Categories
blog

Ole Oddlokken

Born in Lillihammer, Norway, Ole Oddlokken spent his winters as many children did in the area; outdoors, often skiing. During the summer months when the climate had warmed, you could find him participating in the local marching band. Unlike here, the marching bands there were, and still are, not directly affiliated with schools. But many children in Lillihammer volunteered and Ole would do the same. Originally, he took interest in the valve trombone, but this was a popular choice for many of the kids. So, the band leader suggested a saxophone. Sometimes it’s life that steers us in just the right direction. As this sax really resonated with ten-year-old Ole and is still his instrument of choice today. The first two songs he learned would be Frere Jaque and (ironically) When the Saints Go Marching In. Being an extra-curricular activity, a true desire was present amongst children in this program. They gave end of the year recitals and many would often go on to perform in the adult community orchestra. As an adult, Ole followed suit, performing with several orchestras and big bands in town. It was then that he was exposed to jazz music.

While playing in various bands, Ole studied fine art at a college in Olso, a town south of Lillihammer. There he would meet his future wife, Nonny, an exchange student originally from New Orleans, Louisiana. He and Nonny would go onto marry, eventually giving birth to a baby girl. In 1994, when their daughter was a year old, they moved to New Orleans and settled in as a family. His saxophone would rest in its case for the next eleven years, as life for Ole became less about the arts and more about family and a regular job. Hurricane Katrina spurred a desire for inspiration and creation in Ole. And luckily that saxophone survived the storm. Joining a small folk singer/ songwriter band quenched his thirst for the arts. They played shows around town and went on to put out an EP. But during this time, he had been doing photography work and there were concerns about making gigs and so forth. So, after a few years, Ole left the band. But moving forward, that sax wouldn’t see its case as often, as dipping his feet in musical waters was a path that once again reunited Ole with his passion. And, as he said, “from there, the rest is history”. 

This long span of time that encompassed his move and settlement into the U.S. left Ole without any musicality. It also cleansed his palette of the music styles and compositions of his homeland. Starting again in music for him might as well have been starting anew, as his new surroundings brought new roles and atmospheres. He traded sheet music and traditional styles for improvisation. Although this had been new and exciting territory for Ole, a rift would again soon form between him and his calling. Putting down the sax to concentrate on his photography gig once again left a void within him. And after a year he found his way back into music through a Craigslist ad, joining a funk band by the name of Noisewater. The new digs were a fun change of pace; not particularly deep, but a hit in the bar/ venue scene. Local shows at Café Negril on Frenchmen Street, Banks Street Bar, Tipitina’s and others close to home made managing a job, a family, and band performances possible. And by all accounts, the band did well. They were on tv and radio, and even put out an EP. Delving further into expression and farther away from theory, Ole would occasionally get together and play with Will Vance and the Kinfolk, as well as improvisational funk, hip hop band, Breaux Jackson. Ole recalls a crazy night playing with Breaux Jackson at One Eye’d Jacks, where Andy Dick showed up. The night resulted in a viral video you might have seen where Andy Dick got knocked out just outside the venue.

Through a booking contact in Lake Charles, Noisewater had the chance to play a few dates with The Shizz, headed up by classically trained singer Lilly Lewis. As time went on, Noisewater would play fewer and fewer gigs, and Ole would go on to play in Lilly’s following band, The Lilly Lewis Project. Several of Noisewater’s members would do the same. Chad Carlisle would bring contributions on keys, and Will Laird would come in on bass. Although at times a bit funky, the Lilly Lewis Project is something special. Introspective thoughts project outward as she discusses things like losing one’s self, or what freedom means to her. And this was yet another change of pace for Ole. He had long ago left sheet music for exploratory improv and funk. And now, for the past six years, he has been able to contribute to a more soulful mixture in Lilly’s band.

Not that long ago, Ole went back to Norway for a visit with family. Just after his return he was able to play one show with the Lilly Lewis Project at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation stage on Rampart. Then Covid hit, bringing live performances to a halt. But by this time, his love of the craft had cemented itself deep within him. Fortunately, his saxophone would not be relinquished to its case as in previous instances. Oddly enough, this deafening silence handed down to us all became yet another inspiration for him. And as he noted, he feels as though it made him a better sax player, among other things. He reacted by writing his own music and setting up a recording studio in his home office. “The label I worked for, put out this thing (on social media) just to get people to share music and such which was ‘tag five musicians and share a music video of you playing a song.’ So, I was like, ok I’ll join in on that. I had been writing some music so I recorded myself playing that and put that up. I continued writing music and making videos just to have some sort of creative outlet. Next thing you know, I was like, this looks like a full album at this point.” Ole would begin a journey that resulted in his first self-produced and recorded album, The Home Office Sessions.

Following the videos that inspired this, the project began with Ole writing and recording his parts. Once all of the parts were recorded, he began reaching out to former band mates to record their parts and add their style. Brandon Hotard and Hayden Winfried, both from Noisewater, contributed guitar work, as did guitarist and producer Britton Newton. Chad Carlisle, who we mentioned earlier from Noisewater, made contributions on keys. For drums, Ole tapped on Wayde Hymel of the Lilly Lewis Project, as well as Milton Mansfield, and James Clarke. To polish things off, he was able to procure a percussionist and a cellist from New England. Lyricist Da Prophecy came in for some features rapping and Nonny, his wife, did spoken word. Throughout the project, he encouraged the contributors to play what they felt, only occasionally requesting a swell here or a certain texture there.

On our website, neworleansmusicians.com, you will find a delightful new experience for Ole in the form a music video for one of the songs featured on The Home Office Sessions, Master Divider. The night we spoke of earlier where Andy Dick got knocked out at One Eye’d Jacks was when Ole first met lyrical contributor Da Prophecy. The two shared the stage that night, as Da Prophecy sat in on a few Breaux Jackson songs. This time, Da Prophecy contributed lyrics to Master Divider, a beautifully written jazz track with rap lyrics. Ole also made use of a website that generates visual pieces from which an artist can build a music video. The music video link, as well as a link to the video composition website will be included below. Diverging from his time with Noisewater and the bar-scene party hits, he wanted this album to say something. Though he does not doubt that his heritage and musical back ground may have snuck its way into this work, Ole feels as though being Norwegian didn’t really come out in his expressions on this album. In fact, one of the songs that didn’t make it to the album was a Norwegian folk standard. He felt as though it didn’t really fit. And honestly, he finds Norwegian music to be a bit melancholy, straying from the vibe of this album. At times, the guitar work gets a bit heavy in his opinion. As Ole explained, “instead of just being all melancholy and chill, I like the contrast of that guitar on a couple of songs where it gets heavy”. He did mention drawing inspiration from his love for a German label, ECM, whose catalog features euro jazz, classical, and rock albums. He also cited Christian Scott’s post-Katrina work, Anthem, as a source of inspiration.

As a body of work, The Home Office Sessions album spans genres and moods, definitely lending itself to crossover appeal. I believe there’s something in there for everyone. Though mostly an instrumental, the album enjoys lyrical guest appearances from both Da Prophecy and Ole’s wife Nonny. Being created solely as a response to an epidemic lockdown, this album effectively has not seen the light of day; sans the digital arena. Ole hopes to once again call on his musician friends and perform the album live. Exposing the album and getting in-person feedback will bring this project around full-circle. And it’s something we should all look out for. Until then you can find the video for Master Divider at the link below.

