Banditos Singer Talks Resistance and Patriotism in the Age of Trump
By Deena Zaru
As Americans find themselves grappling with intense divisions in the age of President Donald Trump, the Banditos, an Americana rock band from Birmingham, Alabama, have had a front-row seat in both worlds: a conservative America concerned about economic and social issues and a progressive America, where an activist movement is brewing.
“We come from a pretty conservative state and conservative families, so I’m not trying to trash talk,” the band’s lead singer, Mary Beth Richardson, told CNN. “I love the people that we’ve grown up with and our families, but we’ve surrounded ourselves growing up with pretty liberal, like-minded, independent thinkers that were pretty progressive.”
The Banditos showcased their newest music at the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas, last week, where they were joined by hundreds of musicians. The gathering tends to draw a progressive audience because it draws heavily from the arts world.
Richardson is joined by Corey Parsons (vocals, banjo), Stephen Pierce (vocals, guitar), Randy Wade (drums), Jeffrey Salter (guitar) and Danny Vines (bass). The band members, who formed the group in 2011, all met each other around high school.
Their music infuses elements of rock ‘n’ roll with ’60s blues to produce a soulful and edgy Americana sound. Their second studio release, “Visionland,” is set to be out on June 23 and includes songs like “Fine Fine Day.”
“Americana is blues, it’s grassroots, it’s soul, it’s all these sounds that came together out of different regions around the country and how they melted together,” she said. “And I think that’s what we are. We’re six different people with six different music tastes.”
Richardson said that while she and her bandmates generally gravitate toward progressive politics, she understands the concerns of Americans on the other side of the aisle.
“People of small towns aren’t making as much, don’t have as many job opportunities,” she said. “They just kind of see a certain way of life and it not changing and they see (Trump) is talking directly to them, saying, ‘I’m going to give you your job back, I’m going to get rid of all these people you don’t understand.'”
But Richardson, herself, voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016. And the day after Trump’s inauguration in January, she joined hundreds of thousands of women in the women’s march to speak out on issues like abortion rights and equality. Richardson participated in the gathering in Nashville, Tennessee, where the band is based.
“You never really think (that) you’re in a movement until its gone, until it’s passed. This is so transparent and so powerful that you know you’re in something huge,” she said. “It’s exciting and it’s scary because you know that people are leaning on artist’s words for some direction.”
Richardson said that the political climate prompted her to write her first politically fueled songs on issues like women’s rights and the environment.
“We don’t try to be a very political band necessarily,” Richardson said. “I guess we try to promote humanity and social change in kind of a less harsh way than who’s right and who’s wrong.”
But despite joining the resistance movement against Trump’s policies, she maintains a strong sense of patriotism and said that she is not going to be one of those people who vow to move to Canada because they oppose the President.
“Of course there’s going to be challenges and different opinions, and that’s what makes it beautiful,” Richardson said. “The worst thing that anybody can do right now is lose hope and be sad and wallow.”