Jess & The Bandits

Talkin’ Country

We took the opportunity to grab a chat with band singer and Texan JESS at the recent Ramblin’ Man Festival over in Maidstone, given that the group were appearing there. There is still ground to cover beyond the band’s kind responses to our 20 Questions set, see elsewhere on our site for those and here goes…

JLTT : Welcome to deepest North Kent..have you been here before?

JESS : No I haven’t

Thanks for doing the 20 Questions and let’s talk about festivals, you’re from Texas?

The questions were great..yes, we’re doing a few festivals and I am indeed from Houston..famous for..NASA..’We have a problem’ we don’t do festivals in The States quite like you guys have like weekend festivals and there are some of those in the US but that is something I love about England, the whole summer festival thing going Texas it is way too hot

We are all working hard in the week so for us a weekend festival is appealing as a notion….your band is with you today? Our Glenn knows some of them

Unfortunately we have a stripped-back band today, two of our band men had a family issue to sort..Steve Williams on keys is here and the Riccardi brothers and Dave our bass player (show reviewed in our Ramblin’ Man report – PS) all amazing artists and musicians

When you walk off the stage what sort of things do you hope to have achieved?

Hmm – I’ve never been asked that before! Good question..well, I always want to make sure that we leave the audience wanting more – that there’s this sense that they want us to come back on the stage. Making sure that when I look out at the audience..I hate seeing people just standing there, motionless, arms folded..everyone is different, sure BUT you want people to look like they’re having a good time with you

And presumably to have enjoyed absorbing songs they likely haven’t heard before

Yes! That’s it ! that’s why we always slip a few covers into our set because we are a new band, we’re introducing ourselves …I think any artist, when you put all this energy out, you just hope that your audience feels that as well and they have fun

Our site is about connection, steering readers to acts they may enjoy, new acts or established ones – so if I review you, I might make reference Raitt or somebody..not comparing, just saying if you dig this stuff then here is an act you may enjoy taking in

Absolutely! It so helps

On covers, I prefer the term ‘versions’

That’s right – there are lot of bands out there who do a ‘karaoke’ cover, it’s exactly what you are already used to hearing…we don’t do that ..I don’t know whether you have heard our version of ‘Witchita Linesman’ ? ( Yes – PS) – we did that for Terry Wogan on the BBC….when we came back we did..Three Dog Night…

‘Mama Told Me Not Come’ ?

Yes! Our countrified take on that song..sounds nothing like the original! But I think that’s what you wanna do…exactly…that’s a big thing with us, if we are doing another artist’s number it’s going to sound different, to what you know

When you’re recording, do you try to do it live , or put the vocals on later?

It depends on the song. For the most part we do it the standard way, instruments first, vocals second

You do your own harmonies though don’t you?

Yeah – and also the boys will come in and do harmonies on some cuts..Ricci has an amazing higher register..he can actually get up there

When you are writing a song, do you have a kind of ‘diary’ approach? Or are you fired up by what you might read online or in newspapers or on the news?

Ah! Well take ‘Nitty Gritty’, that one is purely from TV and magazines, newspapers, feedback from fans who open up to me and tell me things. There’s a lot of girls who write me and say how bad they feel about themselves and that they wish they looked this way or that way ( NB – to elucidate, Jess is one curvy lass and rightly something of a current pinup for the Plus Size contingent, doing a lot of modelling etc – PS) and it’s really hard to see stuff like that, so I like to take that and use it to write a positive song that can help relieve any discomfort if I can manage that. Women have grabbed on to that song and love it

To her credit, Aguilera was trying to do that I guess with ‘Beautiful’

It was a great song, meant something ..’Nitty Gritty’ though is upbeat and it’s fun, makes you happy, the tempo, the beat, the melody – yet it still carries a message. But..I love a good ballad, I really do

I have seen a lot of acts and maybe the person who best distils headlines into songs is Mary Chapin Carpenter

(Warmly) Oh Yeah! Of course! My gosh….she is amazing as a songwriter and that’s definitely one of the artists that I grew up listening to and looked up to

Females tell me they get this ‘I’ve been there’ element when they hear her songs..communicates…what I hate is this ‘we’re the great artists, you’re the humble public’ attitude some bands have

I have never been a fan of this whole separation thing, like you said – now that’s the incredible thing about social media, sometimes I will spend hours replying to messages..the fans do get so used to me responding quickly that if I can’t they are like ‘Where are you ??’ …I try to make a point of answering whenever I can

And they’ll come and see you again and bring their mates..what instruments do you play?

I took piano lessons for about six years when I was younger..but (laughs) I have nothing to show for it ! it’s my fingernails ! otherwise I’d be amazing..that’s why I surround myself with fine musicians..I am currently teaching myself how to play the guitar..but I am a vocalist, that is my instrument!

Which artists do you most miss? That have passed

It would probably be..Whitney Houston…the original Whitney who wasn’t all crazied up..there are not a lot of artists any more whose voices have stood the test of time and they have changed music

I first heard her in her teens singing with an avant garde group called Material

Gee, I don’t think I have ever heard that! I have to check this just know that if she was still alive she would be telling it vocally.

If you were recording a song with David Bowie…what song would you sing?…

At this point, this beguiling and friendly chanteuse is whisked away to soundcheck, promising to let me have the answer later….

Pete Sargeant

Jess and The Bandits debut album ‘Here We Go Again’ is out now. In addition, Jess and The Bandits will be embarking on a debut headline UK Tour in Autumn 2015 as well as other shows and festivals in 2015 and 2016:

Friday 4th September- Cottingham Folk Festival (Supporting The Shires), Cottingham Civic Hall, Cottingham, United Kingdom

Friday 16th October- Live at Fort San Antone Festival (Festival Headliner), Preston, Lancashire, United Kingdom

Sunday 18th October-  Live Theatre (Headline Show), Newcastle, United Kingdom

Tuesday 20th October- The Bodega (Headline Show), Nottingham, United Kingdom

Saturday 24th October- Whelan’s (Headline Show), Dublin, Ireland

Tuesday 27th October- Louisiana (Headline Show), Bristol, United Kingdom

Wednesday 28th October- The Borderline (Headline Show), London, United Kingdom

Thursday 29th October- Brudenell Social Club (Headline Show), Leeds, United Kingdom

Friday 30th October- Gullivers (Headline Show), Manchester, United Kingdom

Saturday 31st October- King Tuts (Headline Show), Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom

Saturday 21st November- Live At The Plus Size Fashion Awards 2015, London, United Kingdom

Saturday 18th June 2016- Towerfest 2016, Durham, United Kingdom 

For more information visit:

(Thanks Lara, thanks Jeremy and thanks Jess…we’ll have that Bowie answer maybe next time we meet)