Author: David Trahan

neworleansmusicians.com

Master Divider – https://neworleansmusicians.com/video/180

Master Divider used Rotor Videos visual builder

https://rotorvideos.com/

Categories
blog

MJ Dardar

Eleven miles from the head of passes on the Mississippi River, Michael Dardar grew up in the small fishing community of Venice, Louisiana with one older sister always by his side. In his house could be heard a wide variety of sounds, as his mother was a Barbara Striesand and Frank Sanatra fan, while his father loved listening to The Eagles, The Allman Brothers, Boston, and Foghat. His first live musical experiences came from the local church, where his mother was a leader in the church choir. Gazing across such contrasting soundscapes, he would ultimately gravitate toward his father’s tastes. And around fifteen or sixteen years of age, he began to experiment with the idea of writing and making music along with a childhood friend. “You know the Fischer Price microphone things? We would go in there; we’d put these little cassette tapes in there and we’d put the scotch tape on top of them. And we would basically tape songs on a different stereo, whether it would be a Beatles tape or something like that. And we would overdub our own lyrics and melodies on top of the tapes.” Looking back, he laughs at the thought of his father popping in one of his favorite tapes only to find his own voice beaming from the speakers. Years of this would eventually culminate in his first album, Rust, recorded in April on 2021.

From his days of experimenting with recordings of his own, the allure of one day making the transition into live performances seeded deep within him. And it never left. And although he rounded up a talented bunch of musicians to pull off the album, his only experience performing it came as an acoustic set with friend and co-writer, Jerry Martin. The two would eventually translate the work into an all-inclusive performance, implementing more band members and instrumental elements to his act. Gradually, guys like Mark Kryvanick and Tim Belanger would join them on bass and drums respectively. And he would implement a rotating roster of guys like Tillis Verdin, Brett Guillory, Teddy Baudoin, and Travis Thibodeaux on keys. Larger shows would even see a horn section taking to the stage. Adding the horns to his live performances, MJ feels, really resonated with himself as well as the crowd. “Adding that horn section is kind of the big one. The last time we did it was an album release party which was early May, May 6th I believe. And every song on our last album had full horn sections. And so, to be able to perform them that way, with the actual horn lines as opposed to transposing keyboard parts and things like that… it’s so much better and is really able to translate what we recorded into the live performance.” These elements were a refreshing change from the previous acoustic performances which had eventually become stale in his eyes. As Jerry Martin points out, “There’s nights, as an acoustic gig, where you’re struggling to hear yourself (above the crowd).”

With Houma and Lafayette being mainstays for the MJ Dardar band, the Tasting Room and Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans have also played host. But Houma has always marked home base for MJ. Enlisting a full-time manager and maintaining a strong online presence has enabled him to broaden his reach, which he hopes will eventually lead to a venture outside of normal boundaries. Finding value in this, MJ has been sure to engage with fans and followers in the thousands across multiple platforms. I, for one, have enjoyed the personal aspect in videos where he sits down in front the camera, playing acoustic guitar and singing. This ability to connect with his audience was instrumental during the height of Covid back in April of 2020. Along with Jerry Martin and other band mates, he committed to remotely filming forty-one full request, multi-track videos in thirty days. It was through this personal challenge and the resulting encouragement of online audiences that the genesis of the Rust record took hold.

At their core, the songs on Rust feel good. The rhythm guitar strums, tambourines, and shakers keep you in the groove while story lines originate from the heart. And bringing in that brass section gives it a feint departure from your typical country sound. Hammond and reed organ contributions back MJ’s soulful vocals nicely. And he’s got just enough grit in his voice, like the perfect mix of sweet and savory. Track “Leaver” pulls us away from this rural soundscape completely, delivering a surprising R&B plunge. Softer rhodes and sustained piano take the edge off as MJ sings about the value of his family as a child. The overall quality of these recordings is unquestionable. And this is important to point out because it doesn’t take much to pull a listener outside of an enveloping experience due to a distractive distortion or overwhelming level. It’s a delicate balance that MJ and the band maintain very well. And their ability to cross over from country to R&B seems completely natural.

MJ recorded his debut album at Audiosmith Studio in Prairieville, Louisiana under the guidance of owner Robbie Smith, a long-time friend and associate of his band mate Jerry Martin. As luck would have it, this would give way to a host of opportunities for him. Not long after completing his album, Robbie would go on to help form Redstick Records, a label out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And he asked if MJ would be interested in signing a recording contract with the label. Travis Thibodeaux, whom I mentioned earlier, would also do work for the studio on keys. Bringing his experience as the keyboard player and vocalist for Journey, and writing credits for “Take My Hand” recorded by Grammy winner Wayne Toups, Travis would prove a valuable asset. Through Redstick Records, MJ would have the pleasure of working with Brignac Lane Studios in Saint Amant, Louisiana while still reaping the benefits of Robbie’s production skills. He would also go onto be featured in several works by Jambon and Company, a band that had also recorded at Audiosmith Studio. Taylor Nauta, another artist on the Redstick roster, recorded guitar on MJ’s upcoming record “Caught Up In The Middle Of The Rain”. And Deanna Scott, MJ’s manager, would be taken on as Artist Management at Redstick Records. Being within this circle of musicians, recording studios, and labels has enabled MJ to implement things like strings into his work. The extension has also accommodated him in his quest to expand across country, blues, R&B, and pop genres. And being in the room with some of his personal heroes while soaking in the camaraderie and confidence of others has really inspired him to push the envelope.

With album number two, “The Reason Why”, nearly complete. And his third album taking shape, MJ am Jerry still intend to release stripped down, acoustic versions in the midst. The impact of growth through their journey, first with Robbie Smith of Audiosmith Studio, then Redstick Records and manager Deanna Scott continues to propel the two forward. Over 100 shows this past year and so much time logged in the studio is proof positive of their drive. I couldn’t be more delighted to have the privilege of sitting down with MJ and his team, and discussing how things took shape as well as where the band hopes to find themselves in the future. Below you will find relevant links to the players mentioned in this article. The full interview can be found on our podcast where MJ, Jerry, and myself go on to discuss navigating festivals and venues, chord structures and story lines of previous albums versus upcoming ones, and much more. Special thanks goes out to Kevin Sevin in Houma, Louisiana for the use of his beautiful home during the filming of this interview, which you will soon be able to see on our youtube channel by subscribing today.

https://mjdardarmusic.com

https://www.audiosmithstudio.com

https://redstickrecords.com

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Categories
blog

Poisson Rouge

A sense of identity can be drawn from the music one chooses. And as children, a sense of our family’s identity is passed on to us in this manner. We’re not always lucky enough to have heritage tucked into that medium. But members of the band Poisson Rouge were. Now husband and wife, located in Erath, Louisiana, founding members Greg and Kylie Griffin were both steeped in Acadian culture as children. Some relatives in Kylie’s family spoke fluent French. And the sounds of zydeco artists like Rockin Sydney were frequently heard by Greg as a child. As awareness of their culture gradually took hold, they began to form bonds with the underlying meanings of these elements. Those like Greg and Kylie that are fortunate enough to learn about their heritage at an early age often feel a sense of pride within it and a duty to protect it. This sentiment is at the core of Poisson Rouge.

Perhaps a brief pause is in order to help clarify key components of the origins of this microcosm we call Louisiana. Acadian heritage is that of French ex-patriots that arrived in Nova Scotia seeking religious freedom. And in their quest were ultimately driven out of the province, some coming to settle in Louisiana. The Creole heritage draws from people indigenous to Louisiana as a colony and possesses French, West African, Spanish and Native American roots. Consequently, the Creole population is comprised of African, Caucasian, and multi-racial people. Cajun is a result of the melding of both Acadians and Creoles. Being that the groups are now so closely related and the origins of each date back hundreds of years amongst many continents, all of what I just said is debatable. And the terms have taken on different meanings over the years. But for the purposes of this article, it will help to at least explain the continuity amongst the influences of each.

