NASHVILLE — With a tambourine looped around her arm, Mary Beth Richardson takes a nice long stretch before humming a bluesy melody into a taped-together microphone. The hum meanders into soulful wails, instantly filling the repurposed shed nestled in an unassuming Nashville neighborhood.
Richardson, surrounded by idle instruments and eclectic furniture, admits she's dragging a little bit. Hailing from Tuscaloosa, she's a loyal Alabama football fan, and once the Tide claimed their national championship the previous night, she said she had no other choice but to hit the town hard with bandmates Corey Parsons, Stephen Pierce, Randy Wade, Jeffrey Salter, and Danny Vines to celebrate the victory.
Together, the six musicians make up Banditos — a group of Alabama natives who boast twang with a dash of Delta blues, some doo-wop sweetness, and a blend of other influences.
"It's hard to pinpoint exactly how Alabama has shaped our music," Parsons says. "But I guess we couldn't avoid having twang in our songs if we tried."
Most of the band has been playing together since their teenage years at local all-age venues like Cave 9. It wasn't until a few years ago, however, that Richardson — who got her start singing in Baptist church choirs — joined the band, completing the sextet.
The band has played more than 700 shows in the last three years, and credits its success to enduring friendships — and a stolen hotel Bible.
A few years back, before Banditos solidified its lineup, Richardson decided on a whim to drive to New Orleans with friends Parsons and Pierce. "Long story short, I went to New Orleans and had a great time and learned the band's songs on the way back to a show in Birmingham," Richardson says. "I wrote all the lyrics in a Bible we stole from the hotel."
After playing at a 5-bands-5-bucks show at the now-defunct Bottletree Café, Banditos became what they are today — a vivacious gang of 20-something-year-olds who have one goal: to make good music.
Soon after that initial show, all six band members moved into a house in Crestwood where they began writing songs and booking shows in and around Birmingham.
"We had maybe too much fun in Birmingham," Wade says with a laugh.
Parsons admits writing songs with five other musicians can be a difficult task — but it always yields unique lyrics, he says. "We had one song called Southside Stomp, and I think that's the best one we've ever written," Parsons says slyly. "It's about killing roaches in your house — something everyone needs to know how to do."
Jokes aside, Parsons says the band's sound boasts a soulful blend of blues and rock n' roll. With Richardson, Pierce, and Parsons providing vocals and Salter on guitar, Vines playing bass, and Wade on drums, the result is hair-tossing, toe-tapping goodness that recalls Janis Joplin's psychedelic rock infused with a more-modern Alabama Shakes gruff.
Wade says it's hard to pinpoint exactly what influences their sound because it's so broad.
"From 2 Chainz to Hank, it's really whatever we like," he says.
In 2013, the band decided to move its evolving sound three hours north to Nashville where there were more touring opportunities.
Now spending the majority of their time traveling to shows — including some in international locales, such as Sweden and Scaninavia — the band looks back on its early Birmingham years with fondness.
"Standing in line to board a plane to fly to a different country, that's something I never expected to do," Wade says. "And the fact we're getting paid to do it — to play our music — now that's just awesome."
The road ahead
Although Banditos call Nashville home for now, they're quick to admit that Birmingham will always be in their blood. "We were talking about the Lyric Theatre the other night as being a really cool place for an album release," Wade says.
Since last year's self-titled debut album received such a positive response, Parsons says the band already has a few new songs brewing in its back pocket, ready for album number two. "We never really set out to be any specific type of band," he says. "We just like good music — good rock n' roll."
Catch Banditos performing Friday, April 29 in Opelika at the John Emerald Distillery or Saturday, April 30 in Selma at Lions Club Park.
For more tour dates, visit banditosband.com.