The basement of the Elks Lodge in Central Square is like something out of a 1980s punk or hardcore documentary. It’s dingy, but inviting. A perfect setting for Banditas' beautiful harmonies with a gritty backdrop.
The all-female group performed two tracks off their verbed-out garage by-way-of-country album "Save The Rats," produced by Mr. Airplane Man’s Margaret Garrett.
While we were filming, members of the Elks were meeting, discussing community issues over a few drinks. If you listen closely you can hear them in the background.
Listen to our conversation with singer/guitarist Hayley Thompson-King, or check out interview highlights below:
On starting an all girls band:
It was like a dream, you know. And then it got difficult to fulfill... I knew that I just wanted to be in an all-girl band. And it wasn't coming from a man-hating place. Then we went through a few different dudes, and then we actually lucked out and got me, Candace and Molly who actually work really well together.
On training in opera:
I actually used to be an opera singer. It's really weird. I actually hate telling people that. And I think it's just because ... I'm like embarrassed of too much training in a way ... there's like a snobbery associated [with it]. I mean, I really worked hard and I'm getting to the point where I'm really proud. I have a Master's degree in opera performance from New England Conservatory.
On the switch from opera to rock and roll:
I wasn't fully invested, I think. The more I tried to follow this convention of what an opera singer should be, the more generic I got and I lost what was good about me so I actually got less parts, and I got less and less noticed as I became just like everyone else, which I guess makes sense. So I just decided to kind of quit. I guess I kind of gave up.
But I also just love rock and roll; it's definitely what I love. And I had always played guitar, just not well. I wouldn't even say I play it well now, but I practice every day.
On her influences:
I love country music and I love girl-group music. And I actually was very unaware at the time that there were people who were my contemporaries like Holly Golightly, Billy Childish — I had no idea who these people were, I'm embarrassed to say.
I think sometimes when you're ignorant of your peers you can actually just be alone and come up with something really creative when you're not super influenced.
So for me it helps I was influenced by Will Jennings, Willie Nelson, the Shangri-Las, and that was just really what I was listening to. So I was in a bubble. I think I'm confident that whatever I write it will still be me coming through, so I don't have to stick to a style I guess.
On sad songs:
I'm actually really really happy right now, and I have a relationship I'm happy in and a home. I feel really lucky and I'm writing like the saddest songs I've ever written in my life, and I'm just smiling and singing them.
I write these really sad songs and I'm just really not a sad person, but I realize that they're really about something, even a pain that was even before that. I think it was just all of a sudden due to whatever I was at in my life I have processed something else, but they're just not what I thought when I wrote them.
Banditas will open for Kid Congo and The Pink Monkey Birds at Johnny D's in Somerville on Oct. 22. They have also launched their own record label -- Hard To Kill Records -- and are releasing a 7-inch for The Shangri Lips in October.
This program aired on September 25, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.