Being a genre built upon and delivering messages of tradition, the realm of cajun, zydeco, and creole music can sometimes be tricky to navigate for musicians. Purist nay-sayers turn up occasionally, thumbing their nose at the infusion of styles such as R&B or funk that are outside of familiar landscapes. I suspect there is an inherent fear that things of this nature will eventually dilute an important element of these cultures. But while Poisson Rouge appreciates the importance of the preservation of traditional styles, they welcome inspiration from other genres too. For instance, their song La Louisiane contains more than one verse where Kylie actually raps. But the song is encased in familiar zydeco elements like a washboard, an accordion, and a French horn. As for the final result, how does it sound you might ask? Poisson Rouge books countless venues and festivals every year with attendances from hundreds to thousands.

Like many of us, Greg, Kylie, and other members of this band grew up listening to a multitude of different genres. And sometimes the influence of those alternative genres seep into and subsequently change the final result. As for the nay-sayers, Greg disagrees with the idea that music needs to be made to appeal to other people. And I second this notion because I believe pandering to appeal hinders creativity. Ironically, the free communication of and borrowing from different genres closely parallels the manner in which cajun, creole, and zydeco genres were formed over the years. Similarly, though trumpet and french horn were Kylie’s strong suit, she sought to change that upon returning to the University of Lafayette to pursue her master’s degree in music. Courses there with horns were centered around classical jazz. As she explained to the university, “I’m done with the band stuff. I don’t want to play french horn anymore because it doesn’t serve any purpose. I’m just teaching music, I’m not playing music in that genre, you know classical jazz.” Kylie went on to play accordion while pursuing her masters. Within the concept of influences shared amongst genres, I couldn’t help but think what effect years of french horn and trumpet in a classical jazz setting had on a musician that would ultimately play accordion in a zydeco band. I find these things both fascinating and convergent. The cross-over appeal between audiences that Poisson Rouge enjoys is achieved by their willingness to accept and include influences from other genres not native to their history. With tradition and progression lurking, Poisson Rouge as a body of work has never felt contrived for its members. There is a deep-rooted passion that underlies their resulting sound. Some of the band’s members are people who were music majors in college. Some of them are music teachers now. Some of their families’ members play music. And all of them got to see musicians on festival stages at an early age.

In Louisiana, there are more festivals per year than days in a year. We celebrate everything from culture and industry to wooden boats and food trucks. Yes, we actually have several food truck festivals. (The next one is in Slidell, Louisiana on October 29th, 2022, a week from this article’s posting.) Making the transition from the crowd to the stage, bassist Greg Griffin has taken notice of those in attendance at some of these festivals. Often times he can read what type of crowd he’s playing for by their style of dress. And even when the crowd hasn’t quite fit his band’s infused design, he’s still seen nods of approval. But singer/ accordion player Kylie expressed concern stating, “Playing in Alexandria has been the most eye opening. Because nobody really dances; very few. You will get some people that will dance. And you’re like woah, one couple danced. But down here, that (dancing) is the norm…. It goes to show you how fast our culture is just going away, especially in some areas of the state.” When Kylie was growing up, you couldn’t keep drinks on the tables in zydeco clubs due to the amount of people dancing on wooden floors.

Through twists and turns in the bayou, the trees begin to envelope you, gradually concealing a world beyond. Likewise, the further one strays off the beaten path in Louisiana, the more they become surrounded by unique characteristics indigenous to the region. These features contribute a sense of singularity to the land as well as its inhabitants. Losing these features can essentially begin to strip away the character of a region and a sense of one’s own identity. Long ago, our nation’s Constitution removed bilingualism and in time would include an article that restricted the judicial process to the English language. This reduced the status of the French in Louisiana. And the assimilation of Louisiana’s French population into a now English society would see children chastised and humiliated for speaking French in schools. Since the language of a people is at the core of their identity, this effectively began the removal of their existence. Kylie grew up on a crawfish farm in Pecan Island that was later claimed by Hurricane Rita, which ultimately resulted in its sale. Her children will never know that way of life, nor will their children. And it was her late grandmother that would speak French to her when she was a child, not her parents. With the extinguishment of these factors comes a cultural whitewashing. As time marches on and previous generations die, with them is buried little pieces of our heritage. Unearthing these pieces and placing them on display is essential to maintaining a people’s continuation. In Greg and Kylie’s capacity both as musicians and as school teachers, it has always been a focal point to keep their own culture at the forefront of their efforts. They have both participated in a French immersion program in Nova Scotia that works to embolden the use of French language amongst its participants. They have put on summer music camps for children in the past where the kids played guitar, fiddle and accordion, singing songs in French. The school where they both teach facilitates a crawfish pond and a rice patch, familiarizing its students with their local way of life. The song I had mentioned previously, La Louisiane, speaks about the causes and effects resulting in a disappearing culture. And in building upon traditional music styles and stories, and travelling to spread these messages, Poisson Rouge hopes to instill a sense of urgency in its audience as to the needs of a dying legacy. You can find out more about Poisson Rouge on their website poissonrougemusic.com. There you will find pictures, bio’s and links to more music.

Greg Griffin – Bass

Kylie Griffin – Vocals, accordion

Jude Pryor – Guitar

Bradley Gueho – washboard

Scott Domingue – Percussionist

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Categories
blog

Elevation

Registration

Start by creating a profile on Neworleansmusicians.com. Be sure to fill in all the blanks and upload a song. With your registration, you can message other bands and businesses in the industry. You can also list on the show calendar and music classifieds. And any tracks you have on the 12 streaming platforms we are a member of will be added to our public playlists on those platforms. Your music presence online has just doubled!

Short Questionnaire

Because you uploaded at least one track, you are e-mailed a questionnaire. This contains questions about your band’s style, inspiration, and history. Once this is returned, you will be featured in our podcast. Instead of commercials half-way through every episode, we shout out our members. We draw our discussion from your questionnaire answers, and then play an example of your work for the audience to hear.

Upload a video

Once you are a member, you are able to upload videos. This would preferably be footage related to your band, and you do this from your profile. Your video is displayed on your profile, as well as our Videos page. And it will appear on our Youtube Channel as well. We will also began promoting your video on social media. You’re one of the family now. We’ve got you!

Inquire about an interview

Contact us via e-mail, social, or by phone and inquire about being interviewed. After we verify that you have a complete account with us, we confirm your eligibility and place you in the interview pool. We choose all our interviews from this group, making sure to cover every genre. Our interviews result in several Youtube videos, an article on our blog, and a podcast episode on our show.

Becoming a member of NOM means many things….

In becoming a member of our growing network of Louisiana musicians, you gain many advantages. This site is not like facebook and other social media sites. It exists strictly for networking purposes. We are onboarding Louisiana bands currently, and will move on to filling Vendor directories soon. These will include venues, sound & light companies, recording studios, and the like from all over the world. Our goal is to empower Louisiana’s talent with tools while remaining exclusive to bands from our state. This is why we only accept bands from Louisiana. Members can message other bands or vendors directly within the site at any time. I created this site and personally keep in touch with its members. Promotional material that our members create is shared constantly on our social. You will begin to see your show announcements shared by us. Promotional material that we create for our interviewees is shared repeatedly on social for months. Any leads on gigs that we generate are sent to members first. We have assisted in filling spots at venues, in movies, and on podcasts. Members’ song plays are tracked through our site and those with the most plays earn placement as Artist of the Month. There are three chosen per month. Those bands are given a spot at the top of our home page with a graphic and link. I look forward to getting to know your band and fulfilling your needs. And remember, I will NEVER ask you for money. I have created a line of merchandise and an account at BuyMeaCoffee to help support my efforts. With enough eyes and ears, I also hope to generate money from Youtube and podcast ads. Any money generated from this site goes right back into it, back into supporting Louisiana’s independent artists.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Categories
blog

The Indelible Robert Snow

Childhood memories are of such a profound permanence. Not only are they the antecedents of our future existence. But they play an integral part in shaping who we become in this world. Whether it be parallel of or contrary to, those closest to us in the beginning are the means from which we model ourselves. For Robert, growing up amongst musicians exposed him to the many sides of music at an early age. His father, Sidney Snow, was playing bass and guitar professionally in various bands since 1957. And both his cousin and uncle were musicians as well. Answering the house phone sometimes meant hearing the voice of someone like Eartha Kitt on the other end. And before Robert would go on to choose his own path in life, he witnessed his father successfully support a family performing with people like Dr. John and Teddy Riley. Celebrity may not quite register in the minds of children. But hearing his father play guitar on the radio most definitely did. And knowing his dad played the guitar in Angel Baby may not have struck a chord with a young Robert. But he knew who the Beatles were. And hearing John Lennon compliment the guitar piece in that very song by Rosie and the Originals certainly resonated with Robert.  

