Thriving Through Collaboration: A Q&A With Banditos Bassist Stephen Pierce

May 17, 2023 at 4:22 pm
Banditos play Zanzabar on Sunday, May 21
Banditos play Zanzabar on Sunday, May 21 Photo via Facebook

With a genre-spanning sound that scrapes aspects of every style under the Americana umbrella, the band Banditos is a kaleidoscopic country-adjacent garage rock outfit that mixes its formula through thoughtful and inclusive collaborative from the six members. Bassist — and one of the songwriters — Stephen Pierce told LEO that building songs is an equal process in the band, and that’s why so many different sounds shine through. Before Banditos performs at Zanzabar on Sunday, May 21, LEO caught up with Pierce to talk about the band’s creative process, their latest album and what’s next.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

LEO: You all seem to pull from a lot of influences and styles and the band has talked about the inclusive, communal approach to writing songs. What are the key ideas to how you all get everyone involved and maximize everyone’s potential and input?

Stephen Pierce: Over the years, we really kind of dialed it into sort of an assembly line. Someone will come up with a verse or a chorus or even just a groove or a little nugget to start with, and we send it to each other and everyone kind of pieces in their ideas pretty evenly because there is no one who’s sort of the main authority to anything that we come out with. So, it is pretty nice that if someone has an idea, there’s no big-headed, ‘Well this is my thing;’ it’s more or less, ‘Well, if you care about it and want it that way, we should try it out.’ And we all are pretty equally objective if it doesn’t work, and if it does, fantastic. It is a process, but it is very much an equal share of that. I know that everything that what the rest of the band would consider that I’ve written, lyrically or whatever, I know for a fact it would not be anything that it is on-album without them.

You all finished up the album Right On a month before the pandemic but didn’t release it until 2022. Why did you all decide to sit on it for that long?

It wasn’t really a decision, it was more or less the way it happened. At the time, we were with Bloodshot [Records], and there was quite a lot going on with them that we weren’t a part of, or really understanding fully, and it seemed as though the people that we were in contact with, and the relationships we had with them, were parting ways with that company, so we also parted ways. We also just had a lot of adapting and changing. We changed management. It’s now a fantastic member of our family. We changed record labels since then, as well. It was just sort of something that had to happen — waiting that long for that album to come out. It definitely killed us — we wanted it to come out that entire time. We were so ready, before everything kind of hit the fan.

Did the album change at all during that time, or did you all stop tinkering with it and just wait?

We left it alone, as it was. I think the only thing that we changed was font on the album cover at some point. As it happens, artistically, if you stare at something too long, and you have the chance to change it, you’re gonna. But, that’s what we limited it to. We weren’t going to change anything audibly. And I think that was a good choice.

Was the first year of the pandemic a creative time for the band?

They sort of were my bubble during that time. And I’m sure that’s how everyone sort of got through it — a few close friends who you kind of knew their comings and goings and everything was fine to be around each other. They were pretty much the only people I did see during that time, which was great because we did get to workshop a lot.

Is the band currently working on any new material?

We’ve just been kind of testing the waters of doing a little home recording to kind of streamline our demos, and doing nothing on an official capacity. At the moment, we’re just priming up, doing some covers that we have always enjoyed that we feel like we’ve done a new version of that no one has really heard recorded, but would have heard them live throughout the years. That might be an idea of a side release, of doing some type of fun package in that way. As far as a new proper album coming up, we’re definitely in the workshop of that, but that is a little further in the future, for sure. 

Banditos performs at Zanzabar (2100 S. Preston St.) on Sunday, May 21. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $15. For more info, visit zanzabarlouisville.com.