Black Bandit and The Stick Ups, is a blues solo project by A.K. Williams. We met up with him after a show at the Bug Jar to talk about music influences, changing up writing styles, and finding your sound.
How did you get into the blues genre?
I have always loved blues. My dad was a huge blues fan, Muddy waters, Buddy guy and all that. I don’t have any chops, but I got a guitar and sat down and started writing.
It is just awesome music. Blue is about being an average person. Everyone gets those desperation low points in your life; those little everyday assassinations of your central identity. I could be a girl telling you ‘you can’t fuck worth a damn’, or you’re down to your last buck and you can’t afford a cigarette or a beer. Blues is a way of expressing that feeling.
Your other projects, (C.L.A.M, People With Teeth) are really musically complex. With Black Bandits its real stripped down, is it hard to switch it up.
I see blues as the original D.I.Y. If you read up on blues singers, they were not nice dudes. Those were some hard ass guys who decided that they didn’t want to be a share cropper and they found an escape with the music.
I have spend a lot of time listening to the genre, getting my head into it and figuring out where my stuff. Just to hear how weird and different some blues artists are and how comfortable they were with their own sound. Since the 1920’s people have been getting down and doing their own damn thing, and not giving a fuck about what people think about them.
I just want to bring that old focus and drive into my music and to just get people to boogie. Cut a Rug.
What style do you like writing better?
I like it all. I have more experience wring solo folk or blues stuff, than punk. So I guess I could say I like writing blues better but that’s just because I am more comfortable with it. I like to challenge myself and switch it up. I want to keep it diverse because I don’t see a reason to limit myself to one thing.
Is there a certain sound you go for?
There are some blues artists who I really respect. Howling wolf is a big influence on me. Sun house, Muddy waters are bands I have been listening to as a kid. I think there is a way to learn from their sound without ripping off their style. I think blues nowadays is just the fact that there are so many people who are stuck trying to sound like the legends.
I like Muddy Waters, and I like his licks, but I am not going to sound like Muddy Waters. As much as I like him, I don’t have that much in common with him. Blues is about showing who you are not about playing a certain sound.
So the band is called “Black Bandit and the Stick Ups” but it’s just you. Why’d you choose a group name for a solo project?
For the most part I just like that it confuses people. I thought it was an ill name and I like to leave myself some space, and not try and take myself too seriously. I find when you’re a solo act it’s hard to come up with a name that isn’t just your name.
Other names I considered were shit and giggles, which is probably the best band name I ever came up with.