As fate would have it, by the time he was at Mcmain Magnet High School in New Orleans, he was playing second chair coronet. It was here that Robert spent some time picking up on music theory and a deeper appreciation for jazz. He would later make the move to Chalmette High where he was selected for all-state in the school band. For his exceptional talent, he was awarded several scholarships. But playing jazz in a school band wasn’t something that he took all too seriously. Many of us have a time in life that we can look back on where we chose desire over opportunity. For Robert, this would be one of those times. The transitional period from adolescence to manhood swayed Robert more toward his girlfriend and less toward the out-of-state scholarships. Combining this factor with the hold early eighties metal had taken on him, playing coronet away from home in a College jazz band just didn’t appeal to him. Still, the fact that playing music had become elemental in Robert’s landscape was clear, no matter the course.

As with many musicians coming out of high school, the need for cash landed him at various jobs and further away from any consideration of a career in music. A tinge of rebellion had seeded within him though. And it manifested itself in Robert trying out anything other than music as a profession. Life sent Robert through a myriad of jobs, from washing dishes to construction. And by the mid-eighties, he had moved on to casually playing bass in metal bands while making ends meet through a roofing job. While his metal roots took hold and felt right, his band practiced more than they gigged. Sweating atop a roof in Algiers one day, he stared at the skyline of downtown New Orleans across the Mississippi River. He recalls thinking, “my daddy’s over there making money man… playing music. I can play bass!” The thought became the catalyst for Robert quitting his job and vowing to make it in life as a career musician. Well, maybe not THE catalyst. We can’t leave out the persuasive impact he felt the time he fell off a roof while on the job (pun intended). Either way, his mind was made up. And he sought guidance from his father for his next steps.

“My old man helped me out to get some gigs. And it took me about four or five years to really get a repertoire of songs in my head”, Robert explained. And as he pointed out, most people don’t realize what it takes to ingrain such a sizable collection of songs in one’s memory. But through determination and repetition, he was able to build and retain a catalog in the hundreds over time. The first gig Robert’s father was able to book for him wasn’t for coronet. The music director had too many trumpet players already. And it wasn’t for the electric bass he had been playing in rock bands. Out of necessity, Robert was thrown in the bullpen clinging to an upright bass with a jazz band. Robert recalled, “Oh God that was painful. Because I was an electric bass player and I didn’t have the chops. It’s a different animal too. It is bass. But you got to know intonation ‘cause there’s no frets. So, there’s nothing to guide you. There’s no dots. So, it takes a little while. But after maybe four or five months of me doing it, I finally got to where I knew my intonation; where everything should be. I could here if I was out of tune. The cool thing about upright bass is you can slide into tune. You might hit the wrong ones but you can fudge it a little bit.”  One might say that the upright bass that landed in his lap basically outlined his life up until this point. He was slapping notes and making sounds. But he wasn’t quite in tune with where he should’ve been. Over time, he slid into his groove and true tones came ringing.

For decades Robert played in countless bands like King James & the Special Men, The New Orleans Jazz Vipers, The Abitals, and Three Piece Mix to name a few. He built his repertoire, sharpened his skills on the upright bass and electric bass. And he is still very much involved in music today. He currently occupies the roster with bands like The New Orleans Cotton Mouth Kings, The Melatauns, Little Freddie King, Franklin Avenue Overpass, and The Smokehouse Brown Trio. As he pointed out, this month (October), he’s got 32 gigs in 31 days. And I’m willing to bet he’s the only man in New Orleans that could pull off a two-fingered death punch with those well-earned callouses. Along the way, there have been certain times in life where he’s had to make decisions concerning his path in the performing arts. One can choose to go with the flow so-to-speak and feel or appear to be progressing. As long as your band keeps getting gigs, things are going as they should, right?

Ever present in the back of Robert’s mind existed this aversion. It was based on his antipathy for being confined to one genre. I’ll be the first one to tell you that stagnation is death. And I would imagine this rigor set in over time with him. For example, while playing with King James and the Special Men, all seemed fine. Things were better than fine as a matter of fact. That band became largely popular in the New Orleans area circa 2010-2020. And with them he enjoyed a ten-year run in front of packed houses. But that aversion started to set in, and through it he came to realize that the band had missed its mark. In his opinion, they should have peaked years before and made it big. And despite their successes and camaraderie, he felt it was time to move on. It was right about this time that Little Freddie King came calling. Freddie had parted ways with his bass player and was in search of fresh talent. He was acquainted with Robert through their mutual gig spot, BJ’s in the Bywater. And both Freddie and his drummer, Wacko Wade, knew Robert’s father Sidney. Now, at the time Robert received the call, he told Freddie that due to his current involvement in so many bands, he wasn’t sure he could commit. But the two agreed that Robert would play with King James and the Special Men that night and talk to Freddie the next day. So, Robert played with the band that night at their regular gig, The Saturn Bar on St. Claude. The next morning, before he spoke with Freddie, Jimmy from King James and the Special Men called him. He explained to Robert that he was moving in a different direction with the band and would be laying off Robert, along with a guitar player and a sax player. The parting was, and still is, looked back upon as amicable between the two. And Robert acknowledges that this experience truly helped him shed his skin. Not ten minutes later came the call from Freddie King. And to Robert’s confirmation that he was ready to make the move came Freddie’s quick response, “Ok great. We’ve got a gig in two days… Bayou Bugaloo.” Almost immediately, Robert had gone from packed houses to a three-day outdoor festival event that sees attendance in the tens of thousands. Making Little Freddie King his main gig, he’s stuck by Freddie’s side ever since. And he was even able to enjoy work through the pandemic because of this turn of events. And this is no surprise given Freddie’s prominence. Little Freddie King’s gut-bucket style blues has carried him through fourty-two years of appearances at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, an induction into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and the achievement of Blues Performer of the Year three times. He took home Best Blues Album at the 12th Annual Independent Music Awards for his 2012 album, Chasing tha Blues, and has appeared in countless publications. And he has fourteen albums on the books.  

Another band Robert plays with, his baby as he calls it, is The Melatauns. He’s published seven albums with this band, one that he founded with a buddy from high school, Pat Ricks. True to form, they’ve always written and recorded original songs. And you never know what genre they’re coming from next. Their first two albums were heavy metal. From there they moved to an all original album of latin and swing music. And the prefix to The Melatauns name would change with the tone. The first two albums being heavy metal found them as The Mighty Melatauns. For the next, they were The Swinging Melatauns. And so on. Their singer Pat has always been able to keep pace with Robert’s constant quest for the next genre, despite his modest beginnings in a church choir. Robert describes his tone as “blue-eyed soul”. And the keyboard player for The Melatauns can also play accordion. Which also contributes to their diversity amongst the genres. On their albums, Robert would use a rotating roster of about twenty different guys. And live, you could find five or six guys on stage covering guitar, drums, keys, and horns with Robert on bass.

