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    Rootsy southern rock band Banditos made an impression on me when I saw them at Zanzabar last fall. Riding a heavy touring schedule and positive buzz from some of their early songs, the sextet performed a rollicking set, featuring stand-out vocals and solid musicianship on all fronts. Now embarking on a tour that takes them from their native Alabama on a wide swing out west before a string of dates in Scandinavia, they are definitely a band on the rise. 

    Rolling Stone recently featured their official video for the single, "The Breeze," which you can watch below. I recently caught up with Banditos front man and guitarist Corey Parsons, who talked about their quick trajectory from busking on the streets of Birmingham to signing with Bloodshot Records, and beyond.

    "Stephen and I kinda started Banditos off by accident. We had been in a few punk bands and hardcore bands growing up...and after all that sort of fizzled out, Stephen and I were both still writing songs. We got together and thought we could make a little drinking money out of playing on the streets of Birmingham and busking around town." 

    As it turned out, street busking was not terribly lucrative, but it did lead to being heard by a local bar owner who invited them to play a gig at his place. Parsons and banjo player Stephen Pierce were shortly joined by friends who they had known since they were in their teens, going to various all-ages venues around the city before they were shut down: drummer Randy Wade, singer Mary Beth Richardson, guitarist Jeffrey Salter, and bassist Danny Vines.

    Fervent crowds and more gigs propelled them forward, until they caught the attention of Bloodshot Records (label of such Americana royalty as Ryan Adams, Alejandro Escovedo, Justin Townes Earle, and more). "We're really humbled to be a part of such a great label that's been around for 20 years now." Parsons recalled that at the time the Bloodshot reps came to listen to them, Banditos had played about 13 or 14 shows in a week. "They ended up catching the two worst shows we played, too," Parsons laughingly admitted."With the worst sound and on the most ill-attended nights!" 

    Regardless of Parson's personal review of those performances, they were signed and the rest is history. With six musicians, Banditos draw on a wide range of influences and a process of songwriting that is very organic. "We've never limited ourselves to a specific genre or set out to be a particular type of band. We just write songs and jump around a lot between genres. It keeps it interesting and fun for us." Parsons says that he or Stephen might bring a chord progression and lyrics to the band in the early stages, but the magic happens in the collaboration. 

    "Typically it will change completely and for the better, honestly. And sometimes we'll just get together and start working on some instrumental pieces and add lyrics to them as it comes together."

    The new self-titled album includes fan favorites that Banditos had recorded only as demos and sold at shows, plus a number of new songs. Parsons describes it as a very comprehensive album of the Banditos sound, "our greatest hits," he says with a chuckle.

    Another landmark in the band's career is the upcoming trip to Europe -- none of the band members have ever been overseas, so there's a lot of excitement about experiencing another culture and meeting the people where they will be playing. "It's hands-down the coolest things that has ever happened to me. People paying me to play my songs in a different country? I've been dreaming about that since I was about 12 years old."

    For Parsons, cool things like being featured by Rolling Stone and interviewed by Playboy magazine keep Banditos appreciative for everything that is happening. "Every day is pretty overwhelming."

    Banditos will play at Zanzabar this Thursday night at 9 p.m., June 18 with Samuel St. Samuel opening. Tickets are available at the door or via Ticketfly for $8. 

    Watch the official video for "The Breeze":


    [Photo Credit: Albert Kuhn]

    Selena Frye's picture

    About Selena Frye

    I'm a writer and editor living in Louisville since 1996. I'm originally from the Blue Ridge of Virginia.

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