What comes to mind when you think of music from Louisiana? For most, probably not a whole lot. You may be aware of New Orleans as the birthplace of jazz, or the Southern Louisiana favorites of zydeco and Cajun music. Although it is true that these genres have a huge impact on the musical culture of Louisiana, there are a surprising number of artists that do not adhere to these culturally Louisianan genres. I find out more about the rich music scene in my own backyard all the time, and just recently I was informed by a Louisianan friend that many of the members of Neutral Milk Hotel, who just recently sold out the Ryman, are in fact from the quaint town of Ruston, LA. Just to give you all a little taste of the richness I am talking about, I have compiled a list of five artists/bands that give insight into a different spice that Louisiana offers.
No, there is no brass section to be found in this band. It’s okay, I have made that mistake, too. The first time I heard them live, I thought I had arrived at the wrong venue.Blending together rich harmonies with an experimental rock aura, Brass Bed is in many ways the children (or maybe grand-children) of groups like the Beatles or Pink Floyd. They actually come from my hometown of Lafayette, LA, and I have had the opportunity to see them a few times in a variety of settings. They never fail to put on a great show, and because it is clear they enjoy performing for you, you can’t help but enjoy watching them perform. They have a little something for everyone, from relaxed and ambient songs to anthems you can jam out to, all without losing a characteristic sound that makes them distinctly Brass Bed.
With their psychedelic rock sound and energized drumming, Caddywhompus knows how to make an impact. Even within individual songs, such as “The Weight” (above), they are able to provide astounding contrast—showing off their amazing comfort with hammering into the listener as well as taking a step back and letting the laid back sections do its own talking. Coming from the New Orleans area, Caddywhompus provides a very interesting contrast to the traditional scene of the Big Easy.
Just as Caddywhompus and Brass Bed, Sun Hotel is able to skillfully juxtapose rocking out with softer and more relaxed sections. The song above, “Suburb”, does a great job of capturing their unapologetic rock style, but I have included an acoustic performance of their unreleased song “Willow” below in order to really demonstrate the breadth of what Sun Hotel is all about. On top of the head-bobbing jams, frontman Tyler Scurlock throws in some really interesting lyrics that are worth the effort paying attention to.
As one of Glassnote Records’ (who have signed the likes of Phoenix, Two Door Cinema Club, Chvrches, Childish Gambino, Mumford and Sons, and Temper Trap) up-and-coming stars, GIVERS has the potential to be as recognizable of a name as some of these acts. They have already been featured in a Kindle Fire Commercial and their song “Up Up Up” appears on FIFA 12 and has been covered by the cast of Glee:
They are also from Lafayette, and I have been able to see them several times over the years. I always got a fun and energetic show from them, and frontman Taylor Guarisco never failed to captivate and shock me with those facial expressions. Infusing Afro-beat influences with a modern indie pop sound, GIVERS provide an interesting and uniquely diverse sound in their album, In Light. The group cites Paul Simon as a musical inspiration, and many of their songs seem to have a Graceland-esque vibe to them.
GIVERS draws many comparisons to Vampire Weekend or Dirty Projectors, and I would have to agree. One major contrast, and in my opinion one of the strongest selling points for GIVERS, is the effect that vocalist Tif Lamson has for the overall sound of GIVERS. Rich and soulful, her voice is one of my favorites in the genre. Since the release of In Light in 2011, the band has not released any additional material.
I took the liberty of allowing Trombone Shorty onto this list because even if he has heavy influences from New Orleans Jazz, which would be technically more of a typical Louisiana genre, Mr. Shorty has infused elements of hip-hop and rap into some of his music to create a more unique style. Although still in his late 20s, Trombone Shorty (Troy Andrews) is already a veteran in the local brass scene of New Orleans. A jazz prodigy, he began his musical playing career at an age before most kids can even spell “Trombone”.
He is usually backed by a great band with an excellent horn section, such as the one in the NPR video. When Trombone Shorty plays he makes the entire audience jazz and brass band enthusiasts. Smooth playing, ingenious improvisation, and 4 minutes of circular breathing on trumpet is hard not to go crazy for. If this kind of genre usually turns you off, give Trombone Shorty a chance because he has done an excellent job of preserving the taste of New Orleans Street Music and bringing it to a wider audience.