A recent development in Robert’s life has been the formation of the Smokehouse Brown Trio. Smokehouse plays with the band Johnny Mastro and Mama’s Boys, a blues band based out of New Orleans that travels all over the world. And somewhere around April of ’22, Smoke called drummer Chris Davis, also known as “Cakewalk” to discuss Smoke’s interest in forming his own band. He was particularly hopeful in snagging a few of the guys from the old group King James and the Special Men. So, on Mardi Gras night, they all got together and opened for C.C. Adcock. “We were under the impression that we were gonna go into the Special Men kind of bag. And it wound up not being that. So, three of the Special Men quit and me and Chris stayed. So, we wound up being The Smokehouse Brown Trio.” They now perform every Monday night from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m. at BJ’s in the Bywater. And as Robert describes it, it’s really hardcore Chicago style blues with a rock and roll feel. You’ll see Robert on both upright and electric bass for this arrangement. And if you’re lucky, other musicians will sit in on the session as they sometimes do. Harmonica player Andy J. Forest is one of them. Bobby Lewis, also a harmonica player, from Little Freddie King is another. As for now, they are considered the house band at BJ’s. And the band isn’t sure if they’re going to start pushing their music out into other areas. But there is a possible album on the horizon. Robert couldn’t give up the name at the time. But a notable blues label out of Chicago is interested in the trio to re-record a record that was made in the 60’s. We went on to discuss his education in copyrighting and sync licensing, as well as his delving into writing scores for movies. And you’ll be able to hear about that on our Youtube Channel. If you click subscribe, you’ll be notified when this interview publishes. Or you can click your favorite streaming platform below and catch the podcast.

Not remaining in any single genre has been a common theme throughout Robert’s life. His innate desire in the beginning to explore the many facets of music and be a part of them all plotted his course to success later on in life. Through it, he’s met and worked with too many musicians to name. And he’s performed in so many places. He was even able to land a gig in Italy because of it, expanding his contact list while there. And there’s a bit of irony here in that, in the beginning, he didn’t want to entertain the idea of his father’s intentions for him as a musician. That adolescent, rebellious nature came calling as it does in so many of us. And during that time, Robert questioned the notion of ever becoming a professional musician at all. Nowadays, being well versed in so many styles of music, he frequently borrows from one genre to experiment with in other genres. And as he affirms, everything is related to the blues. “Rock and roll is related to the blues. I mean, listen to Led Zeppelin. Listen to any great rock band. They were all into the blues. Same thing in swing. They use blues progressions. Not all of ‘em. But a lot of ‘em, they use blues progressions. Listen to the Saints (When the Saints Go Marching In). It moves to a blues progression. So, I think a unifying genre that unifies all of them would be the blues. And it’s rooted in gospel.” In some ways, one might say that Robert became his father’s likeness, sliding into genres just as he would slide in tune on his upright bass. You can find Robert’s music under the many monikers above at Louisiana Music Factory on Frenchman Street, as well as Spotify and Neworleansmusicians.com.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Categories
blog

Picture Perfect

Charles Dye was always drawn to the creative arts, trying his hand at painting, drawing, and sculpting in college. But he would ultimately gravitate to photography, a hobby he picked up in high school. Back then, he lived on the Mississippi gulf coast. So, there were plenty of grand old houses and wildlife on which to focus. Elements of natural photography were appealing to him because his subjects were active and unaware. And like the old houses, their true beauty was revealed in the imperfect details. While he did snap the occasional photo of a venue for its visual appeal, the thought of capturing the performances within them had not crossed his mind. And the irony lies in that Charles was a big fan of music. Nearby had always been the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum, a place where he frequented whenever there was a live show. 

Throughout college, Charles’ affinity for photography never left him. But as with any college exodus, it was time to get out and earn a living. He attempted to remain in the realm, serving for years as a photographer at weddings and other family functions. And although it did pay the bills, more and more he found it mundane. Settings and emotions felt contrived. All the posturing turned him away. He longed for the days of his youth when he would wander aimlessly, camera in hand, capturing the unexpected. To him, this felt more like art unrestrained.

Later in life, he made the move to Louisiana. And once COVID hit, weddings were no longer an option. Public functions came to a halt. And what once left something to be desired now left nothing. This became the catalyst for the merger of his two favorite things in life, music and photography. As Charles explained, “New Orleans’ musicians struggled. They had nowhere to play. They had no venues to go to. They had no outlet. So, in their downtime, I started contacting a few of them and said, ‘hey, would you be interested?’” Charles began meeting with musicians at small gigs and family get-togethers. And as word-of-mouth accelerated his demand, a new found craft reignited the passions he had as an adolescent.

With a camera always close by, Charles noticed how people were drawn to the lens. Random people would frequently ask him to take their picture. Common to this exchange, the resulting photo was theirs to keep. Being that this hobby brought him joy, he carried this ideal into the music photography world. While he realized that this would become, in effect, a business exchange. His “business” model remained something of an anomaly. Charles never charged for his work. And he still feels that what he captures belongs to the subject. Being that he now finds himself in a more professional world, he respects the ideal that these musicians are professionals. And they expect professional results. But his pursuit of the perfect shot as a hobby has made easy his transition into the professional world. And exceeding the standard has become effortless. Due to the nature of the art itself, photography provides a differing perspective simply because each photographer possesses a viewpoint that is solely their own. But the results of still photography in a moving landscape preserve the atmosphere unlike any other medium. And in doing so, provide the subject with a truly unique, singular moment in time. Being that so much occurs simultaneously during the chaotic endeavor of performing live, many voids in time are seemingly created. The ability to give that back to the musician is what’s at the core of Charles’ fixation on this art form. The results are indelible, unable to be recreated, and so, in his mind, priceless. His motives are sentimental and his work, evocative. And in my opinion, “professional” as a metric of quality, holds no court with emotion; never mind the standard. 

In fulfilling the visual desires of others, Charles has found himself opening one door after the next. He’s enjoyed the opportunity to work with many in the ranks of Louisiana’s music royalty. Members of Down and Crowbar, Rockin’ Dopsie, Grammy Nominated Corey Ledet, Papa Mali, Galactic, Jonathan “Boogie” Long, and Dash Rip Rock are a few in his catalog of talent. And he’s always made sure to extend the same courtesies to the lesser known up-and-comers in our state. Given his appreciation for multiple genres, Charles remains receptive to all prospective music experiences. Never quite finding his own musical talent has always seeded within him a deep respect for live performers. His own lively attire, as well as his intimate involvement with the experiences he captures makes him feel a part of the spotlight. And leaving behind the doldrums of matrimonial subject matter for this excitement makes him feel free.

Whether it be zydeco, heavy metal, or good ol’ southern rock, Charles finds himself drawn to it all. And you can bet his camera is right there with him. As long as its good music from a talented musician, he’s focused. With the variety of genres comes a variety in atmospheres. Some encounters entail low light, small bar settings. And others may occur at an outdoor festival, sunshine and all. Being from an era where people developed their own film and you weren’t sure exactly what you captured until that moment, the digital age has only increased his reach. When he began his hobby in photography, the highest ISO rating was approximately 1,600. This rating referred to the sensitivity or light gathering ability of the physical film. Fast forward to the digital age, and this ISO rating now refers to the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor. Which has increased exponentially to a whopping 52,000! It is these leaps in capability that have allowed him to navigate in a world of darkness and arrive at enough light to capture the moment. And as he pointed out, stage lighting technology has advanced equally as fast. The locations where high watt bulbs served as the maximum source of light on a stage now house packs of intensely colored LED’s. This has made for some incredibly striking imagery in his line of work. For all my techies out there, he ran down specifically what he uses to accomplish his goal. He really enjoys the Canon R Series gear. His go-to set ups consist of either the Canon R or R5, both of which are mirrorless DSLRs, coupled with one of the following lenses: Canon 70-200 2.8, 24-70 2.8, or an 80mm 1.8 (all Canon R mount). For software, he sticks with Adobe products, Photoshop and Lightroom. Which, as he explains, are industry standards. While Photoshop does have the ability to completely alter an image, one of the selling points of Lightroom is that it’s “non-destructive”. Which means it does not alter the original pixels in the image. This aligns perfectly with Charles’ efforts because although he may sharpen the image a bit or change colors for a band’s desired effect, he prefers to keep modifications to a minimum.

