lot of time to be touring and I feel like I’d want to rest once in awhile.

“We’re home for like two weeks maximum at a time,” Pierce said. “You find a groove when you’re on the road. I tend to have post-traumatic tour stress when I get home, just not knowing what to do just sitting around in my room like ‘Well I guess I’ll just go to the bar.’”

That’s kind of how their music sounds. Finding a groove and heading out to a bar, that is. Not the PTSD. Hell, every good country band has a few songs about drinking. The great country bands have great songs about drinking — Banditos are in that territory.

Even though they’re road warriors and touring constantly, the six-piece band hasn’t made their way to Champaign yet. Despite never visiting, Pierce told me that they do have a connection with a band that got their start here — Santah.

A few years ago Santah had some van troubles on the road, and Banditos took them in for a few days until they got back on their feet.

“They were so cool, they were really nice,” Pierce said. “We wanted to help them out because we heard about the story and are constantly dealing with van issues ourselves. So we thought we’d throw some good karma out there. We love their band too, they’ve got good music.”

Banditos have good music, too. The show at Cowboy Monkey tonight might be one of the best we’ll have a chance to see in C-U this summer. Don’t sleep on it.

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