Jess and the Bandits are a band who are seeing a lot of interest following the release of debut album, Here We Go Again.
The band are about to play on the Country Stage at Ramblin’ Man Fair in Kent, UK. Before that, singer Jessica Clemmons and keyboard player Steven Reid Williams took time out to chat to National Country Review about the music, the festivals, the making of the band and the plus-size fashion world!
Steven Reid Williams: Well I wanna see the Scorpions!
Jessica Clemmons: Yeah, thatâ€™s what we were talking about.
Steven Reid Williams: To be honest, thereâ€™s a lot of people wearing black t-shirts today, including yourself sir ( laughs, nods to interviewer!), so yeah, would love to see them.
Jessica Clemmons: Yeah, that would be really amazing to see.
Steven Reid Williams: But thereâ€™s loads of great acts on â€“ just wandering around you hear loads of great stuff, coming out left, right and centre.
Jessica Clemmons: I think that’s the great thing about festivals really â€“ a lot of the people are unknown, especially to us, and it’s great to discover new music.
Jessica Clemmons: Exactly, yes, they can discover us!
Jessica Clemmons: I think itâ€™s one of those things where you get different things with each gig. Obviously if you play a festival you have your fans there but you have more new people, so its an advantage to play to a ready-made audience ready to rock out on seeing somebody. When youâ€™re doing your own tour itâ€™s a bit more pressure, so yeah, I think they both have their pros and cons, but I do love playing the festivals.
Steven Reid Williams: Yeah me too. I mean all gigs have their merits â€“ festivals are a bit hit and miss sometimes, with the weather, the sound and everything, but so far the ones weâ€™ve done have been really good. Weâ€™ve had a great time, with great audiences, and it’s just a nice way to get out and about!
Jessica Clemmons: No, I donâ€™t think so – its just people who love music. Everyone is coming to see a show and wants to be entertained, so it doesnâ€™t matter where youâ€™re from, we are all the same.
Steven Reid Williams: We get asked this a lot (NCR: Sorry! ), and I think because we are from different parts of the world, people will ask that question, and we are a new band. That’s whatâ€™s nice about the band really, because we have British influence in the band with the musicians, and weâ€™ve got Jess who brings a whole lot of Texan, and itâ€™s great. We met actually on an Overtones tour. Me and the boys play in another band called The Overtones, and Jess was actually supporting us, a few years back now.
Jessica Clemmons: Yeah, I was a solo artist then.
Steven Reid Williams: She was doing a pop project type thing, we met then and we got along great. We discovered we shared a love of country music, and music in general really, and we just hit it off. And a little while later we decided to get together as a band, and here we are!
Steven Reid Williams: Ha, yes it is, very different. Oh thatâ€™s put me on the spot, thanks!!
Jessica Clemmons: Iâ€™ll tell you what he prefers..!
Steven Reid Williams: Mmm yes, Jess will tell me what I prefer â€“ she can answer that for me!
Jessica Clemmons: Well Jess and The Bandits of course! (laughs).
Jessica Clemmons: Well yeah!
Steven Reid Williams:: From the Overtones you mean?
Jessica Clemmons: Well yeah itâ€™s great for us because theyâ€™re excited now about this new project with the band and they feel this connection with us because they saw everything separate and not together so its exciting for them as well.
Jessica Clemmons: No, I think Iâ€™ve grown a lot from it, and I learned a lot too, though. But in all honesty the music I was doing was great, but it never felt like home to me. Now I feel like Iâ€™m going back to my roots, Iâ€™m finally doing what I love. And itâ€™s great working with these guys as well â€“ itâ€™s just a really fun thing to be a part of.
Steven Reid Williams: Well the covers kind of came about as a necessity really. We played on the Wogan Sunday morning show (on BBC Radio), and heard he was a fan so we put something together for that. And we are so glad we did. The same thing happened again recently â€“ we were on the programme again and he wanted us to do something by Tom Jones, so we ended up doing a country style Tom Jones cover (Mama Told me not to Come).
Jessica Clemmons: It started out not so great â€“ there was a lot of frustration there, but eventually it kinda surprised us how well it turned out so we should be recording that soon!
Steven Reid Williams: I mean weâ€™ve got a lot of great original material but sometimes its good to throw in a cover.
Jessica Clemmons: Oh yeah, well we definitely countryfied that one!
Jessica Clemmons: Weâ€™re definitely gonna have some surprises â€“ possibly some fun covers thrown in. I mean for us itâ€™s all about bringing the party, bringing the energy, really really putting on a show. We want people walking away going â€œWhat was that? â€“ That was incredible!â€, and then come to the next date! And I think theyâ€™re going to get it. We are starting to sort out the support slots, and I think itâ€™s gonna be a great show from start to finish.
Jessica Clemmons: Yeah, yeah! Itâ€™s great! Well weâ€™re gonna start writing the new album in august/September, up until were on tour in October. The albumâ€™s only been out since april, and with it being back in the charts its got new people discovering it, and we need to ride that wave a little bit! Itâ€™s had such great reviews, and we need to make sure the next one is just as good, or better, so we wanna make sure we do it right and not rush in to anything.
Steven Reid Williams: Also itâ€™s kinda busy, and things are always happening organically anyway, so the writing will kind of happen when itâ€™s the right time. But things are happening, and I donâ€™t think it will be too long before weâ€™ve got some new songs.
Jessica Clemmons: Well I obviously listen to a lot of music, but I donâ€™t want people to hear our stuff and say â€œOh they sound like….â€ you know. Iâ€™d much rather people say â€œIf you like this, then youâ€™ll like them!” But Iâ€™m a huge Lady Antebellum fan, and I listen to their album over and over again. Itâ€™s such a great album. I do listen and think “mmm ok I like this”, but at the end of the day I think itâ€™s more my Texas influence, and the bandâ€™s British influence that is gonna make us stand apart from so many others.
Jessica Clemmons: The stuff I first started listening to was actually Motown. My parents, and my dad especially, listened to a ton of Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, The Temptations and all of that, and then my grandparents were the country people â€“ they would listen to Waylon Jennings, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette. So I had a diverse selection of music that Iâ€™d listen to growing up, and I think you can hear it in my style of singing now as an adult â€“ a little soulful country thing going on.
Steven Reid Williams: Yeah I was the same I think. When you grow up with musical parents – I mean my dad wasnâ€™t musical, but he played a lot of great music, and he understood music, and he played us a lot of different styles. And as a result I heard a broad spectrum of stuff. I love all kinds of music. I love the best of every kind of music is what I say. I canâ€™t think of a genre I donâ€™t like. Thereâ€™s lots of bad examples in those genres, but I donâ€™t rule anything out. Its good to take on all those different flavours. Right now Iâ€™m really enjoying a band called The Steeldrivers, who are a bluegrass band, which is as American as you can get really, but I love British acts too, and everything inbetween.
Jessica Clemmons: Yeah, we are. Its great to be involved in something that is just all-inclusive of all women and making all women, no matter what their size, feel good about themselves. And really pleased to be a part of that.
Jessica Clemmons: Yeah, thatâ€™s what the new single is all about, itâ€™s about feeling good about yourself, loving who you are and feeling confident regardless of your size and other physical things.
Jessica Clemmons: Well thank you so much, itâ€™s been great!
Jess and the bandits are on tour in the UK on October. Check the website for dates.