In closing, Charles left us with an instance he observed while at a live show following the height of COVID. “They finished their first set. Everybody stood up and started applauding. This woman started crying, just because of the sound of the applause after two years of not hearing anything. You know, and being there to capture that on film, or in pictures, that’s what turned me on to all this; just capturing that emotion that music can bring out in people. The reason we listen to music is it makes us feel a certain way. No matter what type of music you listen to… To be able to capture that for somebody to be able to look at later, that’s what I’m all about.”

N.O.M. provides free business pages for those that are of use to musicians, such as photographers like Charles. Should you be so inclined, you can find Charles Dye Photography on our website at https://neworleansmusicians.com/vendor/39.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

Categories
blog

OCD Recording & Production

If you know what you’re looking for, you’ll see the inside of his studio on album covers and inserts for many bands throughout the state. And that’s because for fourteen years, Duane Simoneaux has dedicated his life to producing some of the best music to come out of Louisiana. Before this interview, I hadn’t seen Duane in years. Sitting before him that day, my mind kept going back to middle school where we met. With hair descending languidly onto a stone-washed jean jacket that hung off his shoulders, he slid down hallways through a sea of kids. In a world where children our age were often pre-concerned with a quest to be different, Duane was only concerned with being himself. Back then, there was a comfort I took in being around someone where individuality was not contrived. And this day, I sat in a building that might as well have been a shrine to that sentiment. Guitars, customized hardware, OCD produced albums and self-built acoustic treatments ornamented the walls of a building that he basically resurrected from the dead.

Back in 2008, the location that now houses OCD Recording and Production was described in a word by Duane as a dump. He likened the place to a World-War II barracks, complete with ceilings and beams at full tilt. He saw potential in the place and began to design his vision. Next, he gutted the whole place; walls were moved, and ceilings and overhead beams were stripped of their ability to threaten human life. And eventually the place actually became something of use. With news of his intentions, bands were already anxious to rehearse there. So, he was able to enlist the help of several bands’ members to assist in the construction. In just three months’ time, OCD was up and running. Now, when you walk through those doors, the walls, ceilings, sound treatments, even the desk console in the control room was built by Duane. 

At first, his business didn’t make any money. But over time he was able to build up a clientele. And slowly but surely, he began to see a profit. He also gave credit to Kirk Windstein for his initial success. Kirk took a chance on Duane and OCD years ago, before Duane had really been able to make a name for himself. And he’s stuck with Duane ever since; even in his solo efforts. Not only was Duane accredited with producing, engineering, mixing and mastering Kirk’s solo album, Dream In Motion. But he played keys and drums on it as well. (And another solo album is currently in the works) His meticulous nature can be contributed to, in-part, his obsessive compulsivity. As you’ve probably realized by now, the studio name wasn’t just pulled out of thin air. The OCD in him always wants to start a project and see it through to completion in one sitting. But because of the nature of the process, that never seems to happen. And he finds it especially challenging to stop mixing one track to start mixing on another. Differing schedules amongst the artists and himself tend to dictate Duane’s calendar. As he explained, a band member might come in to record drums one day. And then he has to put that away until the rest can be recorded. But summing up his overall work-flow, it seems as though he is able to adapt quite well. All things considered, one rule that we could both agree on was that you just can’t force creativity. It might be a two-day process to get into the mood and mix a track. And this is not out-of-scope for the jobs with which he is tasked. In speaking on what a “normal span of time” is for most projects, he’ll very quickly tell you there isn’t such a thing. Some projects progress quicker than others. Budget dictates as well as the purpose of the project. For instance, efforts toward a record label submission will usually take longer than a project going straight to press. And working with seasoned professionals doesn’t necessarily shorten the span of time needed to complete a project either. Duane explained, “I mean you’re working with artists. So, there’s moods, and whatever is going on that day (for them), or equipment failures. Or sometimes we’re writing the stuff in here. Like a Crowbar album… they’ll come in here and start recording. And nobody knows what the vocals are going to do while we’re recording it. And then, the day of, Kirk’s writing vocals and he comes in here. And we start banging it out. So, some of the creative process happens right here.” I couldn’t help but voice the idea that it must be inspiring to come into work and not know what great creative results you may find.

Kirk Windstein’s first solo album, Dream In Motion, produced at OCD Recording & Production with Duane co-writing, playing drums and keys.

In speaking on spans of time for different projects, he brought up the last Exhorder album, Mourn the Southern Skies. This was their first album in over 30 years. So, there’s no question why it became a labor intensive, four-month process. A month of pre-production was followed by three months of recording and editing. And as this venture unfolded, there were regular check-ins from Exhorder’s label, Nuclear Blast. One thing absent from this process was such a thing as a day off. In the end, Duane was ecstatic with the results, as was the band. Exhorder’s bassist, Vinnie La Bella, even ended up working with Duane to co-produce his next project, Blackwater Canal. This would be Vinnie’s first time wearing the producer’s hat, and a stark contrast to the time involved with his own project. This was to be a five-song EP debut by four guys from Louisiana with countless years of experience under their belt. And the whole project, from start to finish, was completed in three days. And honestly, after reviewing Exhorder’s album and Blackwater Canal’s EP myself, both are masterpieces in their own right. In form and in fashion, and as he illustrated, you really never could tell how long a project was going to take or what might be involved in its creation.

Something that remained the same throughout the years was that he never did advertise. Which I find surprising in today’s atmosphere. His jobs have always come by word of mouth. He does admit that there are nervous times when the current project he is working on is coming to a close and there’s nothing booked. With a smile and a shrug, he’ll tell you at random the phone will ring and then he’s booked solid. But don’t let him fool you. His work ethic and the results he delivers are what has made him the constant success he is today. And now “OCD Recording & Production” can be found on the back of a lot of albums.

Many of those albums can be found on display at OCD. Walking in the front door, you find yourself in the waiting area. Two couches line two walls under framed CD’s and records that he has produced. There’s a bathroom and a kitchenette across the room. One doorway leads into the recording area, and the other to private rehearsal and storage spaces. And more rooms are accessible from there. The other doorway leads to where the magic happens. Upon entry, you immediately pass a vocal booth and the room opens up into a dynasty of sound. Guitars and acoustic treatments line the walls. Colored lights accent amps and speakers. A mic’d drum kit sits at center with speakers and other hardware filling the corners. The control room sits in the rear with a couch across from the main console, and a window looking out into the room and in through another window to the vocal booth. The room is so, so quiet. I can only imagine what a glorious feeling it must be to come and audibly light it ablaze with guitars and drums and thrashing screams!   

OCD has a sponsorship through SE Microphones. And many of these weighted, powerful gems can be found throughout his studio. But there are also several modified mics that he is proud to own. One in particular is the microphone in his vocal booth. It’s a piece built by Chris Prutcher of Barbaric Amplification out in California. Duane and Chris began speaking online about what it was exactly Duane was searching for. Chris offered to build him a microphone. And Duane began scouring the internet for parts. He happened across someone in forums that was known as THE tube guy with the handle “Bowie”. Bowie pitched Duane on a special tube he had for sale. While Duane dismissed the seemingly sensational claim, he purchased the tube and had it shipped to Chris out in California. The next thing he heard from Chris was, “DUDE! Where did you get this TUBE?!” So, Chris combined his circuit design with the tube from Bowie. And both Chris and Duane couldn’t have been more pleased with the result. Chris even named the mic after Duane’s studio. And so, the mic became known as the OCD-BA51. Duane has always gravitated toward the type of equipment that can’t be found on a shelf, so-to-speak. And rightfully so. It has given his studio a proprietary sound that cannot be duplicated elsewhere. He also has some microphones that were custom built by Michael Joly, of OktavaMod in Massachusetts. Though this guy serviced over 20,000 clients in a span of 13 years, OktavaMod closed its doors in 2018. I’d say, at that point, Duane’s equipment transitioned from unique to rare, furthering OCD’s place in signature sound.

The sonic absolute does not stop there. The digital console shares space with some API pre-amps, a Neve clone, and several compressors modified by Jim Williams, who is well known for augmenting existing outboard equipment. Jim’s most notable clients were John Mclaughlin, Stevie Wonder, and Frank Zappa. And Jim was how Duane came to use the 90’s era Soundcraft Venue analog console that feeds his digital console. According to Jim, once modified, it’s as close as you can get to audio perfection. Duane had the console modified in Nashville, as per Jim’s specifications, and now he swears by it. I pointed out that there is a stage-full of gear out in the recording area and asked if the accumulation of all this was as a result of being in bands over the years. He nodded, saying yes, and paused. “Yeah, a lot of it. But then, anything really nice guitar-wise, a good friend of mine that I work with constantly; his name is Hugo Miranda. If you see a nice guitar, it’s Hugo’s.” Hugo Miranda is a producer, musician, and songwriter that played guitar and sang vocals for his band RetroElectro, and came to OCD over seven years ago to record an album. Since then, the two have worked on another project, Daphne Moon, as well as countless hours of his solo material. Hugo was actually a transplant from New York, and so valued Duane’s hospitality and willingness to not only work with him, but to introduce him to other musicians in the area and show him the production ropes so-to-speak. Upon completion of Duane’s home studio, the two plan to work together to keep both locations up and running. Above all else, Hugo exclaimed, “His Pro-Tools editing Kung-Fu is INCREDIBLE!”

Duane cited more family time, less overhead, and the convenience of better choosing his own hours as motivation for building OCD’s second location at his home. And true to his obsessive compulsions, the second location is architecturally modelled exactly after the first one. I guess it’s like they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” His building design, his collection of unique equipment, his drive, and his business acumen have all worked well for him over the years. Some of the clients he’s enjoyed working with have been, Crowbar, Exhorder, Down, Blackwater Canal, Ashes to Dust, We Are Wires, Spacemetal, Stereo Fire Empire, Uprising, Bad Grass, Runoft, Misled, Motoriot, Sun God Seven, Wicked River Rising, and Them Guys. And those are just the ones framed in the waiting room. At the time of this interview, he was working on an album for a ska-reggae band by the name of Firebrain as well as Kirk Windstein’s second solo album. And starting the following week, he would be working on a project for Adam Pierce, winner of The Voice.

I spoke with a band that recently recorded at OCD to get a feel for their experience with Duane. They talked about how well he knew his gear and how personable he was. They also spoke about his level of focus. He adapts to the band in its entirety; not just the time frame and budget, but their moods, their personalities, the different schedules of each member, and the intended target for the finished product. Whether it be straight to pressing and releasing or to a record label, he addresses needs that possibly even the band doesn’t know they have. And to me this speaks to not only skill in his craft, but an intuitive nature for the process of creation. Combined with custom built gear proprietary to his studio and the sheer amount of gear available to customers, one could argue that the level of service bands receive at OCD has, and always will be, second to none.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

Categories
blog

Podcast and Youtube Links

Here are the many podcast platforms on which you will find our show. You will also find our interviews on Youtube. Click any image to go directly to it. Please be sure to subscribe while there. This really helps us support independent Louisiana musicians to the fullest. Thanks so much!

Categories
blog

Do I Need an EPK?

Spiders are born knowing how to spin a web. Fish are born knowing how to swim. Humans, on the other hand, are born only knowing how to suck. And I say that to say this… as musicians, we have no innate knowledge of what it is we need to survive this musical landscape.

In any given situation, communication is king. If you can convey your message without losing your audience’s attention, you win. Sometimes a win just means holding their attention for those few minutes. Because through repetition, they will become familiar. And through familiarity comes a comfort of sorts, which gives way to curiosity. “Oh, I remember seeing something about them. Who are they?” And then you’re in.

Or, you’re up, I should say. Now it’s time to lay out the goods. And you do have the goods, right? Sure! This is your last album, your latest song, your newest merch, etc. But this is all geared toward the consumer. What about the music professional? What “goods” do you have for that person? You can’t lay down consumer goods for this person because they don’t care about any of it. And you can forget a hokey motivational band vision or personal perspective. In comes the EPK, or electronic press kit. Now there are EPK builders out there for free or a fee, and these are just to name a few: Wix.com, Bandzoogle.com, Gigmor.com, Reverbnation.com. But rather than allow mass distributed templates be your guide, I would recommend doing your own research on what exactly it is your target wants or expects to see and hear. I’m going to outline a short list of what many would agree are the industry standards. I might recommend a cover letter just to introduce your band. This is something used in all professions and you can easily look up its inclusions online.

  1. A biography – This will consist of a brief history of the band, as well as a current roster. If your band is new, I’d sub the band history for individual members’ past bands and preferred style of music. But definitely keep this short and focused on notable highlights because this is merely the set-up.
  2. Visual media – Everybody likes some good eye candy, right? Just make sure its high resolution. Low res gives ‘em indigestion, and they’ll surely quit biting. So, a few still photos of the band are in there. And mix it up; maybe one of you all posing, and the rest on stage in your element. If at all possible, be sure to include a video. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a professionally shot music video. Your band performing will suffice in its absence. But please, sub your recorded track for the live audio. Nothings grinds my gears more than a band video submission that sounds like it was shot in a cavernous, echoey wind tunnel.
  3. Stats – No matter the catcher you’re pitching to, these people are bean counters in essence. They need factual verification that your band is worth investing time or money into. So yes, your previous show attendances are important here. You might say, well David, our show attendances are shiyte man! We’re not playing stadiums over here! That’s ok people. Along with those attendance numbers should be club capacity numbers. This will frame things into perspective. Another stat to include is your social media following (boo, hiss). I know. But despite the field being littered with vanity metrics, this number illustrates potential at the very least; the potential of your band to gather ears and eyes, as well as the potential of the social media account holder to DIY. Take, for instance, a promoter’s standpoint. If the band isn’t going to do all they can to draw a crowd, they’re not worth risking the investment. And you can present this proof of work succinctly by making use of your platform profile’s statistics page. I might also point out here that, in constructing this portion of your EPK, you too will see where your band lacks. And this will give focus to your band priorities.
  4. Demo – Now this one may seem like a no brainer. But the manner in which it is presented comes into question. We’re dealing with a completely digital experience. So, your music is going to exhibit your flaws, flawlessly. If you don’t have a quality recording, go make one and revisit this article when you’re done. With that being said, how shall you present this quality piece of audio? You want the professional to hear you, but you don’t want to draw them away from your EPK. So, if you’re going to store your music online and furnish a link in the EPK, make sure it opens up in a new tab on their desktop. This way when they’re finished listening, they won’t have to retrace their steps in the browser to get back to your EPK. If you’re storing your whole EPK online and providing them that EPK’s link in your initial contact, you can embed a player in your EPK. I recommend both. Not only am I the type to cover all bases in preparation for a presentation. But people have mixed preferences for various reasons. Some recipients might not want to blindly click your unfamiliar link, exposing their computer to possible viruses. So, including an emailed link to your whole EPK is out for them. And some may have filters set on their email client to refute html in the body of emails. So, embedding a player within the email itself is out for them. You can attach an Mp3. But understand emails have data limits. So, make sure you can also fit that video in your email along with this Mp3. A third option, and probably your best, is creating a PDF file. This can reduce data issues and group your media into a sweet portfolio. But if you opt not to go that route and run into data issues, complete songs or videos aren’t a necessity. If the talent is there and you’re the right one got the gig, they’ll know before your song is even finished playing.
  5. Press – This one is a favorite of mine, selfishly. Because, in covering the scene, it’s part of what I do here at Neworleansmusicians.com. If you’ve had any album reviews, any show reviews, any interviews… this is their time to shine. In my opinion, the best way to present this is to include a notable quote contained in that review or interview about your band or song. And then be sure to cap that off with the link to that press piece. Because in the court of public opinion, the quote alone is considered here-say. And again, if you’ve led them to your EPK stored online, make sure this opens in a new tab. Keep your captive captivated!
  6. Contact Info – I’d like to dispel a few myths here. Some say a Gmail seems more legit than a Yahoo or other email provider. This, in my eyes, is nonsense. Just make sure you respond, as they say in Acadiana, toot sweet. That means quick, fast, and in a hurry. And hey, SPELL CHECK all correspondences! Another myth is that it’s wise to pose as the manager for your band and include that contact info in place of your own personal info. Maybe that gets you places with some, I really can’t say. I’ve always been of the school of thought to let your work speak for itself. If you conduct yourself in a professional manner, you will be treated like a professional. And being spotted as a fake is perhaps the most unprofessional thing you could do. So, with all of that out the way, just be sure to include multiple forms of contact; email, phone, social media, all of which you monitor religiously.

So, these are the bones of this monster. Now to whom shall we send our Frankenstein? The usual suspects consist of A&Rs, Talent Buyers, and National/ International Press. But these days there’s also playlist curators and bloggers to think about. One character I definitely want to throw in this mix is a Music Supervisor. Because sync licensing is an excellent way to get your music into the ears of people who weren’t even looking for you in the first place. Sync licensing paves the way for your music to be included in film. And this would entail a ton of streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu, as well as online destinations like Youtube and Vimeo. So, let’s not forget about sending that guy your EPK as well. The point here is to realize that your EPK must contain utility for not only a record exec., but a music supervisor, someone who books shows, or someone who publishes on playlists or blogs. Its job is to depict your band from multiple angles of utility.

When I was a kid, I kept a binder. In it were my own drawings of men and women; soldiers, if you will. Picture something like G.I. JOE. I gave them as much visual detail as a kid could, complete with weapons. I listed their strengths, weaknesses, and back stories. And it didn’t matter that this binder had no particular use. I thought it was the greatest. Often times we build things the way we see fit. Not understanding that the rest of the world sees things differently. It may take us a long time to build a solid band, a cohesive set list, an image, an EPK, etc. And when we’re done, because of all the hard work we put into this thing, we feel as though it has strength and weight in the world. Our perception is skewed though, by the manifestation of our vision. Suffice it to say that other people have other visions. And that’s to be expected. But within that you cannot discount the importance of industry standard. For many, it is the only known way to operate. And any deviation from this may spell trouble for a band trying to get from one side of Mr. Important’s desk to the other.

BUT! (there’s always a but) As our friend in marketing, Mr. Seth Godin, once said in his famed book The Purple Cow, “The key to success is to find a way to stand out – to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins.” And that’s one big, important rump roast of “but” right there! Because when considering your band for their project, I guarantee you most if not all of the business figures listed above ask themselves, what makes this band different from any of the others I’ve reviewed today?

So, in closing, I’d like to advise you to cover the industry standards as well as encourage you to add just a little bit extra, in substance as well as fashion. Perhaps the cover letter dubs your band “Tragic magic in a bottle…”. Or maybe your demo includes the person’s name you’re pitching to, “HEY SMITH! LISTEN TO THIS!…” I could walk you through the birds and bees when it comes to how to be different and stand out to that desired significant other. But to be honest, we must all find our own way in this game. And I do prefer to reserve strategic guidance for members of my website. Throughout all of this, I want you to realize that like life, your EPK is not over once you write it. It is a constantly moving, growing, living story. And you should be always revising it and adding to it like a diary. I wish you all the best of luck in your journeys. And I thank you for taking the time to read this.   

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

Categories
blog

CRABS

We’re all adults here, true enough. But sometimes we don’t all act as such. And if there’s one concept in the local music scene that gets under my skin more than any other, it’s this mentality that is commonly referred to as “crabs in a bucket”. You see, our delicious crustaceans are all piled into a bucket, much like musicians in a parish. And sometimes one of those crabs gets close to toppling over the edge and escaping (a.k.a. “making it big”). And for some reason, a crab beneath him will reach up and pull that crab down. Now this crab beneath him doesn’t stand to gain any ground by doing this. In fact, if crabs had morals, one could probably hear the others sneering at this bizarre activity. But they just gargle and bubble, and keep on pulling each other down. I come to work here at NOM because I believe in the cause. I believe that if we all unite under one flagship, we could each become greater than the sum of our own individual parts. In other words, if your band joins and several hundred other bands join, we pool our resources and become this collective. And why not? We share the common goal of improving our skill set, broadening our reach, increasing our opportunities. Yet there are some knuckleheads out there that operate under the notion that “you’re either with me or against me”.

I’ll never forget the moment I fell in love. It was when I noticed there was such a thing as a comfortable silence that could be shared between two people. There was no need to engage or provoke. I opened her door when her hands were full. She popped open a beer and brought it to me. We shared the same space and contributed to one another’s existence. There was no competition. There was no pulling one another down or trying to get ahead of each other. Ah, to coexist.

This mentality needs to be spread amongst the local music community. And I’m not just saying that for the betterment of Neworleansmusicians.com. I’m saying it because IF this community is going to flourish, we are all going to have to come together. Some of us are alphas and we butt heads. Some of us have a competitive streak and are quick to react out of spite. But ultimately, we are all brothers and sisters of the groove. And if y’all want to keep this train running, we’ve all got to push in the same direction.

I recently spoke with a bassist that relayed a story to me about how he was kicked out of one band for behavior that was later embraced by another. I talked to a singer that pointed out how people began to question her new band’s talent simply because they were able to open up for somebody big their first show. I spoke to a guitarist that recalled when a guy from another band came to his show just to mess up his merch table. Mess up somebody’s merch table?? Come on man! Swallow your pride and revert back to the comfortable silence. With the same femme fatale by whom I once discovered love, I noticed this sort of super power I possessed. There were times when she would lash out. And everything in me wanted to push her away for it. One time, for a reason I can’t recall, I instead extended an olive branch. And it wasn’t in the context of a direct response to her lashing. It was just a, hey I’m still here. I’m still the same person regardless of your acting out. We’re still cool and I hold no malice. In fact, you seem like you’re in a bad place and please, let me know if I can help.

This was all an unspoken understanding or gesture between her and I. But if you were to get this dialogue rolling after some crabby situation took place, I think you’d be surprised at the outcome. Looking back, I can tell you my gesture toward that alleged femme fatale was disarming, and things de-escalated quickly. One last story before I call it a day. Years ago, two guys from the neighborhood got into it over who knows what. But they were both heated and it culminated in a fight right in the middle of the street. In the end, as with any fight, there was a winner and there was a loser. But in this particular situation, the winner extended his hand. He helped the loser up. The beef was squashed with that one simple gesture. It’s been well over a decade since that fight. And the two are friends to this day. In that one moment, when this disastrous apogee clearly became out of control, a helping hand was extended. And just like that, the bucket had vanished.

Author: Lingo Starr

lingo_starr@yahoo.com

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.